Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens, Sabal Serrulata)
by Paul Ildever Yossa
The use of saw palmetto can be traced back to the Mayan culture that used extracts
of the plant as a tonic and an antiseptic. Even the berries of the plant were widely
consumed to relieve cough and fever.
At the moment saw palmetto is an accepted licensed product in many European
countries but in North America it is classified as a health supplement. Its use in
America is empirical and one does not need a prescription.
There is some evidence that saw palmetto does inhibit enzymes that make the
hormone, testosterone, and there are other reports which indicate that the herb may
also have a direct action of androgen receptors.
So what should one use saw palmetto for?
Many clinical trials have shown that saw palmetto can improve symptoms of benign
prostate hypertrophy. While the herb does not decrease size of the prostate gland it
does relieve night time urination, improves urine flow and relieves irritation while
voiding. Individuals who take saw palmetto for BPH claim that it has much fewer side
effects that the conventional drugs. While saw palmetto may not be better than
some of the newer drugs like cardura or hytrin, it is much superior to placebo (sugar
Many men take saw palmetto for hair loss and the results are conflicting. In general,
saw palmetto does grow on a few strands of hair here and there and that is about it.
For those expecting a full head of hair, you are in for a major disappointment; hair
once gone, usually never comes back.
There is little clinical evidence that saw palmettos can cure or prevent prostate
cancer. The herbal formula PC SPEC which contains saw palmetto has been found to
be toxic and the FDA has banned its sale in North America.
Other conditions where manufacturers claim saw palmetto works but there is little
clinical evidence include chronic pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, or prostatitis.
The dose of saw palmetto is about 1-2 g of dried powder. There are also solutions,
tinctures and whole berries available for sale and the dose is quite variable. There are
even tea formulas prepared from berries but these formulas do not work well. There
is not enough data to recommend saw palmetto for use in children.
In general, saw palmetto is safe but has been associated with rare cases of allergies.
Other common side effects of saw palmetto include stomach cramps, nausea,
vomiting, bad breath and constipation. Experts recommend taking saw palmetto with
food to avoid the nausea. The lipidosterolic extract is felt to be safe and has much
fewer side effects. Other rare side effects of saw palmetto include yellow
discoloration of skin and liver damage. Since saw palmetto can enhance bleeding,
people undergoing surgery or dental work should stop this herb at least 7-12 days
before the procedure.
Some men do report breast tenderness, decreased libido and testicular discomfort
after taking saw palmetto for a long time. Because of safety concerns the product
PC SPES is no longer available in North America.
Saw palmetto is not recommended for women.
About The Author
Paul Ildever Yossa
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Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens,
Sabal serrulata) is a very popular
herb in both North America and
Europe. For decades, saw palmetto
has been used by many Europeans to
treat symptoms of prostatic
hypertrophy (enlarged prostate or
BPH). In the USA, saw palmetto is
quickly gaining fame for BPH partly
because it is safe and has much
fewer side effects compared to the
conventional drugs. However, all
consumers should understand that
saw palmetto is not a replacement
for traditional medical therapy for
prostate hypertrophy but a
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