Saw palmetto is a plant native to the U.S. that has been used as a natural remedy for various ailments, most prominently benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men. Here’s a look at saw palmetto, and its potential efficacy for treating various ailments and conditions.
What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto is a shrub-like plant that grows naturally in the southeastern region of the United States. Its scientific name is Serenoa repens, and it is also colloquially referred to as the American dwarf tree, or the cabbage palm.
Saw palmetto gets its name from the “teeth” or thorn-like protrusions that grow on the stalks attaching the plant’s leaves to its stem It grows in sandy soil, and produces dark berries. Saw palmetto has been historically used by Native Americans as a remedy for coughing as well as a sedative and as a diuretic.
Saw Palmetto as a Supplement
Saw palmetto is commonly available as an oral supplement, made from dried and ground parts of the plant. A saw palmetto will typically provide a higher amount of nutrients and antioxidants than consuming the plant itself (e.g., dried saw palmetto berries).
It’s recommended that you speak with a medical professional before trying saw palmetto or any other supplements for the first time. Saw palmetto has not been found to interact with medications, although it might be accompanied by mild side effects such as digestive symptoms or headache, but only in a small percentage of those who take it.
Benefits of Saw Palmetto
Treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men is the most touted and studied benefit of saw palmetto in modern medicine. BPH is a condition in which the prostate enlarges, typically causing difficulty with urination. Some studies have shown that taking saw palmetto correlates with improved urine flow and a reduction in the need to urinate during night-time. However, other studies have shown it to have no change. More scientific study is needed to conclusively confirm saw palmetto’s effectiveness in this regard.
Preventing hair loss in men might be possible with saw palmetto. Saw palmetto can prevent the enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase, which contributes to androgenic alopecia (male-pattern hair loss) through its effect on testosterone. Multiple studies support this potential benefit, but more quality studies are needed.
Antioxidants are found generously in saw palmetto berries, and are present in saw palmetto supplements as well. The antioxidant properties of saw palmetto can help reduce the oxidative stress that the human body naturally experiences, and might help decrease inflammation as well.
If you are seeking a natural and affordable treatment for BPH in you or a family member, then saw palmetto is very much worth considering. It’s also worth trying it for male-pattern hair loss, and for its antioxidant benefits. Bring up saw palmetto when talking to your healthcare provider.