Saw palmetto is a small type of palm tree found in Florida and parts of several other Southeastern states. It has long green, pointed leaves like many types of palm trees, but also branches with small berries. The abundant 2-cm-long berries are harvested from the wild in the fall and are dried for medicinal use. Native Americans belonging to the Seminole tribe in Florida traditionally ate its berries for food and to treat urinary and reproductive problems associated with an enlarged prostate gland.
How Is It Used Today?
Saw palmetto has been used to treat symptoms of enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH), such as increased night-time urination or decreased urinary flow. However, research has shown that saw palmetto may not be effective in treating this condition. The fruit of saw palmetto is available in several forms, including liquid tablets, capsules, and tea.
Saw Palmetto And The Prostate
There has been a lot of controversy over the effectiveness of saw palmetto when used in the treatment of BPH and other prostate oriented conditions. Essentially, saw palmetto works by stopping the breakdown of testosterone into its byproduct, called dihydrotestosterone. This helps the body hold onto more of its testosterone and create less dihydrotestosterone. This can slow or stop the growth of the prostate gland. By stopping prostate growth, saw palmetto can help alleviate some of the symptoms of BPH, including:
- frequent urination
- increased urination at night (nocturia)
- trouble starting a urine stream
- weak urine stream
- dribbling after urinating
- straining while urinating
- inability to completely empty the bladder
While saw palmetto is widely used, it does occasionally cause side effects in some people. The herb has been found to be relatively safe. There have not been any contraindications or drug interactions found. The long-term effects have not been analyzed yet but it appears to be safe at normal doses. While side effects are uncommon and typically mild, The most common include:
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor, pharmacist, herbalist, or other healthcare provider about any unusual or bothersome side effects.
While saw palmetto appears to be very beneficial for overall health and wellness, particularly in terms of male sexual and reproductive health, it still has not been approved by the FDA for medicinal use. In addition it can also negatively interact with blood thinners and prostate medication, so always consult with your doctor before adding these supplements to your daily or weekly regimen.