Saw palmetto extract is obtained from the brownish black berries of Serenoa repens also known as the American dwarf palm, Cabbage palm, or Sabal serrulata. It is native to the costal regions of the southern US states.
By H. S. Nemr
Source and chemical components
The active ingredient in the commercial preparations is the N-hexane liposterolic extract of Serenoa repens (LSESR). This extract contains a complex mixture of lauric acid together with other fatty acids, phyosterols, and polysaccharides.
The precise mechanism of action of Saw palmetto is not defined. LSESR has been shown to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone to dihydro-testosterone (DHT).
The effectiveness of LSESR in the management of benign prostatic hyperplasia has been studied in several comparative and non comparative, placebo controlled trials. While several studies reported no significant difference than placebo in the patient reported quality of life and effect on the prostate size, few studies have demonstrated that Saw palmetto was superior to placebo in reducing urinary frequency and the management of related symptoms.
Therapeutic and reported folk uses
Saw palmetto is used in Europe for the management of benign prostatic hyperplasia and is approved by the German Commission E to be used in this indication. It is also used in folk medicine to increase sperm production, breast size, and for the improvement of libido.
1-2 capsules daily for 3 months.
Adverse reactions and precautions
- CNS: Headache.
- CV: Hypertension.
- GI: Abdominal pain.
- GU: Urine retention.
- Other: Back pain.
Saw palmetto is contraindicated during pregnancy due to its hormonal effects.
Caution is advised if Saw palmetto is taken with Warfarin, hormones, and hormone like medications.
Saw palmetto interferes with the absorption of oral Iron supplements.
H.S. Nemr is a graduate of BAU pharmacy school. He is currently a medication safety officer at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare system.
- Professional’s Handbook of Complementary Alternative Medicines, Springhouse, 2nd edition.\
- PDR for herbal medicines, fourth edition, Thomson healthcare.
- Medline Plus, National institute of health.
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