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Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens Bartr., Sabal serrulata Michx.) commonly called sabal in Europe, grows six to ten feet tall. Saw palmetto is a fan palm (family Arecaceae) and produces dusky red to brownish black berries. The plant is found in large colonies, growing in sandy soil from South Carolina to Florida. The berries are the medicinally utilized portion of the plant.
American Indians and later Eclectic physicians used saw palmetto to treat genito-urinary tract disturbances and as a nutritional tonic to support the body. Saw palmettohas also been employed to increase breast size, reverse atrophy of the testes, relieve catarrhal soreness of the genito-urinary system and as an aphrodisiac for both genders. Other uses have been as a diuretic, expectorant, sedative, and to treat impotence and frigidity.
By far the most common medicinal use of the saw palmetto berry is to treat a condition in males known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a nonmalignant enlargement of the prostate gland. It can occur in men as young as 40, but usually occurs after the age of 50 with an incidence of 50 percent to 60 percent in men age 40 to 59. Enlargement of the prostate leads to a narrowing of the urethra (the bladder outlet), which is characterized by increased urinary frequency, reduced force and caliber of urination, awakening at night to empty the bladder and, if left untreated, uremia (accumulation of urine toxins in the blood). Often times surgical intervention to remove the prostate is necessary to treat BPH. BPH is thought to be caused by testosterone in the prostate being converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) a potent compound which stimulates the prostate cells to multiply. Some evidence suggests that estrogen, progesterone and prolactin could also contribute to BPH.
The berry of saw palmetto contains about 1.5 percent oil. It is the purified oil (called permixon) that is used medicinally. The German health authorities have approved the use of saw palmetto lipophilic (oil) extract to treat BPH. The conversion of testosterone into DHT is facilitated by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. Saw palmetto has been shown to block the action of 5-alphareductase, thus stopping conversion of testosterone to DHT. It has also been shown to block the binding of DHT to the prostate cells.
Other than surgery the only other medical treatment for BHP is the prescription medication Proscar (finasteride). Proscar is a very selective and potent 5-alphareductase inhibitor. In head-to-head studies with Pros car, saw palmetto proved equally as effective with fewer side effects. One study resulted in a 38 percent increase in urine flow in 3 months using saw palmetto versus a 16 percent increase in urine flow in 12 months using Proscar. Saw palmetto also has antiestrogenic and anti-inflammatory effects on the prostate which Proscar does not. This evidence proves saw palmetto is a rational, long-term therapy for BPH and it suggests that saw palmetto may be of benefit in conditions of androgen excess in women such as hirsutism (excess hair growth) and polycystic disease.
Saw palmetto (100 capsules)