Saw Palmetto – For Prostate Health

Even healthy men who exercise stand a high likelihood of incurring BPH around age 50. BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, usually accompanied by urinary difficulties, most notably frequent nighttime urination. Left untreated, BPH can increase susceptibility to urinary and bladder infections, and kidney stones.

Enter saw palmetto, the berries (and various preparations made from them) of the low-growing palm tree Serenoa repens, which is native to the southeastern United States. A traditional remedy for diverse purposes, saw palmetto was used by native Americans as a diuretic and a sexual tonic. For more than 30 years, saw palmetto has been employed in European phytotherapy for the relief of urinary symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy, BPH. Today saw palmetto is a widely popular dietary supplement in the U.S. as well for this purpose. Over 30 clinical trials have assessed the efficacy of saw palmetto, and the results of these studies show that saw palmetto is as effective for mitigating BPH as drugs for the same purpose.

In the early 1900s, saw palmetto was commonly recommended by physicians for prostate disorders. Saw palmetto appeared in the US Pharmacopoeia and the National Formulary. In the 1960s French researchers undertook investigation of the natural phytochemical constituents of saw palmetto. Their analysis led to an improved understanding of the lipid-rich nature of the berries, and of the more specific composition of the lipids.

Saw palmetto contains a variety of lipids (fats) which influence hormone function. The various constituents in the berries demonstrate diuretic, antiseptic, and gland-influencing properties. Saw palmetto appears to reduce two factors which contribute to BPH, known as 5-alpha-reductase and aromatoase. Further investigation of saw palmetto shows that the berries also possess anti-inflammatory and anti-exudative properties. Exudation is a process by which material including metabolic debris, fluid, proteins, cells, or other “stuff” in the body leaks from cells and deposits into tissue. So the anti-exudative activity of saw palmetto means that it inhibits this deposition of debris.

A large body of science shows that saw palmetto is effective for relieving urinary symptoms of BPH. Even Consumer Reports, which is conservative by nature, gave a thumbs-up to saw palmetto in its September 2000 issue. Among many researchers, saw palmetto is largely regarded as the standard against which other purported remedies for BPH must be measured.

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A comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the use of saw palmetto in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia found that saw palmetto is safe with no recognized adverse effects. Placebo controlled trials and meta-analyses have suggested that saw palmetto leads to subjective and objective improvement in men with lower urinary tract symptoms. Saw Palmetto has successfully jumped through all the medical hoops.

When you survey the landscape of medicines, you will find that herbs, also known as plant medicines, often offer superior effectiveness as compared with drugs, far fewer negative effects, lower cost, and very good science. Saw palmetto is a good case in point. This herb has been used for at least many centuries for prostate health. The human clinical studies on saw palmetto are very good. The price of this herb is inexpensive. And saw palmetto demonstrates no negative effects, and does not interact with medications.

To keep your prostate healthy and happy, look for saw palmetto supplements standardized to 85-95 percent fatty acids and sterols. The recommended dosage of saw palmetto for the treatment of BPH is 160 mg twice a day of an extract standardized to contain 85-95 percent fatty acids and sterols.

Remember, a healthy prostate is a happy prostate.

Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at