Saw palmetto berries have been used medicinally for centuries, with the most common modern use being as a supplement to support men’s prostate health. While much research has been performed on the plant, there may still be speculation as to whether the claims of it being an effective treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia–AKA BPH–and prostate cancer are true. By exploring what saw palmetto is, what it is used for, and how saw palmetto benefits prostate health, we can better determine just how effective it is as a natural men’s health treatment.
What is Saw Palmetto?
First, you may be wondering just what saw palmetto is, as well as what the palmetto plant’s active ingredient is.
To start, the palmetto palm tree—AKA serenoa repens—is a small, bushy palm found growing predominantly in the southeastern United States and parts of Southern California. Its fruit has been used for centuries by the Seminoles to treat various ailments, and its use as a urinary tract treatment in men dates back as far as the 15th century Egyptians. (1, 2)
Native American men often carried saw palmetto in a medicine bag for use as an expectorant, as well as for use in the treatment of infertility, impotence, and inflammation. Additionally, it was used by native American women to treat infertility, to increase lactation, and to reduce the severity of painful menstruation.
However, its use in Western medicine began around 1870, when non-traditional medical practitioners began touting its benefits as a nerve sedative, nutritional supplement, and for its perceived positive effects on “reproductive organs when undergoing waste of tissue.”
By the 19th century, the palmetto plant was being used as a treatment for enlarged prostate, gonorrhea, and cystitis; and by 1906, it was officially included in the US Pharmacopeia. (3)
While saw palmetto berries are known to contain over 100 compounds, it is the purified extract containing as much as 95% fatty acids which appears to contain the active ingredients. These ingredients include fatty acids, sterols, and long-chain alcohols. (2)
Does Saw Palmetto Benefit Prostate Health?
So, does saw palmetto benefit the prostate, and does it work against prostate cancer? The short answer to both these questions is yes.
Let’s start with reducing the symptoms of BPH, which it is something it can do. It does this by inhibiting the enzyme 5-reductase’s ability to convert testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is testosterone’s more aggressive form. (4) Since excessive DHT is often the culprit in BPH, reducing levels of it naturally is the safest treatment.
However, while the extract of saw palmetto berries may work on its own to ease symptoms of BPH, it works best when in unison with other natural substances. In fact, it has historically been used along with nettle and pumpkin seed. And, when combined with other natural ingredients such as pygeum, rye grass pollen extract, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, saw palmetto has proven to be at least as effective as some prescription medications. (5, 6)
For instance, a recent comparison between saw palmetto and the prescription prostate treatment Flomax—AKA tamsulosin—found that while both treatments proved similarly as effective, participants who received a saw palmetto supplement over tamsulosin experienced far greater reductions in their pain levels.
It should also be noted that as with many prescription drugs, tamsulosin comes along with an extensive list of potential side effects, including painful urination, fever, flu-like symptoms, back pain, and blurry vision.
However, even though the side effects of saw palmetto may include nausea, headache, and constipation, they rarely occur, and are normally mild when they do. (7)
Saw Palmetto Can Help Prevent Prostate Cancer
Since saw palmetto slows down the conversion of testosterone to DHT, it may be able to help prevent prostate cancer. Research shows that saw palmetto inhibited the growth and induced apoptosis (cell death) in prostate cancer cells. (8)
As a preventative measure, using 320 mg of saw palmetto extract daily can help guard against prostate cancer, as well as to help improve your overall prostate health.
Does Saw Palmetto Work for Anything Else?
Saw palmetto may be useful for more than just alleviating the symptoms of BPH and reducing your risk for prostate cancer, and some evidence suggests that saw palmetto may be beneficial for:
- Helping to treat sore throat, coughs and colds.
- As a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Helping to reduce migraine symptoms.
- Helping those who suffer from acne.
- Reversing the symptoms of male pattern baldness.
- Improving virility.
Claims such as reversing male pattern baldness may be viable, since saw palmetto can help improve testosterone levels, which has to do with its ability to diminish the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Naturally, less testosterone converted means more testosterone in the bloodstream, which helps improve things like virility, skin quality, and the re-growing of hair.
As a man, your prostate health is crucial. Not only is having symptoms of BPH painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient, having an increased danger of prostate cancer can be even worse.
However, by taking 160 mg of saw palmetto extract twice daily, you can alleviate symptoms of a swollen prostate and help decrease your odds of contracting prostate cancer. By adding other prostate-friendly components as omega-3 fatty acids, nettle, pumpkin seeds, and pygeum to your diet along with palmetto berry extract, you can increase the effectiveness over using saw palmetto alone for increased long-term relief from your BPH symptoms.
And, it may also help ease your cold symptoms, re-grow your hair, ease migraines–and who knows–perhaps feel friskier with the Mrs.?
It’s worth a try!
Do you have low testosterone levels?
Did you know that optimal testosterone levels are also important for a healthy prostate? Research demonstrates that older men with the highest risk of prostate cancer have the lowest testosterone levels. (9) Take our symptom checker to find out if you could have a testosterone deficiency so that you can take action to protect your health today!