Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a small species of fan palm, also known as the scrub palm and cabbage palm. It can grow to a height of 10 ft or more and is found in the southern states of America from South Carolina to Florida. It is also grown in subtropical areas of the world. The palm has fan shaped leaves that produce white flowers that develop into yellow berries. The berries turn a brownish-black when ripe.
Saw palmetto is very popular in past and current herbal medicine. This is because saw palmetto berries are used to treat urinary conditions and to promote the health of the prostate gland in men. In fact, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center the main use of saw palmetto today is to treat “benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.”
Help with Urination
Men who suffer from BPH experience trouble with the flow of urine, too frequent urination and having to get up to use the toilet throughout the night. It appears that saw palmetto helps treat the symptoms of this unpleasant condition that many middle-aged and older men suffer from. It is thought that saw palmetto has an anti-inflammatory effect on the prostate gland and can help reduce the size of a swollen gland. A swollen prostate causes problems because it reduces the flow of urine in the urethra, a tube that passes right through the gland.
Saw palmetto extract is an important ingredient in many herbal supplements aimed at improving male health. The extract has been used for over 200 years by American and European medical practitioners to treat a number of conditions, including weakness, recovery from serious illness and as a remedy for urogenital problems. It was also used by the Mayans who regarded the herb as a tonic, and the Seminoles are said to have used the plant for its antiseptic properties.
Saw palmetto benefits have been the subject of many studies, though evidence is mixed regarding its effectiveness. Some studies have shown that it is useful in treating the symptoms of BPH and others have found that it is no better than when a placebo has been substituted. Nevertheless, saw palmetto remains very popular with practitioners of herbal medicine and with their patients.
Animal studies have demonstrated that saw palmetto can help inhibit the growth of tumor cells. It could be of help in treating prostate cancer, however, much more research still needs to be done.
Saw Palmetto Availability
Saw palmetto is sold in the form of tablets, capsules, and tinctures. It is often combined with other herbs and ingredients. It is readily available from health stores and suppliers of herbal supplements. In Spain it is known as “Sabal,” and it is often sold as “Sabal serrulata.”
Other Uses for Saw Palmetto
Webmd.com states that saw palmetto can be used to treat coughs and colds, sore throats, bronchitis, pelvic pain, and migraines. It is also used to “increase urine flow (as a diuretic), to promote relaxation (as a sedative), and to enhance sexual drive (as an aphrodisiac).”
Drugs.com informs us that saw palmetto is ranked “in the top 10 herbal products in the US,” and that the berries were “officially included in the US Pharmacopeia in 1906 and 1916, and in the National Formulary from 1926 to 1950.”
Saw palmetto is also being prescribed as a possible remedy for thinning hair and to help reduce baldness. It is thought that it reduces levels of dihydrotestosterone, a male hormone which plays a role in premature baldness in men. Saw palmetto shampoo is used to treat these conditions. This shampoo is also good for a healthy scalp and for promoting hair growth. There are many products on sale containing saw palmetto that are aimed at helping to restore hair growth.
Side Effects and Precautions
Saw palmetto is usually well-tolerated and has few side effects, if any. It may cause gastrointestinal problems if it is not taken with food. Saw palmetto can restrict blood clotting and cause increased bleeding during and after surgery. The herb may reduce the effectiveness of estrogen and other hormone treatments, as well as interfering with the action of birth control pills. It should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Children under 12 years of age should not use saw palmetto. If you are on medication it is recommended you consult with your physician before use.
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