Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto, (Serenoa repens), is a small palm tree native to the coastal regions of southern United States and southern California. Also referred to as dwarf palm or Sabal serrulata, saw palmetto has been traditionally used for various medicinal purposes, particularly in Native American and traditional herbal medicine.

Historical Use of Saw Palmetto

In the United States, its medicinal uses were first documented in 1879 by Dr. J.B. Read, a physician in Savannah, Georgia, who published a paper on the medicinal benefits of the herb in the April 1879 issue of American Journal of Pharmacy. He found the herb useful in treating a wide range of conditions. He wrote,”By its peculiar soothing power on the mucous membrane it induces sleep, relieves the most troublesome coughs, promotes expectoration, improves digestion and increases fat, flesh and strength. Its sedative and diuretic properties are remarkable”.

Saw Palmetto Active Ingredients

The health benefits of Saw Palmetto are derived from the deep purple berries of the saw palmetto fan palm. Saw palmetto berries contain bioactive compounds, including; fatty acids, phytosterols and flavonoids, which are believed to contribute to their medicinal properties. One of the primary active components is believed to be a lipophilic extract rich in fatty acids and phytosterols.

Saw Palmetto Health Benefits

Saw palmetto berries have a long history of use in traditional medicine for their potential health benefits. It is a remarkable herb for both men and women and is used by natural health practitioners to treat a variety of conditions including; hormonal balance in men, prostate health as well as to alleviate symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, testicular inflammation, urinary tract inflammation, coughs and respiratory congestion, to strengthen the thyroid gland, balance the metabolism, stimulate appetite, aid digestion, hair restoration, sexual vigour, breast enhancement and as a nutritive tonic, tone the urethra, uphold the healthy function of the thyroid gland and urinary system.

Saw Palmetto for Benign Prostate Hyperplasia

Saw palmetto is perhaps best known for its use in supporting prostate health and managing symptoms of BPH, such as urinary urgency, frequency, weak urine flow, and incomplete bladder emptying. Some research suggests that saw palmetto may help reduce the size of the prostate gland and alleviate urinary symptoms associated with BPH by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone implicated in prostate enlargement.

There is much scientific documentation outlining the effectiveness of the herb in treating irritable bladder and urinary problems in men with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate gland. BPH results in a swelling of the prostate gland that obstructs the urethra. This causes painful urination, reduced urine flow, difficulty starting or stopping the flow, dribbling after urination and more frequent nighttime urination.

In addition to causing pain and embarrassment, BPH can lead to serious kidney problems if undiagnosed and left untreated. It is a common problem in men over the age of 40. Estimates are that 50-60% of all men will develop BPH in their lifetimes.

Saw palmetto does not reduce prostate enlargement. Instead, it is thought to work in a variety of ways. First, it inhibits the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). BPH is thought to be caused by an increase in testosterone to DHT. Secondly, saw palmetto is believed to interfere with the production of estrogen and progesterone, hormones associated with DHT production.

Saw Palmetto for Urinary Function

In addition to its effects on prostate health, saw palmetto may help support overall urinary function and alleviate urinary symptoms such as nocturia (frequent urination at night) and urinary retention. It is believed to exert a mild diuretic effect, promoting urine flow and reducing urinary frequency and urgency.

Saw Palmetto for Hormonal Balance

Saw palmetto has been studied for its potential effects on hormonal balance, particularly in men. Some research suggests that saw palmetto may help modulate levels of testosterone and DHT in the body, although the exact mechanisms are not fully understood. Saw palmetto supplements are sometimes used by men to support hormonal balance and address symptoms of low testosterone, although more research is needed to validate these effects.

The effects of saw palmetto on testosterone levels are not entirely clear and may vary depending on several factors, including dosage, duration of use and individual characteristics.

Some studies suggest that saw palmetto may have a modest inhibitory effect on the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent form of the hormone implicated in prostate enlargement. By inhibiting this enzyme, saw palmetto may help reduce DHT levels and alleviate symptoms associated with BPH.

However, the effects of saw palmetto on total testosterone levels in the body are less clear. While some studies have reported no significant changes in testosterone levels with saw palmetto supplementation, others have suggested that it may have a slight lowering effect on testosterone, particularly when used at higher doses or for prolonged periods.

Saw Palmetto Clinical Trials

Since the 1960s, extensive clinical studies of saw palmetto have been done in Europe. A review of 24 European trials appeared in the November 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The trials involved nearly 3,000 men, some taking saw palmetto, others taking Proscar and a third group taking a placebo.

The men taking saw palmetto had a 28% improvement in urinary tract symptoms, a 24% improvement in peak urine flow and 43% improvement in overall urine flow. The results were nearly comparable to the group taking Proscar and superior to the men taking a placebo.

In a controlled clinical trial with patients with enlarged prostate glands, 50 patients who received saw palmetto (320 mg per day – 4 tablets taken in two separate doses with meals) were compared to 44 patients receiving placebo. Patients treated with saw palmetto urinated less frequently, produced a better flow rate and amount of urine and had less pain and discomfort in urinating than control subjects. There were actually fewer adverse side effects in patients receiving saw palmetto than in controls.

Presently, saw palmetto is being evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of BPH. If approved, it would become the first herbal product to be licensed by the agency as a treatment for a specific condition.

Other Uses of Saw Palmetto

In addition to its use for prostate health, saw palmetto has been used in traditional medicine for various other purposes, including; promoting hair growth, enhancing libido and supporting overall health and well-being. Research on these benefits is ongoing.

How To Take Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto supplements are available in various forms, including; capsules, tablets, liquid extracts and teas.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Saw Palmetto Notes / Side Effects

Before taking saw palmetto, tell your doctor if you: are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a hormone-sensitive cancer, like breast or prostate cancer, are using hormone-related drugs such as testosterone and estrogen replacements, are using Warfarin (Coumadin R).

Latin Names

Serenoa repens, Serenoa serrulata, Sabal serrulata

Common Names

American Dwarf Palm Tree, Cabbage Palm, Ju-Zhong, Palmier Nain, Sabal, Sabal Fructus, Saw Palmetto, Saw Palmetto Berry.

Properties of Saw Palmetto

Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, mild diuretic, sedative.

Saw Palmetto is Indicated for:

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), increasing breast size, improving sexual vigor, aphrodisiac, stimulating hair growth, colds, coughs, irritated mucous membranes, sore throat, asthma, chronic bronchitis, migraines, prostate cancer, nutritive tonic, relieving the symptoms of menstruation, improving muscle tone.

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