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Saw Palmetto

Pronunciation
Scientific names: Serenoa repens (Bartram) Small. Also referred to as Sabal serrulata (Michx.) Nicholson or Sabal serrulatum Schult. Family: Palmae (palms).

Common names: Sabal, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm, fan palm, and scrub palm.

Efficacy rating:

ÒÒÒ...Positive clinical trials

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Saw Palmetto?

The saw palmetto is a short, scrubby palm that grows in the coastal plain of Florida and other southeastern states. Its fan-shaped leaves have sharp, saw-toothed edges that give the plant its name. Dense clumps of saw palmetto can form an impenetrable thicket. The abundant 2-cm-long berries are harvested from the wild in the fall and are dried for medicinal use. They also serve as a source of nutrition for deer, bears, and wild pigs.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Native tribes of Florida relied on saw palmetto berries for food; however, Europeans often disliked the taste. While native medicinal use of saw palmetto is not recorded, it was introduced into Western medical practice in the 1870s and was a favorite of Eclectic medical practitioners for prostate and other urologic conditions. Saw palmetto berries were officially included in the US Pharmacopeia in 1906 and 1916, and in the National Formulary from 1926 to 1950. While use in the United States declined after that time, saw palmetto has long been a staple phytomedicine in Europe.

Prostate/Urinary effects

Recent interest has been rekindled, and saw palmetto currently is ranked in the top 10 herbal products in the US. It is used primarily for its activity in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Saw palmetto is used to treat symptoms of BPH, including reducing urinary frequency, increasing urinary flow, and decreasing nighttime urination. Saw palmetto may delay the need for prostate surgery. The mechanism of action of saw palmetto is unknown.

What is the recommended dosage?

The crude saw palmetto berries usually are administered at 1 to 2 g/day. However, lipophilic extracts standardized to 85% to 95% fatty acids in soft native extract or 25% fatty acids in a dry extract are more common. Some of the brand name products include Permixon, Prostaserene, Prostagutt, Remigeron , Quanterra Prostate, and LG 166/S. Typical dosages of standardized extracts range from 100 to 400 mg given twice daily for benign prostatic hypertrophy.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

Increased blood thinning by warfarin was reported while using saw palmetto. However, this may have been caused by something other than saw palmetto. Until more data are available, patients taking warfarin should consult their health care provider before taking saw palmetto or other alternative medicine products.

Side Effects

Saw palmetto is generally well tolerated, with occasional reports of adverse GI effects. Because of well-documented hormone-blocking activity, avoid taking with any hormone therapy, including oral contraceptive and hormone replacement therapy.

Toxicities

Research reveals little or no information regarding toxicology with the use of saw palmetto.

References

  1. Saw Palmetto. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons 4.0. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.; June 2009. Accessed July 22, 2009.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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