Panoramic Photo of Saw Palmetto

Medical Usage

Coast PictureHow long has Saw Palmetto been involved in medicine?

Saw palmetto has been used by multiple groups of people for a long time (Learn more on Facts page). It has most often been used to help with BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia).

Earlier studies have shown that this may actually be true, but as of late, studies have found that saw palmetto may not help as much as we thought it did.

What is special about it?

Serenoa repens is believed to have a 5-a-reductase inhibitory activity. This prevents testosterone from becoming dihydrotestosterone. This may be a reason why hormonal/estrogenic effects have been know to appear with the use of saw palmetto.

What is Saw Palmetto used for?

Saw palmetto has been used for many years and for many things. It is said to help with: benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostate cancer, preparation for surgery and male-pattern balding. Most of these, however, still need research to be done on them to truly find out if Saw Palmetto can help in these areas.

Does Saw Palmetto have bad side effects?

There have been recorded good benefits of saw palmetto, but some people think that the negative side effects should be considered also. In one case study, a 55 year old man came in with epigastric pain. Aerial picture of Saw PalmettoHe was eventually diagnosed with hepatitis and pancreatitis.     Now, it is important to note that this man was already being treated for BPH and he had been taking saw palmetto for four years. When he was taken off saw palmetto, he suffered withdrawal effects. Switching him on and off saw palmetto affected his symptoms of pancreatitis and hepatitis.  The conclusion of the study said that saw palmetto could possibly induce pancreatitis, but more careful research needs to be done to determine the exact consequences of taking the drug.


Above Picture: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,

Prostate Cancer?

A different study was done in 2006 to see how saw palmetto played a role in prostate cancer. The study researched 35,171 men who were age 50 to 76. Again, the data collected was not conclusive enough to make any strong conclusion as to whether saw palmetto could be useful in treating prostate cancer, and more research needs to be done in this area.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?

The major disease that saw palmetto is said to help with is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. BPH is when the prostate grows bigger than it should. This is not a disease that usually causes death, but it usually infects older men and can cause a lot of discomfort and complications that inhibit good quality of life. BPH can lead to many bladder problems like urinary tract infections and bladder calculi. The biggest problem that BPH is related to is LUTS. An article in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine examined different studies done and found that saw palmetto seemed to help with the symptoms of BPH. It also may be able to be beneficial to people with LUTS, but it is unclear because of the placebo effect.  Prostate and Bladder of an autopopsy of a man who had Benign Prostatic HyperplasiaAs always more research needs to be done in order to determine to what extent saw palmetto helps or does not help. They recommended that taking saw palmetto for these conditions was safe, but in more recent studies like the one mentioned above concerning saw-palmetto induced pancreatitis, it is unclear as to if saw palmetto can have bad effects on a patient.

So, in conclusion there is a lot of debate regarding saw palmetto. This is somewhat frustrating, and hopefully some more studies will be done to give some concrete evidence concerning medicinal uses of this organism.


Photo Permission granted from Dr. Ed Friedlander

This website is not meant to give clinical advice to anybody and anyone with questions should consult their own doctor.  Next check out how this organism interacts with other cool organisms!

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