This post will discuss both the Saw Palmetto side effects & the benefits associated with this relatively unknown plant.
Saw Palmetto Side Effects
Saw palmetto is the extract from the fruit of serenoa repens, a small palm plant. The extract is used in traditional and alternative medicine for different reasons, but mostly for benign prostate enlargement. Other indications for use of saw palmetto include urinary tract, genital and reproductive system problems.
Although there is no standardized saw palmetto dosage set by any organization in North America, there is a recommended dosage for saw palmetto and it depends on which form you take it in. For standardized extract 10:1 the saw palmetto dosage is 160 mg twice a day or 320 mg once a day orally. For dry normalized extract 4:1 take 400 mg twice daily and for crude ground berry powder take 1-2 grams twice daily. Other products on the market include capsules, gel capsules, tablets, and breast enlargement pills as well which would be taken at 320 mg daily at once or divided into 2 doses.
Saw palmetto is relatively safe with few side effects however those that have been reported include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. Other possible saw palmetto side effects that have been reported, but with no clinical evidence to support them are impotence, and liver and pancreas problems.
As saw palmetto acts like a hormone, it should not be used during pregnancy or by breastfeeding mothers. There is also some concern about it’s capability to inhibit blood clotting and should be stopped at least 2 weeks before any planned surgery.
Other possible Saw palmetto side effects might have due to negative interactions with other drugs and you should talk to your doctor before taking it if you take other medications. These may include birth control pills, anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs, and estrogen pills.
There have been inconclusive studies done on saw palmetto’s ability to effect prostate-specific antigen test levels and may mask the ability of tests to detect prostate cancer, so you should stop taking it for a period of time before any testing to be done for precautionary measures.
Most side effects from saw palmetto are gastrointestinal problems, but before taking it, you should always consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
Saw Palmetto Benefits
Saw palmetto in alternative medicine is used mostly for benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlargement of the prostate gland. It is believed to inhibit the action of testosterone which is responsible for the enlarging the prostate which blocks the urinary tract and often requires surgery if not resolved.
Some other saw palmetto benefits include uses in urinary tract problems such as bladder inflammation, possible thyroid deficiencies, to treat bronchitis and asthma, to clear chest congestion, and to treat coughs. In one study saw palmetto was actually found to reduce nocturia, the need to urinate frequently during the night, by 25%.
Saw palmetto is often used as an aphrodisiac to treat impotence and frigidity as well as to balance hormones by inhibiting over-activity of estrogen and androgen receptors. Early American botanists noted improved muscle tone and sexual vitality in their animals when fed a diet including the berries from the serenoa repens plant.
Saw Palmetto for Women
Saw Palmetto for women has been show to also benefit women to stimulate breast enlargement and to treat uterine irritations. Saw palmetto for women was supposedly used centuries ago in harems in the Middle East for breast enlargement, and pre-Mayan civilizations used the berries for food and for medicine in treating breast disorders.
Saw Palmetto & Hair Loss
Saw palmetto extract is being investigated as a possible treatment for male pattern baldness also known as androgenic alopecia. Some men have reported better hair growth while taking the extract with beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol also present in saw palmetto. It is believed the action responsible for deterring hair loss and promoting hair growth is the blocking of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase which aids in the conversion of the hormone testosterone to another hormone dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone is considered the key culprit in the onset of male pattern baldness. The theory is present, but there is no conclusive evidence or studies to support saw palmetto hair loss prevention. Products for promoting hair growth containing saw palmetto come in the form of topical oil extract or ointment, or you can take it orally as an herbal medicine.
And males are not alone when it comes to pattern baldness. Women are affected as well and might consider trying to take advantage of the saw palmetto benefits!