Saw Palmetto is an herb that is native to the southern United States. It grows in dense clumps or thickets in sandy coastal lands or as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks. Saw palmetto is also known as the American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm, and it goes by the Latin names Serenoa repensand Sabal serrulata. It has large, broad palm-like laves that are light green inland and silvery-white in costal regions. The saw palmetto bears reddish-black fruit and yellowish-white flowers.
Historically, the fruit of the saw palmetto has been important food for animals and also humans. The fruits are enriched with fatty acids and phytosterols, which are what are believed to give the saw palmetto its medicinal properties.
The fruits of the saw palmetto have been used to treat urinary tract infections and urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate gland (also called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH). The Saw palmetto is also used for chronic pelvic pain, bladder disorders, decreased sex drive, hair loss, and hormone imbalances.
The ripe fruit of saw palmetto is used as whole barries and in ground and dried form. It is available in tablets, liquid extracts, and teas.
Saw Palmetto and Your Health
Some small studies suggest that saw palmetto may be effective in treating BPH symptoms. It may improve urolicic functions and flow measures. One study found that compared to finasteride, Serenoa repens produces similar improvements in urinary tract health and is associated with fewer side effects.
However, most of research regarding saw palmetto is limited given short experiment durations, the variability of study designs, and the variability of preparation of Serenoa repens. For research to be more useful, standardized preparations of Serenoa repens will be crucial to future studies, and will larger scale long term studies.
One large study of 225 men with moderate to severe BPH found no improvement compared to placebos when they used saw palmetto daily for one year. Furthermore, there is not enough scientific evidence to support saw palmetto's usefulness in reducing prostate size.
Saw Palmetto Side Effects
Saw Palmetto can cause stomach upset and discomfort. Some men using saw palmetto also report tender breasts and a decrease in sexual desire.
Always talk to your doctor before you decide to take any herb medicinally.