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Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is an effective treatment for the urinary difficulties that develop as a result of Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH), or prostate enlargement. It is commonly prescribed in Europe for treatment of BPH, and has been shown to be as effective as the drug finasteride (Proscar) in promoting normal urination.

Prostate enlargement is caused by abnormally high levels of the male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in prostate tissue. Saw palmetto reduces inflammation and swelling within the prostate gland, and seems to inhibit the absorption of testosterone in the prostate as well.

Saw palmetto is extracted from the berries of a dwarf palm tree native to the coastal regions of the southern United States and to southern California. Saw palmetto was popular during World War II, when it was thought to increase libido, sexual stamina, and sperm production. Interest in saw palmetto was renewed in the 1990s, and it is now often added to many herbal supplements and teas used to treat hormonal imbalances in both men and women.

Because saw palmetto has been shown to block absorption of testosterone in the prostate and has been reported to have hormonal/estrogenic effects, it may be useful in treating other hormone-related disorders, such as male baldness, acne, under- or over-developed breasts, hormone imbalances, low libido, PMS, low sperm count, and reproductive issues, etc.

Few serious side effects have been reported with the use of saw palmetto—the most common complaints are of stomach upset or diarrhea, but this can be diminished when this herb is taken with food. The most effective preparation of saw palmetto is an extract of the berry’s oils. The crushed berry may also be taken. The usual daily dosage is 1 to 2 grams of crushed saw palmetto berry or 320 milligrams of saw palmetto extract. Saw palmetto is not absorbed well in tea, because the medicinal oil will not dissolve in water. Also, keep in mind that the potency of commercial preparations may vary. An extract containing 80 to 95 percent liposterolic content is recommended.

There have been some reports of saw palmetto causing severe bleeding, difficulty with erections, breast tenderness or enlargement, or changes in libido. People with hormone-sensitive conditions or bleeding/clotting disorders should be cautious when taking this herb.

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