Saw palmetto is a naturally growing plant in the southeastern United States. The American dwarf palm has been used for centuries by many different civilizations. The Mayans would juice the fruit and drink it as a tonic where the Seminoles would eat the berries as an expectorant.
Today, the extract is taken as an herbal supplement for urinary conditions associated with enlarged prostates and bladder conditions in the hopes of alleviating symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits, if any, of using saw palmetto for prostate health, treatment, and recovery. We will look at the uses and dosages as well as tests, studies, and results of the herbal supplement as it pertains to prostate health.
How Saw Palmetto is Used
Saw palmetto is a type of palm tree known as an American dwarf palm. It produces the saw palmetto fruit that, when ripe, is harvested. The harvested fruit is then dried, ground, or used as whole berries. The juice is made into an extract, or the entire fruit can be used to make tablets, capsules, or tea bags.
The most common use is in tablet or capsule form. Rarely do we use the dried fruit as a whole. Instead, the pills and capsules hold either the extract or dried grounds for easier consumption and ingestion. The other popular option is saw palmetto tea bags that are infused with other natural flavors or fruits to make a tea that is consumed in the hopes of receiving the prostate or bladder benefits from the fruit.
Depending on the type of ingestion, either pill, capsule, dried fruit, or extract, the recommended dosage will vary. At the very least, you should adhere the indications on the product label. If you are in any doubt at all, however, you should inform your doctor of your intention to take saw palmetto and seek their advice on the proper type, amount, and frequency.
Adverse Effects of Saw Palmetto
Clinical research on most herbal supplements is on-going and with few or varied results. Saw palmetto is no different. Small trials and large trials alike have yet to determine any positive effects. However, there are some cautions you should take note of.
Beta-sitosterol is found in the extract of saw palmetto and is similar to cholesterol. It was studied as a part of a cardiovascular danger in men. The preliminary studies showed that it is possible that beta-sitosterol increases cholesterol and could lead to coronary conditions and even heart attacks.
However, a larger trial concluded that there was no sign of an increase coronary risk when dealing with beta-sitosterol, especially that from saw palmetto extract. It is cautioned, though, that if you currently have a coronary condition, high cholesterol or may be taking other medications that contain beta-sitosterol, you should avoid saw palmetto extract. Your general physician will be able to tell you more.
Saw palmetto could affect the metabolism of androgen and estrogen, especially in children. For this reason, children under 12 years of age are recommended not to take the supplement. Further, women who are pregnant or nursing are also encouraged to avoid the saw palmetto supplement. It is theorized that this prevention of estrogen can cause fetal genital development.
Bleeding may also be prolonged while on the supplement and anyone requiring surgery or an operation are encouraged to avoid saw palmetto for a period prior to having the procedure. It was once believed that saw palmetto might reduce surgical bleeding and a test was conducted that found zero evidence for this hypothesis.
Since saw palmetto has antiestrogenic effects, it is advised to avoid the herb when taking birth control as this can cause the birth control to become ineffective. This also holds true for anyone taking estrogen replacement medications.
Lastly, men have reported a decrease in sex drive as well as tenderness of the breast tissue while taking saw palmetto. While not common, if you experience these symptoms while taking the herbal supplement, you should cease intake and talk to a medical professional.
Anytime you are considering taking saw palmetto in any form you should talk to your doctor. You should also disclose the use when starting any new medications to avoid any ill side effects or reactions.
Saw Palmetto for Prostate Health
The one major use for saw palmetto is in the belief that it helps with prostate health. Enlarged prostates have been treated with saw palmetto to help reduce swelling, pain and other symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition that causes the prostate gland to swell. It is believed that saw palmetto reduced the symptoms, including the swelling, of the prostate gland. Some also believe that the herb will also counteract or reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
There are currently no studies, trials or tests that have proven either of these instances to be the case. While studies done against a placebo showed no marked or noticeable improvement over the placebo, saw palmetto continues to be a supplement of choice among those seeking alternative medicines.
Another use for saw palmetto extract is in the use of decreasing bladder symptoms and urinary tract conditions. It is used to fight against hair loss, decreased sex drive and pelvic pain and discomfort.
None of the conditions that saw palmetto is being used for have been proven scientifically to be effective. This doesn’t stop those that have seen improvements in their condition while taking the herbal supplement, though.
Scientists claim these instances are a coincidence or the result of other medications or treatments, although nothing has of yet been proven either way.
There are new supplements being introduced all the time to the market. The best new saw palmetto for prostate health often include other ingredients believed to be associated with alleviating BPH symptoms. You can find saw palmetto supplement that may include one or more of the following:
- Vitamin D-3
- Green Tea Extract
- Pollen Extracts
All in all, there are no real known adverse side effects in taking saw palmetto in any form. Those that have seen side effects usually report that they are gastrointestinal and are reduced or eliminated with food or taking the capsules with milk.
Does Saw Palmetto Help BPH Symptoms?
As of this writing, there are no known positive studies that conclude saw palmetto reduces prostate gland swelling, alleviates any of the BPH symptoms or helps with bladder control, hair loss or increase sexual drive or performance.
Because it is a natural herb, however, the side effects are very limited, if any, and taking the supplement should not cause any harm. Until a positive test, trial or study can confirm the use of saw palmetto to treat BPH, improve prostate health or reduce the risk of prostate cancer; it should not be used as a sole treatment.
You should always seek medical advice and guidance, even when taking over the counter doses of herbal supplements. BPH is a serious condition that should be monitored and treated by your doctor or a specialist.
What Do We Know?
We know that there have been numerous studies on saw palmetto for its role in reducing prostate conditions as well as urinary tract conditions and pelvic pain. We also know that there has not been a single clinical study that has proven saw palmetto is more effective than a placebo in any situation that the herb is claimed to treat or prevent.
Further testing is being conducted. However, it is primarily tested with men. Very little is known about the effects, treatments or conditions of saw palmetto in women and children. Primarily because BPH affects men more than women.
Self-diagnosis, treatment and monitoring are near impossible when it comes to the prostate. If you think you suffer from BPH or have trouble with urination you should see your doctor immediately. Taking saw palmetto shouldn’t have any effect on your condition if you choose to take it. However, you should inform your doctor of your intentions so that it can be included in the evaluation.
Saw palmetto for prostate health is a common herbal treatment. With no adverse side effects and an easy to use pill, capsule or tea, it has become popular in the alternative medicine market.
While taking saw palmetto won’t cause any harm other than a mildly upset stomach or a possible headache, further studies are needed in women and children as well as in the treatment of BPH before anyone can say one way or the other, for sure.
As it stands at the moment, the popular herb hasn’t shown any signs of counteracting, alleviating or eliminating conditions with prostate health, pelvic pain or discomfort, or smaller conditions such as hair loss and lack of sex drive.
As with any dietary supplement, you should always follow label instructions for dosages and frequency of intake. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid saw palmetto due to its anti-estrogenic qualities. Always speak to a doctor and inform them of all medications, herbal or otherwise that you are taking for self-care.
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