Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
Saw palmetto is a small palm that grows in clumps or thickets along the coast. The leaves are fan shaped with fine spines. It has yellowish-white flowers in large clusters.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Saw palmetto is used to treat urinary symptoms that are related to an enlarged prostate gland, otherwise known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. It is also used for bladder problems, chronic pelvic pain, decreased sex drive, hormone imbalance and hair loss.
It has been traditionally used for acne, asthma, bronchitis, breastfeeding, inflammation of the bladder, breast enlargement or reduction, cough, cystitis, diarrhea, diabetes, as a digestive aid, a diuretic, and dysentery. Other ailments that have been treated with saw palmetto include Epstein-Barr virus, excess hair growth, high blood pressure, to stimulate the immune system, as an expectorant, to treat impotence, laryngitis and migraine headache.
Some people also use saw palmetto for menstrual pain, muscle and intestinal spasms, ovarian cysts, uterine or vaginal problems, postnasal drip, sedation, sore throat and upper respiratory infection.
Externally not used externally
Fruit The fruit is used in many forms as a medicinal herbal remedy.
Side effects from taking the herb may include stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, halitosis, constipation and diarrhea. A small number reported ulcers, jaundice or liver damage, but it is not clear whether it was this herb that was directly responsible. As always, use with caution.
If you have health problems that involve the digestive tract, the liver, heart or lungs, use caution when using this herb. Also exercise caution if you take blood thinning medications, are having surgery or dental work or if you have bleeding disorders. Some men report problems with erections, breast tenderness, testicular sensitivities and a change in sexual desire.
If you take hormonal medications, do not use. Theoretically, prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels may be lowered by this herb, which may delay a prostate cancer diagnosis. Because of hormonal reactions, this herb is not recommended to women who are pregnant or nursing.
Saw palmetto may interact with estrogen and prevent proper iron absorption. It may also interact with anticoagulants, anti-platelet drugs and anti-inflammatory medications. This herb should not be taken with medications that affect the levels of male hormones. It may also interfere with birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
Preparation and Dosage
The herb is commercially available as an extract, as tablets, capsules and as an herbal tea.
To treat an enlarged prostate, a daily dose of 320 mg is taken in either a single dose or divided into two. Some studies suggest 160 mg once a day may be just as effective.