Saw Palmetto

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW

Summary

Native to North America, this herb is commonly used in the treatment of prostate enlargement, especially in the early stages, and is mainly used for improving and treating prostate health in men over 40. Nonetheless, saw palmetto may be especially beneficial for men with a condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy (or BPH for short). And new benefits for both women and men are only now coming to light, such as improved menstrual cycle in women and improved urinary tract function in men.

Other names for Saw Palmetto

Serenoa repens, sabal

Where to find Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is a plant grown mainly in North America. The berries from this palm plant can then be used in teas or tinctures.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Saw Palmetto

Although saw palmetto is primarily used by men over 40 to keep their prostates healthy — a quite serious health concern — it may also be beneficial for men who use testosterone-boosting supplements (to enhance muscle growth) to help prevent future prostate problems.

Ways that Saw Palmetto can enhance Longevity:
  • Support prostate health by disposing of extra testosterone in the prostate

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Saw Palmetto deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Saw Palmetto

Research indicates that Saw Palmetto may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)
  • Low libido (sex drive)
  • Urinary problems, especially in men
  • Congestion
  • Coughs
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Menstrual pain
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Infertility

DISCUSSION

More about Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is an herb that’s mainly used by men over the age of 40 to improve prostate health or combat an enlarged prostrate, especially during the early stages. However, the berries of this palm plant have been used to treat many complications associated with the urinary tract and reproductive system.

Support prostate health

Saw palmetto appears to be especially useful in treating a condition called “benign prostatic hyperplasia” (BPH). This condition is found in 50% to 60% of men between the ages of 40 and 59. Although saw palmetto will not shrink the size of the prostate, it may help alleviate the symptoms of BPH, such as frequent urination during the night, difficulty urinating, interrupted flow or dribbling during urination, and a reduced sex drive. It seems when there are excess amounts of the hormone testosterone in the prostate, the prostate can become enlarged. Experts report that saw palmetto helps dispose of extra testosterone and therefore keeps the prostate from enlarging. Saw palmetto may also help tone the bladder by improving the flow of urine and relieving undue strain.

Shift the testosterone-to-estrogen balance?

Some athletes, especially bodybuilders, have been interested in saw palmetto’s anti-estrogenic effect. You see, saw palmetto may help block estrogen, and therefore, some people believed it could help shift the testosterone-estrogen balance over toward the testosterone side, possibly helping support muscle growth. Unfortunately, studies have revealed this may not work as well in the real world as it does in theory because in addition to blocking estrogen, saw palmetto also blocks testosterone, canceling out the intended benefit.

However, any athlete supplementing with potential testosterone-boosting products, such as DHEA and androstenedione, may use saw palmetto to help keep his prostate healthy — now and in the future. This is because saw palmetto appears to inhibit dihydrotestosterone, which is a male hormone that, when overproduced, can lead to prostate enlargement.

Caveat

While some men may be tempted to simply reach for the bottle of saw palmetto if an enlarged prostate is suspected, it is best to consult with your doctor and submit to a physical exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. An enlarged prostate may lead to BPH or prostate cancer. This should be taken very seriously — other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 198,100 new cases of prostate cancer by the end of the year 2001 in this country alone, and about 31,500 men will die of this disease.

Enhance sexual enjoyment?

Saw palmetto is also considered a tonic that has been shown to help strengthen and build body tissues, especially those in the prostate and urinary tract. In the past, it was believed to be a sexual stimulant and aphrodisiac and was prescribed to increase sexual energy and revive low libido in both women and men — most likely because of its potential ability to strengthen these tissues.

Not just for men

Although considered mostly for older men, women have also found saw palmetto beneficial. It may help promote the production of certain female sex hormones, which, in turn, promote breast enlargement and milk production in nursing mothers. Saw palmetto has also been used by women to relieve painful periods, regulate the menstrual cycle, and treat pelvic inflammatory disease. Once again, because of saw palmetto’s potential for strengthening and building the tissues of the sex organs. In addition, saw palmetto may help increase ovulation and therefore reduce infertility.

It has also been shown in scientific studies to be promising for people who may be fighting the effects of a thyroid deficiency.

Combat chest congestion

Recently, studies have shown saw palmetto to be promising for anyone suffering from chest congestion. It works as a natural “expectorant” to remove and help break apart excess congestion and phlegm in the lungs. Many experts have begun to recommend this herb to help relieve the phlegm build-up often seen with coughs, asthma, and bronchitis.

In conclusion

Throughout history, saw palmetto has been used for sexual dysfunction and urinary complications. Best known for its ability to help improve prostate health in men over 40, it’s often completely overlooked for its potential benefits for women to help regulate the menstrual cycle and relieve painful periods. Once the community of females finds this low-risk, high-reward herb, it may very well become known for more than just prostate health.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

In early stages of BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia or enlarged prostrate), 320 up to 500 mg per day is reportedly necessary. It may take four to six weeks to see results. After that, 160 mg twice daily should be enough.

Other forms

Between five and six milliliters of the liquid extract of the whole herb per day may be used instead. Saw palmetto can also be made into a tea with five to six grams of the powdered dried fruit and consumed each day.

Note

Extracts of saw palmetto which contain 85% to 95% fatty acids and sterols are preferable according to experts.

Timing

Divide dosages to supplement twice per day with meals for proper absorption.

Synergists of Saw Palmetto

No synergists have been noted.

Safety of Saw Palmetto

In rare cases, saw palmetto may cause stomach upset.

Saw palmetto is not recommended for children.

If you are using or considering using prescription drugs, please consult with your health practitioner about possible contraindications with this herb.

Toxicity of Saw Palmetto

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • DiSilervio, F., et al., “Evidence that Serenoa repens Extract Displays an Antiestrogenic Activity in Prostatic Tissue of Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy Patients,” Euro Urol 21.4 (1992) : 309-14.
  • Sultan, C., et al., “Inhibition of Androgen Metabolism and Binding by a Liposterolic Extract of Serenoa repens B in Human Foreskin Fibroblasts,” J Steroid Biochem 20.1 (1984) : 515-9.
  • Tasca, A., et al., “Treatment of Obstructive Symptomatology Caused by Prostatic Adenoma with an Extract of Serenoa repens. Double-Blind Clinical Study vs. Placebo,” Minerva Urol Nefrol 37.1 (1985) : 87-91.