The Complete Guide of Saw Palmetto for Prostate Health

Updated on October 20th, 2020
saw palmetto for prostate

Serenoa repens (Saw palmetto) is a type of palm native to the southeastern United States. The plant’s berries are commonly used in supplements to balance hormone levels, improve prostate health, and prevent hair loss in men. It’s also associated with other benefits, including improved urinary function and decreased inflammation.

Saw palmetto for BPH

People generally use saw palmetto as a natural remedy for BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia), which is an enlargement of the prostate gland (non-cancerous).

BPH (Benign prostate hyperplasia) is a common disorder in seniors. The prostate grows larger and impedes the flow of urine. It causes bladder and urinary tract symptoms that gradually get severe over time [1].

Serenoa repens or Saw palmetto is a plant that individuals use as a natural remedy. Native Americans use the herb to treat urinary tract issues and improve fertility.

According to The NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine), around 2 million men in the US use the herb to treat prostate issues and BPH. However, there is little proof to support its potency [2].

What Is Saw Palmetto?

Serenoa repens (Saw palmetto) is a palm that grows in the United States’ southern coastal regions. It is around two to four feet high. Its leaves are sharp and fan-shaped, and it makes a lot of berries. These fruits have a hoary history of use as medicine. Some Native Americans used them to support urinary problems in men.

Saw palmetto for prostate

Saw palmetto is known to slow down the production of a specific enzyme called 5-alpha reductase; this enzyme converts testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the prostate gland. Although DHT plays a critical role in the prostate’s development, it may also lead to prostate problems such as BPH.

Many people believe that taking saw palmetto would minimize their BPH symptoms by impeding the production of DHT. However, there is little proof to back that saw palmetto is useful for prostate health.

[Read: Vitamin Supplements for Prostate Health]

What the research says

Although some preliminary studies indicated that saw palmetto could benefit people with BPH symptoms, later trials contradicted these findings.

Research published in 2011 followed the progress of 306 men with moderate BPH symptoms over seventy-two weeks as they took either a placebo or saw palmetto fruit extracts. The results demonstrated that there was no remarkable difference in the results between the 2 groups.[4]

Even when they took a triple dose of saw palmetto rather than the regular dose of 320 milligrams (mg) common in an earlier study, they experienced no remarkable benefits.

These findings support the 2006 study, which found no improvement in BPH symptoms after a year of saw palmetto used.

A 2012 Cochrane review of thirty-two randomized controlled trials involving 5,666 men further disputes the potency of saw palmetto in treating BPH symptoms. The study observed that saw palmetto does not improve nocturia (excessive night-time urination), peak urine flow, or other urinary symptoms when compared with a placebo.

[Read: Benefits of Saw Palmetto]

Dosage

Clinical studies have used 320 mg once daily or dosage of 160 mg twice daily of a lipophilic extract having 80 to 90 percent of the volatile oil. 480 mg of daily dosage was not found to be any more effective in a 6-month study of dosages. Teas are not regarded to be effective because they do not have volatile oils.

The whole berries may be used at the prescribed dosage of one to two g daily. As with most herbal medicines, the prescribed dosage for saw palmetto may vary because of the lack of standardization of such products in the US.

Saw palmetto supplement for prostate health

Herbal medication products that are generally available for buying may not be the same as those used in clinical trials and, therefore, may not give the same results. There are no proven drug interactions with saw palmetto. The cost for typical saw palmetto products range from $6 to $20 per month at a 160 mg dosage two times a day.

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Side effects of saw palmetto

Saw palmetto causes relatively less adverse effects. It can occasionally lead to mild symptoms such as bad breath, digestive upset, or headaches. Even when people take large doses of up to 960 mg, research shows that saw palmetto does not typically trigger extreme reactions.

However, there are rare cases of people linking saw palmetto with their liver disorders, so anyone who had or has liver disease should skip it.

The herb is also not likely to interact with medicines, but there are no trials to prove it is safe. Therefore, people who are taking any other medicines and wish to try saw palmetto should check with their physician first.

There is some chance of saw palmetto interacting with blood-clotting drugs or aspirin. Lastly, studies to date have concentrated on males using saw palmetto. There is not enough data available on the safety or effects of the herb in children or females.

Saw palmetto is a powerful treatment for the symptoms of Benign prostate hyperplasia. It appears to be as potent as finasteride and is less expensive, better tolerated, and less likely to minimize PSA levels. No study has evaluated the effect of saw palmetto on long-term outcomes in patients with Benign prostate hyperplasia. 

Bottom Line

There is not sufficient evidence to confirm that saw palmetto can improve the symptoms of BPH. However, many individuals will see an improvement in Benign prostate hyperplasia symptoms following traditional treatment. To avoid symptoms from worsening or returning, a physician may prescribe taking medicines on a long-term basis.

Sometimes, repeat treatments may be needed to prevent symptoms. Most men will also feel better when they make lifestyle alterations, such as exercising, training the bladder, and eating healthily.

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