Saw palmetto

Serenoa repens

Description

Used by Native Americans in the south-eastern United States as a food, a remedy for urinary tract infections and as a general tonic, saw palmetto is widely recommended today to treat conditions relating to the prostate gland. A number of scientific studies have verified its use in treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate.

Parts used

Saw palmetto is a palm-like plant that can live to 700 years. Its medicinal properties lie in the deep purple-blue berries which, in the early 1900s, were used to treat urinary tract problems, and even to increase sperm production and boost libido.

Constituents

Researchers aren’t sure exactly how saw palmetto works, but the berries contain plant-based chemicals that may be effective for BPH. The plant’s active ingredients include fatty acids, plant sterols and flavonoids. The berries also contain polysaccharides (sugars), which may reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system.

Medicinal uses

It is recommended to:

  • Saw palmetto’s constituents are anti-inflammatory and help reduce benign swelling of the prostate gland, easing associated symptoms such as too-frequent urination (especially at night), weak urine flow and an inability to fully empty the bladder.
  • May inhibit the growth of tumour cells, so may be helpful in the treatment of prostate cancer).
  • May ease the symptoms of chronic prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland).
  • Helps to treat impotence.
  • Supports hormonal imbalances that reduce fertility in men and women.
  • May ease painful menstrual cycles in women.
  • Antiseptic action reduces urinary tract infection by preventing putrefaction and bacterial growth.
  • May prevent male pattern hair loss and unwanted hair in women.
  • Helps relieve persistent coughs.
  • Helps improve digestion.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Do not self-medicate with saw palmetto for BPH without consulting your doctor for a diagnosis and to rule out prostate cancer. Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have had or are at risk for hormone-related cancers. Choose supplements containing 85 to 95 per cent fatty acids and sterols – the active ingredients. Not recommended for children.

Flora Force Products containing Saw Palmetto

Domestic & culinary uses

None.

Cultivation

Saw palmetto is a fan palm that grows to three metres in warm climates, and has a creeping, horizontal growth pattern. It is endemic to the warm climates of the south-east US. No information was located supporting its cultivation in South Africa.

Acknowledgements & credits

Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer

References

Photos

  1. Saw palmetto photo by Bob Peterson from North Palm Beach, Florida, Planet Earth!
[CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.