An enlarged prostate also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), has been treated in various ways with one of them being the use of the dietary supplement saw palmetto. Saw palmetto is one of the most commonly used supplements by men with prostate cancer and BPH. In 2011, over $18 million of saw palmetto was sold in the United States, ranking it third among herbal dietary supplements.
Saw palmetto is a palm-like plant that grows like a tree or shrub in warm climates and can reach heights of up to 10 feet with clusters of leaves spreading out to 2 feet or more. Once a staple food of Native Americans living along coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, saw palmetto has been used as early as the 1900s by men to treat urinary tract issues and to increase sperm production and sex drive.
Whether saw palmetto is truly an effective use for treating BPH or not is still up for debate. More long-term studies are needed to say for sure if this alternative supplement is a viable option for BPH.
All men with an enlarged prostate should thoroughly discuss with their doctor first before using saw palmetto to treat BPH. It is generally thought of as safe when used under the guidance of a physician and may be a suitable alternative method of treatment for BPH.
Composition of saw palmetto
Saw palmetto has white flowers that produce yellow berries that turn brownish black when ripe and then are dried for medicinal use.
The active ingredients that make up the composition of saw palmetto are fatty acids, plant sterols, and flavonoids. There is also a saw palmetto extract which is an extract of the berry that is rich in fatty acids and phytosterols.
How does saw palmetto possibly help BPH?
Saw palmetto like many herbs, contains plant-chemicals that may be effective for BPH. What is not known is how saw palmetto works to do this. Research suggests that saw palmetto has an effect on the level of testosterone in the body and may possibly reduce the amount of an enzyme that promotes the growth of prostate cells.
It also appears saw palmetto has anti-inflammatory properties having a positive influence on the prostate gland. One study has showed that combining saw palmetto with the phytochemical lycopene and the mineral selenium produces an even greater anti-inflammatory effect.
Studies using animals have shown that saw palmetto inhibits the growth of tumor cells. This may demonstrate its possible usefulness in treating prostate cancer. Studies have also shown saw palmetto’s ability to improve urinary tract symptoms related to BPH but more research is necessary to definitively confirm this.
Here are some of the possible ways studies have shown on how saw palmetto may be effective for BPH:
· May reduce urinary frequency particularly during the night
· May reduce a man having trouble starting or maintaining urination
· May reduce the loss of libido
· May shrink the size of the prostate gland
The studies showing these results were short-term lasting no more than 3 months making it more difficult to say for certain if saw palmetto actually is effective for preventing BPH complications.
In what form does saw palmetto come in?
The supplement comes in a variety of forms and can be bought as dried berries, powdered capsules, tablets, liquid tinctures, and as an extract. Make sure the product label states that the contents contain 85-95% fatty acids and sterols. Purchase saw palmetto only from reputable companies.
· Saw palmetto should not be given to children
· It may take up to 8 weeks to see any effects
· Saw palmetto is generally seen as safe but pay attention to any side effects it may produce – headache, nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness
· A man should always seek his doctor’s advice first on appropriate treatment methods before self-treating with saw palmetto
· Pregnant or nursing women should not use saw palmetto as it may have similar effects to some hormones
· It may interfere with the absorption of iron
· It may have interactions with certain medications – always inform your doctor if using saw palmetto. Medications it may interfere with are Proscar, Warfarin, Plavix, Aspirin, oral contraceptives, and hormone replacement therapy.