If you have ever done any research into maintaining a healthy prostate, then you have likely come across saw palmetto. This fan-shaped plant is natively grown in the southeastern United States and has been well documented as improving prostate health for those who suffer from benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).
What Is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto is sometimes referred to as Sabal serrulatum in alternative medicine, although its generic name is Serenoa repens. Although many people might be concerned that the stiff and pokey leaves of the plant are what everyone is after, it’s actually the fruit that is used to help improve human health. Saw palmetto produces a red-black stone fruit known as a drupe, which has a fleshy outer part and hardened shell inside, similar to a peach nectarine, or plum. This fruit contains phytosterols and fatty acids that appear to be the heart of research into treatment for BPH.
Benefits to Prostate Health
As men age, overall prostate health tends to decline. The risk of developing BPH increases with age, and 25 percent of men over the age of 40 are likely to develop problems with the urinary tract and experience a decline in quality of life. BPH occurs when the prostate becomes enlarged and starts to block the urethra. This leads to issues with urinating. Problems may develop such as:
Trouble starting and stopping a urine stream
Persistent feeling of the need to urinate, even in the middle of the night
Weak urine stream
Feeling like the bladder is not empty after urinating
Although BPH is not a cause of prostate cancer and not related to erection issues, it can still greatly affect quality of life. For men who suffer from BPH, the intake of saw palmetto provided alleviation from specific symptoms. It does this by inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Men with a regular regimen of saw palmetto experienced such benefits as:
Decrease in nighttime urination (nocturia)
Improved peak urinary flow
Improved urinary tract symptoms
Although by far the greatest benefits that saw palmetto appears to provide are related to the treatment of BPH in men, it may also help with other issues suffered by both men and women. For example, men who have taken to using testosterone supplements in order to maintain a youthful body may experience some unintended side effects such as hair loss, weight gain, decrease in sexual functions, and gynecomastia, which is the development of breasts in men. Saw palmetto can help to alleviate some of these symptoms by blocking the testosterone DHT.
Studies have also been linked to saw palmetto helping to manage the loss of hair in individuals who suffer from male-pattern baldness. Part of the interest here is linked to the plant’s ability to block the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. While there are other options for treating hair loss, such as finasteride, the side effects of such treatments (decreased libido, ejaculatory disorder, and erectile dysfunction) leave many men looking for other options. Saw palmetto is one alternative many turn to.
Although its benefits are largely touted for men, saw palmetto can also be used for the treatment of male-pattern baldness in women. It is also suspected that saw palmetto stimulates prolactin, which may encourage natural breast enlargement. Some people have claimed that the plant can also help with urinary tract infections (UTIs), but, at most it, acts as an antiseptic rather than an antibiotic treatment. Consult your physician before using saw palmetto to treat a UTI.
The Results Are Backed by Research
How do we know about all of the benefits of saw palmetto for prostate health? This is because numerous studies have been conducted using large groups of men. In one study, over 2,900 men used saw palmetto and tracked their results with significant improvements. Another study looked at the use of saw palmetto as opposed to a placebo, and the saw palmetto group saw significant improvements in BPH symptoms whereas the placebo group did not. There has even been some research done that supports the benefits of saw palmetto for managing hair loss.
What Is the Right Amount to Take?
There are many different forms that saw palmetto can come in, including tincture, tablet, capsule, and dried berry. The amount may differ depending on your needs. In research for the treatment of BPH, men were given 160 mg twice a day for two years and saw significant improvements. For the best results, supplements should have 85-95 percent fatty acids and sterols for peak effectiveness, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It should be noted that too much saw palmetto has the potential to decrease libido in men and women. Optimal daily doses appear to be around 160-320 mg for men and 160 mg for women.
Should You Add Saw Palmetto to Your Daily Regimen?
It is a personal choice whether or not to add saw palmetto to your daily supplement regimen. There are clear indicators that this plant improves prostate health, especially for men suffering from BPH. For more information regarding intake and treatment of BPH, consult with your healthcare professional.