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Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

What is Saw Palmetto?

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens or Sabal serrulatum) is a small palm tree, containing an extract that has been traditionally used to treat a variety of urinary and reproductive issues. It has been commonly used by doctors in Italy and Germany as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Where Does Saw Palmetto Come From?

Saw palmetto is native to southeastern USA in regions along the Atlantic and Gulf coast.

Saw Palmetto Benefits for Prostate Health

In older age, many suffer from BPH, which is an enlargement of the prostate. This may be a result of the effect of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a metabolite of testosterone. Symptoms include affected urination such as discomfort, frequent urination, incontinence, incomplete urination, etc. Saw palmetto is thought to inhibit the formation of DHT, which is beneficial for those suffering from BPH.

There are medications used to treat BPH such as finasteride. However, these are not cheap and sometimes result in side effects. This is a reason why herbal remedies such saw palmetto is attractive to some. Although there is some conflicting evidence, some reviews do suggest that saw palmetto may be effective in the treatment of BPH in its ability to reduce associated symptoms (Gordon et al, 2003). Some authors even suggest that saw palmetto may be as effective as finasteride in the treatment of BPH (Wilt et al, 1998)

Saw Palmetto Negatives and Side Effects

It is important to note that results can be varied among individuals, and the quality of saw palmetto is highly variable. So what may work for some may not always work for others.

There are no known adverse reactions associated with the use of saw palmetto. Only mild stomach upsets have ever been reported, but this can be reduced by taking saw palmetto with food (Gordon et al, 2003). Animal studies using rats and dogs around that a dose of 2g/kg bodyweight per day showed no adverse effects (Small et al, 1997). There are also no known negative interactions between saw palmetto and other drugs (Gordon et al, 2003). For these reasons, saw palmetto is often recommended by doctors as a treatment for prostate issues.

Saw Palmetto Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing

It is recommended that a daily dose of 320 mg saw palmetto extract is to be used for the treatment of BPH. A higher dose does not appear to increase the effectiveness of this herb (Gordon et al, 2003). It can be taken as a single dose or broken up into two separate doses. To reduce the likelihood of stomach upsets, it can be taken with meals.

Saw Palmetto Supplements

Quite often, saw palmetto can be found in the multivitamins for men. Testosterone boosters are sometimes not recommended for people suffering from prostate issues, as an increase in testosterone may increase the severity of BPH. However, aromatase inhibitors often contain testosterone boosting ingredients as well as prostate support ingredients, such as saw palmetto. These may be more suitable for used by those suffering from prostate issues.

Stacking Saw Palmetto

Because there are no drug interactions with saw palmetto, those suffering from BPH may stack saw palmetto with other prostate treatments such as finasteride. Other herbal remedies of prostate issues such as red clover may also be stacked with saw palmetto.

Briley et al (1984), Inhibitory effect of Permixon on testosterone 5a-reductase activity of the rat ventral prostate. Br J Pharmacol, 83(suppl):401P
Gordon et al (2003), Saw Palmetto for Prostate Disorders. Am Fam Physician, 15: 1281-1283
Small et al (1997), Serenoa repens (Bartram). Fitoterapia, 68: 99–113.
Wilt et al (1998), Saw Palmetto Extracts for Treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. JAMA, 280: 1604-1609

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