Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens/Sabal serrulata) is a palm that grows as trees or shrubs. It commonly flourishes in warmer climates and grows in the coastal regions of the southeastern United States. The berries of the saw palmetto plant are dried and used for its medicinal properties. The berries were used as staple food and medicine by Native Americans who believed it served as a tonic to treat urinary tract problems, increase sperm production, and boost libido.
Saw palmetto contains fatty acids, plant sterols, and flavonoids. High molecular weight polysaccharides in saw palmetto may reduce inflammation or strengthen the immune system.
Research has found that saw palmetto extract may reduce symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). A review of clinical studies concluded that saw palmetto provided mild to moderate improvement in urinary symptoms including frequent nighttime urination and problems with urine flow. The results were similar to that seen in men who took prescription drug finasteride for BPH. Fewer and milder side effects were noticed with saw palmetto compared to finasteride.
It is important to note that not all urinary symptoms such as difficult or painful urination and urgency are due to BPH and patients should see a doctor before treating themselves with saw palmetto. These symptoms can also result if the patient is suffering from prostate cancer or certain other medical conditions. Self-treating with saw palmetto could delay proper diagnosis and necessary medical treatment. Measurement of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is not affected with the use of saw palmetto. PSA is a protein produced by prostate cells. The PSA test is used to screen for prostate cancer and monitor patients who have had prostate cancer.
Saw palmetto shrinks the inner lining of the prostate that puts pressure on the tubes carrying urine, but does not shrink the size of the overall prostate itself.
Saw palmetto is sold as a dietary supplement in United States, and therefore, does not require FDA approval to show the product is safe and effective. A number of companies are marketing the product in the form of capsules, tablets, infusion, tea, or powder.
Potential Side Effects of Saw Palmetto
Side effects of saw palmetto may include headache, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, dizziness, constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, and fatigue. Consult your doctor before taking.
Interactions With Medicines And Supplements
Saw palmetto might cause slowing of blood clotting and taking it with other medications that slow clotting might increase chances of bruising and bleeding. Some of these medications are aspirin, Plavix, Voltaren, ibuprofen, naproxen, heparin, and warfarin. Saw palmetto used with other herbs such as clove, ginger, gingko, and danshen can slow blood clotting and increase risk of bleeding. Again, please consult your doctor before taking.
Sources for this article include: