Saw palmetto is an extract used in herbal remedies that is thought to affect testosterone levels. But what conditions can it be safely used to treat and does it work?
Remedies containing saw palmetto alone, or mixed with other herbs, are sold widely in the United States and Europe. As with all herbal remedies, it is important to understand what evidence exists to support the safety and effectiveness of saw palmetto.
In this article, we explore the uses, dosage, and side effects of using remedies containing saw palmetto extract.
What is saw palmetto
Saw palmetto is a type of palm tree that grows in the warm climate of the southeast coast of the U.S.
Saw palmetto remedies contain an extract taken from the berries of the tree. Traditionally, Native Americans of the Seminole tribe ate berries from the saw palmetto tree to ease urinary and reproductive problems, among other ailments.
Now, saw palmetto extract is available in tablet, liquid, and tea form. It is consumed widely in the U.S. as an alternative remedy to treat conditions caused by decreased testosterone levels.
Uses of saw palmetto
Saw palmetto has a range of uses. Most of them relate to the effect it is believed to have on testosterone.
Lowered testosterone levels cause a variety of conditions, which can be treated by stabilizing the levels of this hormone.
Some people think that saw palmetto prevents testosterone from being broken down. When testosterone cannot break down naturally, the levels of the hormone in the body go up.
Some people take saw palmetto to manage benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.
The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland in the male reproductive system. As a man ages and his testosterone levels decrease, it is quite common for the prostate gland to increase in size.
Some men may experience BPH, where the prostate becomes larger than it should. When this happens, the prostate can put pressure on the urethra, causing discomfort and other symptoms. These include:
- frequent urination
- problems starting or maintaining urination
- the need to get up in the night to urinate
Because saw palmetto is believed to boost testosterone levels, men with BPH may try taking saw palmetto because they think it will shrink the prostate and relieve urinary symptoms.
As saw palmetto seems to have an impact on male hormone levels, it may also help reduce the growth of cancerous cells in the prostate.
For this reason, some men who have prostate cancer take supplements of saw palmetto in addition to traditional treatment.
Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer should always speak to a doctor. It is important to seek a proper diagnosis and suitable treatment before trying an alternative remedy.
Testosterone plays a role in both men and women’s sex drive. It is linked to fertility because it affects the production of both sperm and eggs.
As such, people may take saw palmetto in an attempt to increase their testosterone levels. This can help them experience an increased libido or a greater desire for sex.
As men age, it is natural for them to lose some of their hair. This natural process occurs because of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a by-product of the breakdown of testosterone.
Men experiencing hair loss may try taking saw palmetto to stabilize their testosterone levels and slow down the hair loss process.
People may also take saw palmetto for a range of other ailments, including:
- coughs, colds, and sore throats
- sleeping troubles
The use of saw palmetto to treat these conditions is based on tradition, but researchers know little about its active ingredients, or if it improves the symptoms related to these illnesses.