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Saw Palmetto

Medically reviewed: June 7, 2018

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.

Scientific Name(s)

Serenoa repens (Bartram) Small. Synonyms include Sabal serrulata, Brahea serrulata, Sabal serrulatum, and Corypha repens.

Common Name(s)

Sabal, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm, dwarf palmetto, fan palm, Fructus Serenoae Repentis, sabal fructus, saw palmetto, serenoa, and scrub palm.

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 traditional medical practitioners for prostate and other urologic conditions. While use in the United States declined, after 1950, saw palmetto has long been a staple phytomedicine in Europe. However, interest in the plant has been rekindled, and saw palmetto is now ranked among the top 10 herbal products in the United States, primarily in treating symptoms of enlarged prostrate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Folkloric uses include for baldness, to increase appetite, to build and strengthen tissue, to increase metabolism, for thyroid disorders, for asthma and chest congestion, and for ovarian cysts.

General uses

Saw palmetto has been used to treat symptoms of enlarged prostate, but evidence from quality clinical trials does not support this use. Data suggesting a positive effect on erectile dysfunction are limited, and results from studies evaluating the effect of saw palmetto on outcomes of prostate surgery are uncertain.

What is the recommended dosage?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia

320 mg/day standardized extract.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified. Use in children younger than 12 years is not recommended.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Effects on hormonal metabolism suggest that saw palmetto should not be used.

Interactions

Estrogen derivatives

Herbs (estrogenic properties) may enhance the adverse/toxic effect of estrogen derivatives.

Warfarin

Saw palmetto may enhance the blood-clotting effect of warfarin.

Side Effects

Results from clinical trials note that saw palmetto products are generally well tolerated, with occasional reports of adverse GI effects and headache.

Toxicology

Information is limited.

References

1. Saw Palmetto. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; April 2013.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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