Saw palmetto is a remarkable herb for both men and women and is used by natural health practitioners to treat a variety of ailments such as testicular inflammation, urinary tract inflammation, coughs and respiratory congestion. It is also used to strengthen the thyroid gland, balance the metabolism, stimulate appetite and aid digestion. This wonderful herb is becoming famous for its uses in hair restoration, prostate health, sexual vigour, breast enhancement and as a nutritive tonic.
Saw palmetto berry also tones the urethra and it may be used to uphold the healthy function of the thyroid gland and urinary system.
In the United States, its medicinal uses were first documented in 1879 by Dr. J.B. Read, a physician in Savannah, Georgia, who published a paper on the medicinal benefits of the herb in the April 1879 issue of American Journal of Pharmacy. He found the herb useful in treating a wide range of conditions. He wrote,"By its peculiar soothing power on the mucous membrane it induces sleep, relieves the most troublesome coughs, promotes expectoration, improves digestion and increases fat, flesh and strength. Its sedative and diuretic properties are remarkable".
Benign Prostate Hyperplasia
There is much scientific documentation outlining the effectiveness of the herb in treating irritable bladder and urinary problems in men with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate gland. BPH results in a swelling of the prostate gland that obstructs the urethra. This causes painful urination, reduced urine flow, difficulty starting or stopping the flow, dribbling after urination and more frequent nighttime urination. In addition to causing pain and embarrassment, BPH can lead to serious kidney problems if undiagnosed and left untreated. It is a common problem in men over the age of 40. Estimates are that 50-60% of all men will develop BPH in their lifetimes.
Saw palmetto does not reduce prostate enlargement. Instead, it is thought to work in a variety of ways. First, it inhibits the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). BPH is thought to be caused by an increase in testosterone to DHT. Secondly, saw palmetto is believed to interfere with the production of estrogen and progesterone, hormones associated with DHT production.
Since the 1960s, extensive clinical studies of saw palmetto have been done in Europe. A review of 24 European trials appeared in the November 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The trials involved nearly 3,000 men, some taking saw palmetto, others taking Proscar and a third group taking a placebo.
The men taking saw palmetto had a 28% improvement in urinary tract symptoms, a 24% improvement in peak urine flow and 43% improvement in overall urine flow. The results were nearly comparable to the group taking Proscar and superior to the men taking a placebo.
In a controlled clinical trial with patients with enlarged prostate glands, 50 patients who received saw palmetto (320 mg per day - 4 tablets taken in two separate doses with meals) were compared to 44 patients receiving placebo. Patients treated with saw palmetto urinated less frequently, produced a better flow rate and amount of urine and had less pain and discomfort in urinating than control subjects. There were actually fewer adverse side effects in patients receiving saw palmetto than in controls.
Presently, saw palmetto is being evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of BPH. If approved, it would become the first herbal product to be licensed by the agency as a treatment for a specific condition.