Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto: Overview

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens, Sabal serrulata) comes from the ripe berries of a small palm and is best used as a tincture or fluid extract.  It is one of the most well-known and time-honored herbs for prostate problems and it also has a long history as a tonic to help increase male potency, calm the nervous system, aid digestion and build connective tissue.

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Saw Palmetto is supplied in liquids and as standardized extracts; it is frequently combined with pygeum (Pygeum africanum, African pyrogens), an herb with a somewhat less-established reputation for improving prostate health, and with pumpkin seed and zinc in a combination tablet.

Although Saw Palmetto is also available as a tea, the fatty acids in the herb thought to be at least partly responsible for its effects are not extracted well into water; thus, drinking a tea would not be as effective against BPH for example.

Fatty acid extracts of 85-95% are oil extracts and are in soft gel capsules.  Powdered extracts are also available and are usually standardized anywhere from 20% to 55% fatty acids.

Function; Why it is Recommended

Saw Palmetto includes fatty acids such as capric, caprylic, caproic, lauric, palmitic, and oleic.  The phytosterols include beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and others.  The liposterolic extract of Saw Palmetto has three major activities that improve BPH symptomology, they include: inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase; inhibiting the binding of androgens to prostatic cells; and inhibiting both lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase (arachidonic acid cascade induced inflammation factors).  Saw Palmetto, by competing with both the enzyme and receptor that stimulates growth factor secretion, inhibits prostatic hyperplasia.

There have been many clinical trials done with Saw Palmetto extracts showing effective treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).  The liposterolic extract of Saw Palmetto fruits has been used extensively and for many years as the drug of choice for BPH in Europe and has been getting more and more attention in the United States.  Saw Palmetto has thus become the premier herbal remedy for BPH symptoms, including discomfort and excessive nighttime urination.

Saw Palmetto contains a number of compounds with potential therapeutic effects.  Researchers have not yet identified with certainty the BPH-related compounds, although the evidence points to certain fatty acids and sterols with either enzyme or hormone-related effects.

A three-year trial of 309 men, comparing Saw Palmetto extract to finasteride (Proscar) showed a significant increase in urinary flow rate and a 50% decrease in residual urine volume associated with the Saw Palmetto group.  While the finasteride group also showed improvements, they were not as significant as the Saw Palmetto group, and there were almost 6 times more dropouts in the finasteride group due to unpleasant side-effects.

Studies have found that a Saw Palmetto extract significantly reduces excessive urination both at night and during the day.

Saw Palmetto is said also to improve libido.


Standard dosages of Saw Palmetto extracts are those which yield from 270 to 305mg of fatty acids per day (often 320mg of an 85-95% fatty acid extract).


In rare cases nausea does occur.  No long-term toxicity has been reported.

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Saw Palmetto:

Saw Palmetto can help with the following:


Not recommended for
Motherhood Issues

Saw palmetto should not be taken by women who are pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive, because it affects sex hormone levels.

Pregnancy-Related Issues

Saw palmetto should not be taken by women who are pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive, because it affects sex hormone levels.


Enlarged Prostate

One of the most well-known and time-honored herbs for prostate problems is saw palmetto.  Saw palmetto has been tested in clinical trials and results show that the berries improve signs and symptoms of an enlarged prostate.  During the trials, benefits were recorded for symptoms such as difficulty in urination, frequent urination at night, urine flow and size of enlarged prostate.

In all cases, the treatment was free of side effects.  Scientists believe the main benefits may be due to the ability of some constituents in saw palmetto to inhibit the enzyme 5-reductase in the body.  This enzyme converts the hormone testosterone to DHT.  DHT is five times more potent than testosterone in stimulating the enlargement of the prostate.


Anorexia / Starvation Tendency

A digestive tonic and connective-tissue rebuilder.


Male Hair Loss

This extract has been found to counteract the conversion of testosterone to DHT by inhibiting DHT binding to cellular and nuclear receptor sites, thereby increasing DHT breakdown.  The dosage of fatty acids from saw palmetto is 270-300mg daily.  This can be obtained from 320mg of a standardized extract or 3gm of dried saw palmetto berry.  These doses have been found to be safe in many studies.

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often helps with
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Should be avoided: is NOT recommended for
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