Saw Palmetto

Table of Contents:



This fact sheet provides basic information about the herb saw palmetto — common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Saw palmetto grows in the southern United States.


Common Names–saw palmetto, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm


Latin Names–Serenoa repens, Sabal serrulata


What It Is Used For

  • Saw palmetto is used mainly for urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate gland (also called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).
  • Saw palmetto is also used for other conditions, including chronic pelvic pain, bladder disorders, decreased sex drive, hair loss, and hormone imbalances.


How It Is Used

The ripe fruit of saw palmetto is used in several forms, including ground and dried fruit or whole berries. It is available as a liquid extract, tablets, capsules, and as an infusion or a tea.

What the Science Says

While several small studies suggest that saw palmetto may be effective for treating BPH symptoms, most larger trials found little or no evidence that saw palmetto affects prostate disease. In 2006, a large study of 225 men with moderate-to-severe BPH found no improvement with 320 mg saw palmetto daily for 1 year versus placebo. NCCAM co-funded the study with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. In 2011, researchers investigated whether doubling or tripling the standard dose of saw palmetto was more effective, but found that it did not lower the urinary tract symptoms of BPH more than placebo.


Saw palmetto does not appear to affect readings of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. PSA is protein produced by cells in the prostate. The PSA test is used to screen for prostate cancer and to monitor patients who have had prostate cancer.


Side Effects and Cautions

  • Saw palmetto may cause mild side effects, including stomach discomfort.
  • Some men using saw palmetto have reported side effects such as tender breasts and a decline in sexual desire.
  • Tell your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including saw palmetto. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.


Referenced on  10.4.2021

  2. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: “Saw palmetto." 
  3. Natural Standard Database: “Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens [Bartran] Small)."
  4. “Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)." In Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, Marcel Dekker, 2005.
  5. De Smet P. New England Journal of Medicine, 2002; vol 347(25): pp 2046-2056.
  6. National Cancer Institute: “The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test: Questions and Answers."
  7. “Saw palmetto berry." In Blumenthal, M, Goldberg, A, Brinckman, J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2000.
  8. Bent S., New England Journal of Medicine. 2006; vol 354(6): pp 557-566.
  9. Barry, MJ. JAMA, September 2011.

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