Saw Palmetto

What other names is Saw Palmetto known by?

American Dwarf Palm Tree, Baies du Chou Palmiste, Baies du Palmier Scie, Cabbage Palm, Chou Palmiste, Ju-Zhong, Palma Enana Americana, Palmier de Floride, Palmier Nain, Palmier Nain Américain, Palmier Scie, Sabal, Sabal Fructus, Sabal serrulata, Saw Palmetto Berry, Serenoa repens, Serenoa serrulata.

What is Saw Palmetto?

Saw palmetto is a plant. Its ripe fruit is used to make medicine.

Saw palmetto is best known for its use in decreasing symptoms of an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy, BPH). According to many research studies, it is effective for this use.

Saw palmetto is used for treating certain types of prostate infections. It is also sometimes used, in combination with other herbs, to treat prostate cancer.

Some people use saw palmetto for colds and coughs, sore throat, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and migraine headache. It is also used to increase urine flow (as a diuretic), to promote relaxation (as a sedative), and to enhance sexual drive (as an aphrodisiac).

Is Saw Palmetto effective?

Saw palmetto can reduce the symptoms of enlarged prostate, including frequent urination, painful urination, sudden urge to urinate, and inability to urinate. It can also decrease the need to urinate during the night, increase urine flow, and make it easier to empty the bladder completely. Saw palmetto seems to work about as well as some prescription medications, but it takes about one or two months of treatment before symptoms improve.

There isn't enough information to know if saw palmetto is effective for the other conditions people use it for, including: increasing breast size, as an aphrodisiac, to encourage hair growth, and to treat colds and coughs, sore throat, asthma, chronic bronchitis, migraine headache, and cancer. Some women use the powdered fruit vaginally to increase muscle tone.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Prostate surgery (transurethral resection of the prostate; TURP). Research shows that taking 320 mg of saw palmetto daily for 2 months before prostate surgery can reduce the time spent in surgery, blood loss, the development of problems during surgery, and the total time spent in the hospital. However, one small study found that taking 160 mg daily 5 weeks before surgery does not lower the risk of problems during surgery.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia; BPH). There is conflicting and contradictory research about the benefits of saw palmetto for prostate symptoms. Some research has shown that saw palmetto might modestly improve symptoms such as going to the bathroom at night in some men with BPH. However, higher quality and more reliable research seems to indicate that saw palmetto has little or no benefit for reducing these symptoms. Any benefit is modest at best.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Prostate swelling and chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Some early research found that saw palmetto can improve prostate swelling symptoms. Other early research found that taking saw palmetto, selenium, and lycopene, but not saw palmetto alone, can improve symptoms of prostate swelling and chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Taking certain herbal combinations containing saw palmetto seems to improve the effects of sparfloxacin or prulifloxacin in treating prostate swelling symptoms due to infection. However, saw palmetto doesn't seem to improve prostate swelling symptoms not due to infection.
  • Prostate cancer. Research studies to date have found that taking saw palmetto doesn't seem to prevent prostate cancer.
  • Baldness. Some men report that using saw palmetto with beta-sitosterol makes them grow more and better hair.
  • Bladder control (neurogenic bladder). Early research suggests that taking 90-120 drops of a combination of echinacea and saw palmetto for 77 days improves the amount of urine the bladder can hold and the amount left in the bladder after urination in women with neurogenic bladder.
  • Colds and coughs.
  • Sore throat.
  • Asthma.
  • Chronic bronchitis.
  • Migraine headache.
  • Increasing breast size.
  • Reducing bleeding after prostate surgery.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of saw palmetto for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


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