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What is saw palmetto?
The saw palmetto is native to the United States, growing
naturally in warm climates from South Carolina to Florida.
It can reach a height of 10 feet, and has large green leaves
that branch out from thorny stems.
Saw palmetto's active ingredients are fatty acids and plant
sterols, which are found in the plant's berries, which are
yellow and olive-shaped. Saw palmetto berries also contain
some polysaccharides, which are usually associated with anti-inflammatory
and immune-stimulating properties.
Why do we need saw palmetto? What is it used for?
Traditionally, saw palmetto was used by Native Americans
as a sedative and diuretic. Some practitioners claim that
saw palmetto berries are an aphrodisiac and can increase a
women's breast size, but these claims are unsubstantiated.
To date, more than 40 scientific studies have been published
about the benefits of saw palmetto berries. Some studies have
shown that the berries reduce levels of substances that the
body uses to make hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
In Europe, saw palmetto is a leading treatment for benign
prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It relieves the symptoms associated
with stage I and stage II BPH, such as frequent urination,
delayed urination, and bladder dysfunction.
How much saw palmetto should I take?
The recommended dosages for stage I and stage II BPH are
160 milligrams (twice daily) of a fat-soluble saw palmetto
extract which has been standardized. Make sure to consult
your health care provider before taking saw palmetto (or any
other herbal product or supplement).
What forms of saw palmetto are available?
Saw palmetto is available in a variety of forms, from dried
berries and tea to powdered capsules, tablets, liquid tinctures
and extracts. Make sure to look for a standardized product
that contains 85-95% fatty acids and sterols.
What can happen if I take too much
saw palmetto? Are there any interactions I should be aware
of? What precautions should I take?
Saw palmetto has been given a class I safety rating by the
American Herbal Products Assocition, which means it is safe
when used as directed. However, because saw palmetto
can affect hormone levels, it may alter the effects of certain
contraceptive pills and patches and some types of hormone
replacement therapy. Saw palmetto should not be used during
pregnancy or nursing.
Other Resources :
More You Know About Nutrition
Braeckman J. The extract of serenoa
repens in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
A multicenter open study. Curr Therapeut Res 1994;55:776-785.
Di Silverio F, et al. Evidence
that serenoa repens extract displays an antiestrogenic activity
in prostatic tissue of benign prostatic hypertrophy patients.
Eur Uro 1992;21:309-314.
Hutchens AR. Indian Herbology
of North America. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1973,
Newall CA, et al. Herbal
Medicines: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. London:
The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.
Wilt TJ, Ishani A, Stark G.
Saw palmetto extracts for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia:
a systematic review. JAMA 1998;280:1604-1609.