Saw palmetto is also known as Serenoa repens, Sabal serrulata, American Dwarf Palm Tree, Cabbage Palm, Ju-Zhong, Palma Enana Americana, Palmier Nain, Sabal, Sabal Fructus, Saw Palmetto Berry. It is a palm-like plant with berries that were a staple food and medicine for the Native Americans of the southeastern United States. Traditionally herbalist have used saw palmetto since the early 1900s in the treatment of urinary tract problems in men, to increase sperm production and boost libido.
The active elements of saw palmetto include free fatty acids and sterols. Studies have shown saw pametto decreases the amount of DHT (dihydrotestosterone), an active form of testosterone, in the prostate. In test tube studies it weakly inhibits the enzyme (5-alpha-reductase) that converts testosterone to DHT and inhibits growth factors and inflammatory substances that contribute to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Other experiments suggest saw palmetto decreases the symptoms of BPH, such as frequency of urination during day and night and having trouble starting and maintaining urination. Other test tube studies showed inhibition of tumor cell growth, possibly indicating a role in the treatment of prostate cancer. While these studies are promising, more research needs to be done to determine saw palmetto’s effectiveness in the treatment of BPH and prostate enlargement.
Vegetarian saw palmetto supplements are found as dried berries, capsules, tablets and liquid tinctures. It should be taken as directed by the manufacturer. Side affects are rare and include mild stomach complaints and minor headaches. Rarely bleeding has occurred with saw palmetto. Saw palmetto can have similar effects of some hormones and therefore should not be given to children or pregnant or breast-feeding moms. Saw palmetto should also not be taken with anti-coagulation medications (Warfarin, Coumadin). Do not self-treat for BPH with saw palmetto. Always consult your physician prior to taking supplements.
Garby, Alan, et al. The Natural Pharmacy, 3rd edition, 2006
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