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Saw palmetto: benefits and uses

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When it comes to men's health, few herbs offer the tried-and-trusted benefits of saw palmetto.

🕒 2 min read

Growing wild in the southern USA, saw palmetto (serona repens), a small palm tree that grows wild in the southern USA, gets its name from the spiny saw-toothed stems that lie at the base of each leaf. With a lifespan of 700 years, the plant seems almost indestructible.

The blue/black berries, which are harvested in August and September, hold the secrets to its medicinal properties.

Saw Palmetto has a long history of traditional medicinal use. Native Americans valued it for treating disorders of the urinary tract while the early colonists, noting the vitality of animals who fed on the berries, gave them to frail people as a general tonic.

These days saw palmetto's claim to fame rests with its ability to relieve the symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland – a use verified by many scientific studies.

How does it work?

The fruit contains a rich mixture of phytosterols that block the action of an enzyme found in the prostate gland, which converts the male hormone, testosterone, to another powerful hormone (dihydrotestosterone), which stimulates prostate growth.

Researchers also believe saw palmetto relaxes the gland, which in turn reduces spasm. As a result of these actions, saw palmetto extracts can improve lower urinary tract symptoms in men.

What can it help?

Benign prostate enlargement

After the age of 45, the number of cells in the prostate tends to increase and the gland can start to enlarge, interfering with urinary flow.

As many as one in two men are affected by the age of 60 and four out of five by the age of 80. Typically, symptoms include urinary hesitancy, frequency, urgency and poor flow.

A number of studies have shown that saw palmetto is significantly better than placebo for improving male lower urinary tract symptoms. In particular it can help reduce the need to visit the bathroom at night (nocturia), which is one of the most annoying symptoms for men – and their partners, whose sleep is disturbed.

General prostate health

Saw palmetto can also be taken as a protective measure to help maintain a healthy prostate gland and reduce the risk of bothersome urinary symptoms.

Are there any side effects?

Saw palmetto extracts improve urinary symptoms without affecting circulating blood levels of another enzyme called prostate specific antigen (PSA). This means that taking saw palmetto does not affect the important PSA screening test for prostate cancer.

The facts

What is it good for?

Symptoms such as the need to urinate frequently, weak urinary flow, a feeling that you cannot empty your bladder fully.

How should I take it?

Saw palmetto should be taken for six weeks for the benefits to be seen. As saw palmetto capsules differ in strength and quality, make sure you buy from a trusted brand.


If taking medicine for an enlarged prostate, talk to your GP before taking saw palmetto.

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