|Saw Palmetto Extract:
At least seven
controlled studies demonstrate that standardized saw palmetto berry
extract is better than placebo for treating symptoms of benign prostate
hypertrophy (frequent urination, restricted urine flow, nighttime
urination). Notably, Saw Palmetto berry performed better than some
prescriptives (see below).
(Note: It is not recommended to use "home
Also called sabal palm, grows in the southeastern United States.
Its dark berries were traditionally made into a tea and taken for urinary
problems or sexual difficulties. During much of the nineteenth century, saw
palmetto berry extract was included in the National Formulary, a list of
acceptable medicines, to treat the symptoms of prostate enlargement. As
medicine came to rely more on science, doctors became skeptical about the value
of this botanical remedy and it was dropped from the Formulary before 1950.
More recent studies indicate that it is indeed effective for this indication
and probably should never have been dropped.
Even those who
have saw palmetto growing in their backyards may want to stick with commercial
extracts rather than try to make their own tea. The berries do not taste good,
and most of the active ingredients appear to be less soluble in water than in
alcohol or hexane.
Saw palmetto berries contain free fatty acids and plant
sterol compounds described as phytosterols or sitosterols, especially
beta-sitosterol and some related chemicals. These ingredients appear to
modify estrogen receptors and block the conversion of testosterone to
dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more active chemical. There are also flavonoids
and some polysaccharides in the berries, but their activity has not been
described. Standardized products contain 85 to 95 percent fatty acids and
Controlled studies demonstrated that saw palmetto berry extract
is better than placebo for treating symptoms of benign prostate hypertrophy
(frequent urination, restricted urine flow, nighttime urination). In one study,
the herb was nearly as effective as the prescription drug Minipress (prazosin)
for controlling such symptoms, and in other research it reportedly performed
better than the prescription prostate medicine Proscar (finasteride) in
reducing symptoms. Research using ultrasound has shown that saw palmetto berry
extract can shrink enlarged prostate tissue. Some research has shown
that saw palmetto berries may also have anti-inflammatory activity and can help
reduce allergic reactions. The plant has been used traditionally as a diuretic
and may also help to stimulate immune response. The herb's effect on
enlarged prostate tissue is by far the most clinically important.
For early stages of benign prostate enlargement: 320 mg extract
daily, in divided doses, or the equivalent of 1 or 2 grams of saw palmetto
berries. Four to six weeks may be required to determine if the herb is
Special Precautions: Estrogen-like activity and the
ability to block testosterone conversion suggest that pregnant women and those
who may become pregnant should avoid contact with saw palmetto berry
extract, just as they should avoid finasteride. Men are urged not to treat
urinary symptoms without medical diagnosis. Similar symptoms might be
caused by a more serious condition, such as prostate. See a picture of the plant
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