Ultimate Herbals Guide: Saw Palmetto

Ultimate Herbals Guide: Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto: Your Herb Guide

What is Saw Palmetto?

This Herb Guide provides everything you need to know about the herb saw palmetto – it’s common names, how and why it’s used, whether it works and what it works for best, research conducted, and the potential side effects and cautions.

In general, an herb is a plant or part of a plant used for its flavor, scent, or potential therapeutic properties, and includes the flowers, leaves, bark, fruit, seeds, stems, and roots of the herb.

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

Common Names - saw palmetto, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm

Latin Names -Serenoa repens, Sabal serrulata

What is saw palmetto used for?
  • Saw palmetto is used mainly for urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate gland (also called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).
  • Saw palmetto is also used for other conditions, including chronic pelvic pain, bladder disorders, decreased sex drive, hair loss, and hormone imbalances.
How is saw palmetto used?

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 extract, tablets, capsules, and as an infusion or a tea.

What the Science Says

Has saw palmetto been proven to work?
  • Several small studies suggest that saw palmetto may be effective for treating the symptoms of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (“BPH,” which refers to an enlarged prostate).
  • In 2006, a large study of 225 men with moderate-to-severe BPH was conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine together with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Researchers found no improvement with 320 mg saw palmetto daily for 1 year versus a placebo.
  • There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of saw palmetto for reducing the size of an enlarged prostate or for any other conditions.
  • Saw palmetto does not appear to affect readings of prostate-specific antigen (“PSA”) levels. PSA is a 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.

Side Effects and Cautions

What should I be careful of while taking saw palmetto supplements?
  • Saw palmetto may cause mild side effects, including stomach discomfort.
  • Some men using saw palmetto have reported side effects such as tender breasts and a decline in sexual desire.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors