5 Science-Backed Benefits of Saw Palmetto

The benefits of saw palmetto, a plant whose berries are used to make the herbal medicine, have been known for some time.

The native peoples of the U.S. have been using saw palmetto for centuries, and men have been using this herb for the last 100 years to alleviate urinary tract issues.

Today, the powerful benefits of saw palmetto are celebrated by doctors and patients, and you can enjoy the healing powers of this herbal remedy, too.

Our guide shares with you the many benefits of saw palmetto, including its use to treat prostate cancer and other prostate disorders.

In addition to its ability to help men in this way, saw palmetto also helps with migraine headaches, respiratory disorders, and even chronic pelvic pain.

Some even use it to enhance their sexual appetite.

Keep reading to learn more about the amazing benefits of saw palmetto, and how it can help you live a healthier and happier life.

 

Understanding Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is a type of fan palm that grows deep purple berries.

It is native to the warmer climates of the West Indies and the southeastern U.S.

An extract is distilled from the berries to make the medicinal herb we refer to as saw palmetto (1).

Saw palmetto has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and in the last several decades has become popular in alternative medicine circles, as well.

The active ingredients in saw palmetto include flavonoids, plant sterols, and fatty acids.

The high levels of polysaccharides found in the berries can also reduce the inflammation that contributes to or causes many medical conditions.

Saw palmetto is also known to strengthen the immune system.

 

Prostate Health and Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is most widely known and used for its ability to improve prostate health.

This plant slows the production of 5-alpha reductase, which is an enzyme in your body that affects the metabolism of steroids, particularly bile acid, androgen, and estrogen.

Both males and females produce these enzymes in various tissues, including in the skin, the reproductive organs for both sexes, and the prostate for men.

In males, 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone into DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, an androgen and sex steroid.

Not only does DHT play a role in male development, but it also affects libido, hair loss, and prostate function.

Saw palmetto supplementation can inhibit the production of this hormone, helping men to avoid issues related to decreased sexual drive, prostate problems, and other symptoms that often affect men who are past their middle years.

 

What Does the Prostate Do?

For those who do not know, the prostate is a gland located between the rectum and the bladder and lies just in front of the seminal vesicles, where the majority of the liquid in semen is produced.

The function of the prostate is to produce an alkaline fluid that gets added to semen, along with sperm, before ejaculation.

This fluid nourishes and protects the sperm cells in semen.

As men age, the prostate changes in size, starting at about the size of a walnut and growing over time, which can cause problems.

DHT is the primary mechanism that signals the prostate to increase in size, so by reducing the production of DHT, you can slow or even halt the growth of the prostate.

An enlarged prostate is categorized as anything larger than 30 cubic centimeters in volume.

Enlargement of this gland can be due to a variety of reasons:

  • Inflammation, also known as prostatitis or inflammation of the prostate gland, can be caused typically either by a bacterial infection or by male chronic pelvic pain syndrome.
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is common among older men and results in difficulty with urination. As the prostate becomes enlarged it squeezes the urethra, which runs directly through the gland, making it difficult to pass urine effectively and comfortably.
  •  Prostate cancer is among the most common cancers that strike older men and is a significant cause of death in that population.

Saw palmetto is an extremely popular supplement consumed by men to improve their prostate health and prevent inflammation and BPH.

Last year alone, Americans purchased over $18 million worth of this herbal treatment, ranking it among the top three dietary supplements used.

In addition to supporting prostate health, though, saw palmetto has other health benefits.

Next, we will examine more how it can treat BPH, as well as other male and female medical issues.

 

Health Benefits of Saw Palmetto

 

Saw Palmetto Treats BPH

Benign prostatic hyperplasia is the most common cause of an enlarged prostate.

As men age, the prostate continues to grow slowly, compressing the urethra.

BPH can result in difficulty urinating, frequent urination, and the inability to empty your bladder fully.

All of these contribute to a higher likelihood of bladder stones and infections.

While changes in hormone levels, including an increase in the levels of estrogen in men, are the leading culprit, other causes of BPH include a deficiency in zinc and the deterioration of blood vessels with age.

By 60, over half of all men will have some degree of BPH, and by the time they reach 85, nine out of ten will have this disorder.

Of those with BPH, one quarter will develop some type of urinary tract infection or symptoms, many of which can greatly impact their quality of life (2).

Saw palmetto is effective at preventing testosterone from stimulating the prostate cells, which inhibits enlargement of the prostate gland.

This is good news for those with prostate problems who do not want to take the conventional medications prescribed for this condition, which include alpha blockers and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors.

These drugs often come with serious side effects, including sexual dysfunction.

 

Saw Palmetto Cuts Risk of Prostate Cancer

In a review of the literature on this topic, researchers identified saw palmetto as a leading supplement used in the alternative treatment for men with prostate cancer (3).

Both the plant sterol and fatty acid content of this supplement make it useful in inhibiting the production of the 5-alpha reductase enzymes.

This slows the conversion of testosterone to DHT.

DHT is mainly responsible for the enlargement of the prostate, which can lead to prostate cancer.

The most common medications used to treat prostate cancer include Dutasteride (Avodart) and Finasteride (Proscar).

Both of these medications can lead to a decreased desire for sex, impotence, and other sexual side effects.

Saw palmetto accomplishes the same goal of inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, but also regulates testosterone levels, reducing the impact on libido and sexual performance.

Saw palmetto inhibits prostate cancer cells from growing, and may even destroy these dangerous tissues.

A study in China confirmed saw palmetto’s ability to stop the growth of three types of prostate cancer cells, in addition to slowing the production of DHT (4).

Saw palmetto can also be beneficial for those who have to undergo surgery on the prostate.

Taking 320 milligrams of saw palmetto per day for the two months leading up to prostate surgery can reduce blood loss during surgery, as well as complications during the procedure.

Patients taking saw palmetto to prepare for surgery also spend less time in the hospital and recovering from this operation.

 

Saw Palmetto Benefits Urological Health

Saw palmetto can strengthen the organs and muscles of the urinary tract, preventing problems associated with BPH, menopause, and general aging.

As we age, the receptors in our urinary system can become overactive or no longer function properly, but saw palmetto can help.

Saw palmetto helps to treat these weakening urinary organs and prevents such dysfunctions as kidney stones.

Saw palmetto can improve urine flow and reduce urological symptoms in both men and women.

Those who take this herbal supplement regularly experience fewer urinary tract symptoms, improved urine flow, and a reduction in urinary tract infections (6).

These results for saw palmetto supplements were similar to those from taking prescription medications.

Further research confirmed that saw palmetto was able to reduce urinary tract symptoms and problems, and that it can be used as an effective natural treatment for urinary tract infections, among other disorders (7).

 

Saw Palmetto Can Slow or Stop Hair Loss

For men suffering from age-related male pattern baldness, saw palmetto can help.

This type of hair loss is due to changes in hormone levels as we age.

As testosterone levels decrease over time and DHT levels increase, men can experience hair loss.

Hair follicles are sensitive to DHT, and they can actually shrink when exposed to high levels of this hormone.

This results in decreased hair production over time, which results in balding and hair loss.

Because saw palmetto, as we know, stops the conversion of testosterone to DHT, this can greatly impact your hair growth and the overall health of your hair follicles.

As a hair loss treatment saw palmetto extract is a better option than supplements.

Research indicates that adding this compound to shampoo or other hair care products can cause an increase in hair density in just a few months (8).

 

Saw Palmetto Supports Testosterone Levels

When you take saw palmetto to inhibit testosterone conversion to DHT, you are able to retain more of this important hormone, keeping your levels more stable.

Testosterone is necessary for both men and women, and proper levels can help you retain and build muscle, lose weight, and have a stronger sexual appetite.

The problem of reduced levels of testosterone in men is growing, leading to increased rates of chronic fatigue, impotence, lowered sexual drive, and reduced levels of overall happiness and well-being.

Taking saw palmetto can help regulate the levels of this important hormone, providing you with more energy and improved sexual function (9).

Saw palmetto is also used as a natural treatment for erectile dysfunction, which is linked to testosterone levels, among other causes.

Those taking saw palmetto often report improvements in sexual function (10).

 

Saw Palmetto Also Benefits Women

While it is true that saw palmetto has many benefits for males, because of its impact on testosterone, DHT, and the prostate, women can also enjoy many benefits from taking this supplement.

Here are our top six reasons women should consider taking saw palmetto supplements or extract.

  • Saw palmetto stops excessive testosterone production. Women have testosterone, too, and when they make too much, they can suffer from unusual or excessive facial or body hair, among other symptoms. Saw palmetto has similar effects on testosterone in women as in men, and it can block the growth of this unwanted hair for women whose levels of testosterone are elevated.
  • Saw palmetto can treat bladder infections. If you experience frequent urinary tract infections, you could benefit from taking a regular saw palmetto supplement. This herbal remedy reduces inflammation in the bladder and can soothe irritation caused by an infection. Because women are more likely to suffer from UTIs than men, this is great news.
  • Saw palmetto can help women with hair loss. The same mechanism that helps men with thinning hair can also help women with hair loss. As in men, testosterone conversion to DHT is responsible for balding and thinning hair in women. By blocking that conversion, saw palmetto can help women have stronger hair follicles and experience less hair loss as they age.
  • Saw palmetto can help you through menopause. During menopause, your levels of both progesterone and estrogen hormones drop significantly, which causes weakening to the tissues that make up the uterus and vagina. This uncomfortable and sometimes painful side effect of menopause can be reduced with saw palmetto.
  • Saw palmetto helps treat PCOS. For women with polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, an imbalance of testosterone is the main culprit in the disorder, which causes unwanted facial hair, difficulty losing weight, infertility, and irregular periods. Because it helps to regulate testosterone levels, saw palmetto can help reduce these symptoms in women with PCOS, helping them deal with this uncomfortable and troubling disorder.
  • Saw palmetto can help treat acne. Some women with elevated levels of DHT and testosterone have adult acne, as well, caused by excess sebum on the skin, which clogs pores and leads to blemishes. By blocking this problem, saw palmetto can help women with this symptom of a hormonal imbalance.

 

Buying and Taking Saw Palmetto

When purchasing saw palmetto, you can look for a variety of forms in vitamin and health food stores.

Dried berries are available, as are powders made from these same dried berries.

Powders can be sold in capsules and tablets, and you can also find saw palmetto in teas, extracts, and tinctures.

The most common way to find saw palmetto supplements is in capsule form.

These are widely available from health food and grocery stores, and even in many convenience stores.

Look carefully at the label when you purchase to determine its purity and quality.

You want a product that contains between 85 and 95 percent fatty acids, as well as sterols.

Buy from reliable and trusted manufacturers who are known for their quality and purity standards.

 

Recommended Dosages

Recommended dosages vary by your purpose for taking saw palmetto.

The following are recommended doses based on the most common uses.

Talk with your doctor if you are unsure how much saw palmetto you should be taking for your condition or need.

  • To treat BPH, begin by taking 320 milligrams of saw palmetto three times per day for four months. After this period, reduce your dose to 320 milligrams once daily.
  • If you are in the early stages of BPH with only minor symptoms, start with a dose of just 160 milligrams two times per day.
  • If you are treating thinning hair or bald spots, take 200 milligrams two times a day. For best results, combine this with 50 milligrams of beta-sitosterol two times per day, as well.

If you drink saw palmetto tea, remember that the beneficial fatty acids in this herbal remedy are not water-soluble, so you are not getting the same benefits as when you take capsules or use other forms of the saw palmetto plant.

 

Precautions

The use of saw palmetto to treat BPH and urinary tract infections can occasionally result in minor adverse reactions, but these are generally mild, and similar in strength and duration, to those from placebos in clinical trials.

The most common side effects reported while taking saw palmetto include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, headache, rhinitis, and decreased libido (11).

If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, saw palmetto may not be safe, because of its impact on hormones.

This could be dangerous during pregnancy, so always consult with your physician before taking saw palmetto while pregnant.

Saw palmetto decreases the effects of estrogen in women’s bodies, so it could affect how well birth control pills work.

If you are taking oral contraceptives and also saw palmetto, you should use a backup form of birth control, as well.

Saw palmetto can also influence the clotting capabilities of your blood, which can increase your chances of bleeding and bruising if you are already taking blood-thinning medications.

In addition to over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers, such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, saw palmetto can also compound the effects of prescription blood thinners such as Lovenox, Plavix, Coumadin, and others.

Talk with your doctor before taking saw palmetto, if you are already taking a blood-thinning medicine.

 

Conclusion

The use of herbal remedies, like saw palmetto, is becoming increasingly popular today.

Saw palmetto is one herbal supplement that has been shown to treat effectively several significant medical problems.

It is most commonly used to treat the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.

A native of the West Indies and the southeastern U.S., the saw palmetto plant is a variety of palm that grows purple berries from which an extract is derived.

This plant has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of North America to treat urinary and sexual dysfunctions.

Over the past several decades, saw palmetto has grown in popularity, both as a treatment for prostate problems and for testosterone imbalances in both men and women.

Saw palmetto works by inhibiting the production of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone into DHT.

This conversion, if left unchecked, can lead to decreased sexual appetite, sexual dysfunction, hair loss, and prostate problems, including inflammation, BPH, and prostate cancer.

The benefits of saw palmetto include treating BHP, prostate cancer, hair loss for men and women, lowered libido, impotence, urological problems, the symptoms of menopause, and much more.

Both men and women can benefit from the hormone regulation that occurs from taking saw palmetto, especially as they age.

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