Health Information CenterSaw Palmetto

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Saw Palmetto is a small, palm-like plant native to North America. Native Americans and early American settlers used the berries to treat problems associated with the genitals, urinary tract and reproductive  system. The herb saw palmetto is called the "plant catheter" due to its therapeutic effect on the neck of  the bladder and the prostate in men. Saw Palmetto is widely used in Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and now the U.S. for nutritionally benefiting the prostate and urinary tract. It has been marketed as an "aphrodisiac" for both men and women. The active constituents are volatile oil, steroidal saponin, tannins, and polysaccharides. Saw Palmetto is a tonic, and is one of the few herbal remedies that are considered to be anabolic - it strengthens and builds body tissues. 

For men, saw palmetto treats an enlarged and weakened prostate gland. Saw palmetto has shown  significant action in treatment of conditions associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Saw palmetto extract works to prevent testosterone from converting into dihydrotestosterone, the hormone thought to cause prostate cells to multiply, leading to an enlarged prostate. Saw Palmetto is chiefly used as a diuretic and to tone the bladder by improving urinary flow, and relieving strain. Regular use of saw palmetto may decrease urinary frequency, especially during the night, by allowing complete bladder expulsion and reducing inflammation of the bladder and enlarged prostate.

Saw palmetto inhibits androgen and estrogen receptor activity and may be beneficial for both sexes in balancing the hormones. Because of it hormonal effects it can aid the thyroid in regulating sexual  development and normalizing activity of those glands and organs.

Women have used the herb to stimulate breast enlargement and lactation as well as treating ovarian and uterine irritability. It has been prescribed for reduced or absent sex drive, impotence and frigidity. Because of its potential hormonal effects, pregnant women should not use it.

The berries have been recommended in treatment of diseases that deprive the body of strength and growth. Preliminary evidence exists to also suggest saw palmetto may also aid those suffering from thyroid deficiency. Saw palmetto is a good expectorant for use in clearing chest congestion and can be used to treat coughs, asthma, and bronchitis.

Saw Palmetto has also been used to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, nourish the nervous system and increase the assimilation of nutrients to the body.

Two excellent review articles have recently been published on the mechanism of action of saw palmetto.  The first, published in the new journal Phytomedicine (Nieferprum, et. al.), explores the 5-a-reductase inhibiting properties of the free fatty acids in the saw palmetto berry. This activity is not only critical to saw palmetto's efficacy with BPH but may also open the door for saw palmetto as a potential deterrent to prostate cancer.

The second study (Koch & Biber) examines the role that dihydrotestosterone, 5-a-reductase, estrogen, and sexual-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) play in the pathogenesis of BPH. This paper not only explores saw palmetto extract's 5-a-reductase inhibiting and anti-edematous actions but also explores the efficacy of urtica (nettle) root in the BPH treatment. A translation of this article appears in the Summer 1995 issue of the "Quarterly Review of Natural Medicine".

It is clear that the next step in clinical research with saw palmetto extract is a comparative study with finasteride (Proscar‚). In the meantime, healthcare practitioners utilizing saw palmetto extract in their practices have excellent research documentation to support their choice. - Donald Brown, N. D.

One of the more positive trends, the 1990ís will be remembered for is the willingness of mainstream medicine to examine the scientific legitimacy of natural therapies versus their synthetic counterparts. With Saw Palmetto cost being nearly 25-30% less than Proscar, and proving to be more than twice as effective in half the time it takes Proscar to reveal even modest results, saw palmetto offers new hopes to million of sufferers worldwide. With all the commotion being made about proper prostate maintenance saw palmetto will enjoy continued success, offering relief to more than 50% of the 45-60 year old males.

Saw Palmetto is also known as:

Serenoa repens, Windmill palm, Sawtooth palm

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