Saw palmetto or Serenoa repens, is also known as American dwarf palm, Sabal or Serenoa. It is a slow growing palm tree native to the West Indies and the southern Atlantic coast of the United States. Its fruits are of medicinal importance.
Saw palmetto is the most commonly used herb in USA and Europe by men to maintain prostate health. Red Indian used the fruits for treating genitourinary tract disturbances, impotence and as an aphrodisiac. It stimulates the appetite and have a beneficial effect on body weight.
Saw palmetto fruit keeps prostate healthy and treats many prostate disorders, including prostate enlargement and the discomforts of frequent urination. It is used to treat the urological symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Studies show the standardized Saw Palmetto extract reduces symptoms related to prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) such as the frequency and urgency of urination.
Saw palmetto increases the function of the testicles and relieve irritation in mucous membranes, particularly in the urinary tract and prostate. It has also been used as a diuretic, a sedative, an endocrines agent and as an antiseptic.
It is nutritive and helps in wasting diseases. As it has expectorant action, it helps in bronchitis and asthma. Saw Palmetto is aphrodisiac in both men and women. In females, it supports health of breasts. It also helps in polycystic ovarian disease and cystitis.
Saw palmetto is a bushy palm with a maximum height of six to ten feet with a high crown of leaves. . It bears dark red berries approximately the size of olives. It is native to the coastal regions of the southern states of the U.S., from South Carolina to Florida and southern California.
- Leaves: fan-shaped crown of yellow-green leaves have up to 20 segments.
- Flowers: Inconspicuous cream flowers in short, densely pubescent, paniculately branched inflorescences. blooming occurs from April to early June and fruits ripen during September and October.
- Fruit: Ovate, 3 cm long, 1-seeded berry, deep purple to almost black in colour, slightly wrinkled fruit. Hard fragile pericarp covering pale brown, spongy pulp.
- Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Partially dried ripe fruit, the ripe fresh fruit and the ripe dried fruit
- Plant type / Growth Habit: Tree
- Duration: Perennial
- Distribution: Native to and grows wild in North America in sandy acid or alkaline soils, on sandy dune hammocks, pinelands, or prairies from Texas and Louisiana, east to South Carolina, and south to Florida and in West Indies.
The ripe fruit of saw palmetto is used in several forms. It is available as liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, and as an infusion or a tea.
Saw Palmetto Capsules (80 mg, 125 mg, 160 mg, 227 mg, 250 mg, 320 mg 450 mg, 500 mg, 565 mg, 570 mg, 585 mg, 600 mg, 1000 mg)
- Saw Palmetto liquid (1:1)
- Saw Palmetto Berries
- Saw Palmetto Standardized
- Saw Palmetto Extract
- Saw Palmetto Powder
Vernacular names / Synonyms
- Scientific Name: Saw Palmetto
- English: Scrub-Palmetto, Sabal Palm, Saw Palmetto Berry, American Dwarf Palm Tree, Cabbage Palm
- French: Sabal, Palmier Nain, Palmier Scie
- German: Sabal, Sägepalme, Zwergpalme
- Italian: Palma Nana, Cavolo Di Palma
- Spanish: Sabal, Palma Enana Americana
All plants are scientifically classified into main 7 levels. These levels are Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. A genus comprise of many species and botanical name consists of Genus (uppercase) followed by Species (lowercase). Genus consists of many species which are closely related and have lots of similarities. Species is the lowest level and represents the group of same plant.
The botanical name Saw Palmetto is Serenoa repens. It belongs to plant family Arecaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae (comprising all living or extinct plants)
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (have lignified tissues or xylem for conducting water and minerals)
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta (produce seeds)
- Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
- Class: Magnoliopsida (flowering plant producing an embryo with paired cotyledons)
- Subclass: Arecidae
- Order: Arecales
- Family: Arecaceae – Palm family
- Genus: Serenoa Hook. f. – serenoa P
- Species: Serenoa repens (W. Bartram) Small – saw palmetto
- Brahea serrulata H.Wendl.
- Chamaerops serrulata Michx.
- Corypha repens W. Bartram.
- Sabal dealbata hort. ex L. H. Bailey
- Sabal serrulata (Michx.) Schult f.
- Sabal serrulatum Schult f.,
- Serenoa serrulata (Michx.) Hook. f. ex B.D. Jacks.
Constituents of Saw Palmetto
The berries contain approximately 1.5 % volatile oil, of which 63 % are free fatty acids (caproic, caprylic, capric, lauric, palmitic, and oleic acids) and 38 % are ethyl esters of those fatty acids. Beta-sitosterol and its glucoside, beta sitosterol D-glucoside, ferulic acid are also present.
- Fatty acids: capric, caprylic, lauric, palmitic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids in the form of fixed oils.
- Sterols: beta-sitosterol, beta-sitosterol-3-O-glucosides, beta-sitosterol-3-O-diglucoside, beta-si tosterol-fatty acid esters and their glucosides.
- Long-chain alcohols
- Water-soluble polysaccharides: galactoarabane with uronic acid)
- Flavonoids: isoquercitrin, kaempferol-3-O-gluco- sides, rhoifolin, rutin
The lipid soluble compounds are thought to be its major pharmacological components.
Important Medicinal Properties
Saw Palmetto is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.
Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Anti-Androgenic: It prevents binding of dihydrotestosterone to the cytosolic androgenic receptor and alpha 1-adrenoceptor in the prostate thus inhibiting intraprostatic conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
- Anti-Estrogenic: It lowers cytosol and nuclear receptor values for estrogen resulting in an anti-estrogen effect since progesterone receptor content is linked to estrogenic activity. Anti-estrogenic agents inhibit stromatic prostate mass growth in patients with benign prostate hypertrophy.
- Anti-Inflammatory: It inhibits synthesis of arachidonic acid inflammatory metabolites, through a double blocking of cyclooxygenas and 5-lipoxygenase pathways.
- Diuretic: Promotes diuresis, that is, the increased production of urine.
- Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
- Urinary antiseptic: Excreted mainly by way of the urine and performs its antiseptic action in the bladder
Medicinal Uses of Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto fruits are particularly useful in treatment of urological symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia and for treating disorders involving the sex hormones. Saw Palmetto helps in urination problems in benign prostate hyperplasia stages I and II. This gives relief only in difficulties associated with an enlarged prostate but it does not reduce the size of enlarged prostrate.
A study was conducted over a 6-month period with Saw Palmetto 160 mg given twice daily. Parameters evaluated included peak urinary flow rate, postvoid residual urine volume, pressure-flow study and serum prostate-specific antigen. The herb was well-tolerated and significantly improved urinary tract symptoms. There was no significant improvement in objective measures of bladder outlet obstruction. Evidence from clinical trials of saw palmetto products indicates that preparations containing saw palmetto improve urinary symptoms and flow measures in men with BPH and that improvement is similar to that achieved with finasteride.
In homeopathy, mother tincture of Saw Palmetto is available as remedy Sabal serrulata. This remedy is given in case genitourinary problems, prostatic enlargement, epididymitis, and urinary difficulties. It promotes nutrition and tissue building. It gives relief in micturition problems and inflammation of the urinary tract.
Saw Palmetto is also used as a folk medicine for inflammation of the urinary tract, bladder, testicles and mammary glands.
It is given in case of bedwetting, persistent cough and eczema.
It is mild sedative, tranquilizer and tonic promoting good general health.
Chief Indications of Saw Palmetto
- Bladder disorders
- Bronchial complaints (asthma, bronchitis, cough)
- Catarrh of the genitourinary tract
- Chronic or subacute cystitis
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Decreased sex drive
- During convalescence
- Excessive discharge of mucus from the sinuses and nose
- Hair loss
- Hormone imbalances
- Testicular atrophy
- Underdeveloped breasts
- Urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic Hyperplasia, or BPH)
- Wasting diseases such as HIV/AIDS
Benefits of Saw Palmetto for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that surrounds the urethra in males. The prostate secretes the seminal fluid and, through a series of contractions, allows the release of semen from the body. Benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH or Prostate Enlargement, is a condition in men in which the prostate gland gets enlarged. Enlarged prostate presses against and pinches the urethra. The narrowing of the urethra and urinary retention give rise to urinary symptoms of BPH viz. weak urine stream, urinary hesitancy, urgency, frequency, post-void dribbling, incomplete emptying of the bladder, dysuria, and nocturia.
The exact mechanism by which saw palmetto helps in the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia is not completely understood. n vitro pharmacodynamic studies indicate that it may have multiple mechanisms of action in BPH. Saw Palmetto reduces the swelling of prostate and also inhibits binding of testosterone and DHT to cytosolic and nuclear androgen receptors.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 110 BPH patients, 160 mg twice per day of a standardized Serenoa extract significantly improved nocturia, dysuria, post-voiding residual urine, flow rate, and other symptoms. In another double-blind clinical study, urinary symptoms and flow rates were significantly improved. Clinical results may be seen in six to eight weeks.
Saw Palmetto gives relief in following symptoms of BPH
- Too frequent urination
- Having trouble starting or maintaining urination
- Needing to urinate during the night
- Difficult urination
In the treatment of BPH, liposterolic extract of the fruit, standardized to contain at least 85 percent fatty acids and sterols, is used. The effects are reported to begin within 30 days of treatment. Saw palmetto extracts do not significantly affect prostatic size or reduce PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels in the blood; nor do they appear to alter sexual function.
Homeopathic Remedy Sabal serrulata (Saw palmetto)
Sabal is homoeopathic remedy for irritability of the genitourinary organs, General and sexual debility. It Promotes nutrition and tissue building. Sabal Acts on membrano-prostatic portion of urethra and found to be very useful in prostatic enlargement, epididymitis, and urinary difficulties.
Sabal is beneficial for Males in
- Prostatic troubles; enlargement; discharge of prostatic fluid.
- Wasting of testes and loss of sexual power.
- Coitus painful at the time of emission.
- Sexual neurotics.
- Organs feel cold.
Sabal is beneficial for Females in
- Ovaries tender and enlarged; breasts shrivel.
- Young female neurotics;
- suppressed or perverted sexual inclination.
Urinary Symptoms for indication of Sabal
- Constant desire to pass water at night.
- Enuresis; paresis of sphincter vesicae.
- Chronic gonorrhea.
- Difficult urination.
- Cystitis with prostatic hypertrophy.
Stomach Symptoms for indication of Sabal
- Belching and acidity.
- Desire for milk.
Respiratory Symptoms for indication of Sabal
- Copious expectoration, with catarrh of nose.
- Chronic bronchitis.
Dosage of Sabal Mother tincture
- Mother tincture, ten to thirty drops.
- Third potency often better.
- The tincture must be prepared from the fresh berries to be effective.
Dosage of Saw Palmetto
The average daily dose of extract is 160 mg given twice daily or 320 mg given once daily. The supplement should be a fat-soluble saw palmetto extract that contains 85 to 95% fatty acids and sterols.
- The Liquid extract (1:1) is taken in dose of 0.6 to 1.5 mL three times daily.
- Tincture 80% alcohol (fresh fruit, 1:2[HER], dried fruit, 1:5[HER]), 1 to 2 mL three to four times daily.
- It should be taken with water at mealtimes.
- Saw palmetto is often combined with pumpkin seed oil or extract, nettle root extract, and Prunus africana extract.
Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Saw Palmetto
- No serious health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.
- It may cause mild side effects, such as gastrointestinal upset, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea (rarely). These minor complaints are generally resolved by taking the herb in association with meals.
- Few cases of Nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, alteration in taste and urticaria have been reported.
- The drug taken on an empty stomach may sometimes cause nausea.
- It appears to be well tolerated by most users.
- Use of saw palmetto preparations at doses higher than those recommended for therapeutic effects should be avoided.
- Saw palmetto may interact with anticoagulant medicines and may increase risk of bleeding. Anticoagulant are those agents which reduce the coagulation of blood.
- There may be an increased response to anticoagulant (warfarin) treatment in patients who also take saw palmetto. Excessive bleeding during surgery has been reported in a patient who had been taking saw palmetto.
- It may interact with hormone-like drugs or adrenergic drugs.
- It may counter the efficacy of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and birth control pills.
- It may inhibit the cytochrome P450 isoenzyme.
- No interaction with food is found.
- No interaction with other herbs is found.
- It reduces the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
- In BPH the symptom reduction develops within 1–2 months’ treatment. It is well tolerated and associated with fewer side effects than finasteride and tamsulosin.
- It has antiestrogenic and anti-androgenic effects.
- It should not be taken during pregnancy and breast feeding due to its potential hormonal effects.
- Saw palmetto is not recommended for children.
- The herb does not affect PSA levels; therefore, PSA test results will be unaffected.
- If symptoms worsen, blood is detected in the urine or acute urinary retention occurs, patients should be advised to seek professional advice.
- 1-year study provided a detailed assessment of the potential toxicity of saw palmetto. It found no evidence that consumption of saw palmetto extract (160 mg twice daily) over a period of 1 year was not associated with any clinically important adverse effects. A 74-week trial which used doses up to 960 mg of a standardised extract daily produced no evidence of toxicity.
- The acceptable pharmaceutical dosage forms include capsules, chewables, liquids, powders, strips or tablets.