Saw palmetto is commercially available alone and in combination products including capsules, gelcaps, and tablets. There are more than 100 commercial products containing saw palmetto as the sole ingredient or as a combination product. Among the chemical substances present in saw palmetto are steroids (beta-sitosterol), fixed oils, essential oils, and flavonoids.
Well why saw palmetto? for starters there are no known health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages. Stomach complaints following intake have been observed in rare cases. Patients with hormone-dependent cancers should observe caution and speak to a physician regarding the use of Saw Palmetto because of its antiestrogenic, estrogenic and anti-androgenic effects. The use of Saw Palmetto with pregnancy and breast feeding is not recommended due to its potential hormonal effects.
Saw palmetto has been used in herbal medicine for a number of reasons, for example as a diuretic and an expectorant for bronchial and catarrhal problems. Modern interest mainly concerns its effect on the male reproductive system, and various properties have been attributed to it; for instance, it is said to be useful in dealing with problems associated with a non-malignant enlargement of the prostate gland, and impotence; it is also used as an aphrodisiac in men. In women, it has sometimes been claimed to be effective for breast enlargement.
There have been numerous human and animal investigations. In Germany, the drug is supported for relieving micturition (desire to urinate) in certain stages of nonmalignant prostate enlargement, although it does not seem to reduce the actual enlargement. It has also been pointed out that only the fat-soluble components of the drug are active, so that a tea with only water-soluble components is not effective. Part of the scientific explanation of the action of the drug could be that it inhibits a very large percentage of the activity of the enzyme prostate 5-a-reductase, which is involved in the size increase of the prostate. Because of the reported hormone-like (anti-androgen and oestrogen) activities of the drug, it may interfere with existing hormone therapy (oral contraceptive and hormone replacement). Its use during pregnancy and lactation should be avoided. Indeed any employment of the drug should first be discussed with a medical advisor.
A study in rats evaluated the effects of saw palmetto and cernitin (another natural product) and finasteride on prostate growth. In castrated rats who were given testosterone, all three treatments significantly reduced prostate size as compared to rats (castrated + testosterone) who were not given any treatment. Though finasteride produced the greatest effect on prostate size, no statistical difference was noted among any of the three treatments. Anti-inflammatory effects of saw palmetto also have been hypothesized to improve BPH symptoms (6). An acidic, lipophilic saw palmetto extract (Talso®) was shown preventing the formation of inflammatory-producing prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
Saw palmetto extract in a dose of 160 mg or placebo three times daily was administered to 35 elderly men, and prostatic tissue was collected. The investigators found that some component of the saw palmetto extract inhibits nuclear estrogen receptors in the prostates of patients with BPH patients. Clinically, 160 mg of Permixon® twice daily was superior to placebo in a double-blind trial in 110 men. A statistically significant benefit compared to placebo was seen in nocturia, flow rate, postvoid residual, self-rating, physician rating, and dysuria. Compared with baseline, both placebo and saw palmetto were beneficial in improving nocturia, but only saw palmetto improved flow rate and postvoid residual compared to baseline. Headache was the only adverse effect. A doubleblind study compared Proscar® (finasteride, a prescription 5a-reductaseinhibitor), 5 mg daily, with Permixon, 160 mg twice daily for 6 months. Both finasteride and saw palmetto improved International Prostate Symptom Score and quality of life compared to baseline, with no statistical difference between the two treatments.
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of saw palmetto for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms also demonstrated its usefulness in these types of conditions. These investigators studied 85 men, randomized to receive either saw palmetto or placebo for 6 months. Effectiveness was monitored using the I-PSS, a sexual function questionnaire and urinary flow rate. Results of these studies demonstrated that the I-PSS symptom score decreased (i.e., improved) from 16.7 to 12.3 in those subjects receiving saw palmetto, whereas the symptom score decreased from 15.8 to 13.6 in the placebo group.
Also, no differences were noted in either the sexual function questionnaire score or peak urinary flow rate between the saw palmetto and placebo groups. This study demonstrated that saw palmetto administration for 6 months resulted in an improvement in symptoms associated with BPH but not in sexual function or peak flow rate.
In addition, the German Commission E lists saw palmetto as an approved herb. The berry is the only part of the plant approved for use. The approved uses include urination problems associated with BPH stages I and II and urination problems associated with prostate adenoma. This evaluation is based on reasonable proof of safety and efficacy. Saw palmetto is considered a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA). Saw palmetto was previously included in the National Formulary (NF) and the United States Pharmacopeia, but was deleted in 1950 and 1916, respectively. Saw palmetto was deleted because no active ingredient could be found to account for its use. Saw palmetto was again included in the NF as an official monograph in 1998.
If you are looking for a natural solution for prostate & bladder problems, saw palmetto is worth taking a look. Getting medical advice from your family doctor is always a good idea to make sure the remedy can be tailor to your specific needs.