Saw palmetto is a type of
palm tree that grows in the southeastern United States.
of the saw palmetto plant contains a compound that may reduce the symptoms of
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a
noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. Symptoms of an enlarged
prostate include dribbling after urination and getting up many times during the
night to urinate.
As a child, I never would have guessed I'd one day be paid to type the
phrase "jock itch."
Actually, I'm sort of surprised now as an adult to find that jock itch, and
its southerly cousin athlete's foot, still exist. There's something sort of
quaint about these and other minor locker room infections — they seem to
belong in the moldering realm of short shorts and tube socks that marked our
fathers' Saturday mornings at the Y. Surely today's athletes, with their
x-treme cross trainers and x-treme...
From the 1870s until 1950, saw palmetto was a
common treatment for prostate and other urinary problems. After 1950, saw
palmetto was no longer recognized as a drug in the United States. It is still
used in Europe as a treatment for BPH and is approved by the German Commission
E. The Commission E evaluates herbal treatments for their safety and efficacy
(how well they work).
In the United States, saw palmetto is
available as a dietary supplement.
Experts disagree on whether
saw palmetto improves men's symptoms of BPH. Experts also don't clearly
understand how saw palmetto may improve symptoms of BPH. It might stop the
growth of the prostate or even make it smaller. This is how finasteride, a
medicine commonly prescribed to treat BPH symptoms, works.
Studies conflict on whether saw palmetto improves men's symptoms. In one
study, men taking saw palmetto were no better than those who took a
two reviews of trials on different saw palmetto preparations report that more
men rated their symptoms improved while using saw palmetto compared with a
placebo. The reviews also report that:2
The medicine finasteride was slightly more
effective at improving symptoms than saw palmetto.
The risk of
erection problems when using saw palmetto was less
than when using finasteride.
Saw palmetto improves a man's ability to urinate by
allowing urine to flow out of the bladder faster and reducing the number of
times he needs to get up during the night to urinate.
Is saw palmetto safe?
Few problems have been
reported among men taking saw palmetto. But some men may experience stomach
problems. Saw palmetto is less likely than finasteride to cause difficulty in
getting an erection.
Men who have problems urinating should see a
doctor to rule out prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is treatable, but treatment
is most successful when you find and treat the cancer as early as possible.
If you intend to use saw palmetto to treat symptoms of BPH, look
for a product that has a fat-soluble extract of the saw palmetto berry. The
active compound does not dissolve well in water. So drinking a tea or water
extract made from saw palmetto berries is not likely to have an effect on the
symptoms of BPH.