Saw palmetto is commonly used in Europe and the United States as a treatment for enlarged prostate.
Some small studies have shown benefit. However, several large studies do not show that saw palmetto reduces the size of the prostate or eases the urinary symptoms that come with an enlarged prostate. You might hear a doctor or nurse call that condition “benign prostate hyperplasia,” or BPH.
Before you take saw palmetto, or any supplement for that matter, talk with your doctor first. They may interfere with prescription medicines, other treatments, or tests you might need.
What Is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a palm that grows in the Southern coastal regions of the United States. It is about 2 to 4 feet high. Its leaves are fan-shaped and sharp, and it makes a lot of berries.
These fruits have a long history of use as medicine. Some Native Americans used them to help with urinary problems in men.
Why Do People Take It?
Some small studies have shown saw palmetto might help you with BPH symptoms in several ways. Among them:
- You may need to get up less often at night to pee.
- It can improve your flow when you go.
- It can ease painful urination.
Can You Take It for Other Problems?
You may have heard about people taking saw palmetto for other reasons than BPH. Some of them include:
- Low sex drive
- Hair loss
- Low sperm count
- Ongoing pelvic pain
So far, studies have shown limited results for saw palmetto helping with these other types of problems.
How Much Should You Take?
For BPH, studies have used a daily intake of 320 milligrams of saw palmetto split into two doses.
The doses will be different in other forms, such as tinctures (a liquid preparation). Get advice from your doctor. It may take 4 to 6 weeks for saw palmetto to have an effect.
There are no food sources of saw palmetto.
Are There Any Complications?
Side effects are uncommon and typically mild. The most common are:
- Stomach pain
- Bad breath
Men taking saw palmetto have also reported erection problems, testicular pain, and tenderness in the breasts.
You may also want to talk your doctor or pharmacist about the following:
Interactions: If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using saw palmetto supplements.
They could mix poorly with medicines such as aspirin, NSAID painkillers such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), blood thinners, and hormone treatments.
In combination with ginkgo biloba or garlic, saw palmetto might seriously increase the risk of bleeding.
Other health conditions: People who have diseases or health conditions should not use saw palmetto without talking to a doctor first.
Saw palmetto is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Mayo Clinic: “Saw Palmetto: Background.”
- Winchester Hospital (Massachusetts): “Health Library: Saw Palmetto.”
- Longe, J., ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, second edition, 2004.
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: “About Herbs: Saw Palmetto."
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Herbs at a Glance: Saw Palmetto."
- Natural Standard Patient Monograph: “Saw Palmetto."
- The Journal of Urology: “A Prospective, 1-Year Trial Using Saw Palmetto Versus Finasteride in the Treatment of Category III Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome.”