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Saw Palmetto

General Information

Saw palmetto is a small palm tree native to the eastern United States. Its fruit was used medicinally by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Common Name(s)

saw palmetto, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm

Scientific Name(s)

Serenoa repens, Sabal serrulata

Scientific Name(s)

The ripe fruit of saw palmetto is used in several forms, including ground and dried fruit or whole berries. It is available as a liquid extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient, tablets, capsules, and as an infusioninfusionthe process of steeping or soaking plant material in hot or cold water to isolate its active ingredient or a tea.

What is this product used for?

Saw palmetto is used mainly for urinary symptoms (e.g., incomplete voiding, frequent urination) associated with mild-to-moderate benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). People with BPH have an enlarged prostate gland.

Saw palmetto is also used for other conditions, including chronic pelvic pain, bladder disorders, decreased sex drive, hair loss, hormone imbalances, and prostate cancer.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Clinical studies have given inconsistent results on the use of saw palmetto for treating symptoms of BPH. Overall, there is not enough scientific evidence to support its use.

Saw palmetto does not appear to affect readings of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. PSA is protein produced by cells in the prostate. The PSA test is used to screen for prostate cancer and to monitor patients who have had prostate cancer.

So far, research suggests that saw palmetto is not effective in lowering the risks of developing prostate cancer. However, more research is needed.

Saw palmetto appears to be well tolerated by most users. Side effects include stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, and headache. Decreased libido and runny nose have also been reported.

The following may interact with saw palmetto:

  • anticoagulants (e.g., warfarin)
  • antiplatelet drugs (e.g., clopidogrel)
  • contraceptive drugs
  • estrogens

Stop taking saw palmetto at least 2 weeks before elective surgery to avoid excessive bleeding.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not use saw palmetto.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Herbs at a Glance. Saw Palmetto. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/palmetto/ataglance.htm Accessed May 25, 2016.

2. Saw Palmetto Monograph. Health Canada, http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=157&lang=eng. Accessed May 25, 2016.

3. Saw Palmetto (monograph). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Accessed May 25, 2016.

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