What is Saw Palmetto and What's It Used For?

Saw palmetto has potential as an adjuvant for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and hair loss. We'll share more details about this palm tree that's native to North America here!
What is Saw Palmetto and What's It Used For?

Written by Daniela Andarcia

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Saw palmetto, or sabal, is a tree native to northern Mexico and the southeastern United States. It grows up to three meters tall, with leaves up to one and a half meters long. It is also known for its fruit which, when ripe, is used for medicinal purposes.

In general, supplements derived from this plant are believed to help alleviate the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and male pattern baldness. It also appears to prevent complications during prostate surgery.

It’s currently available in the form of nuts, capsules, liquid extracts, among other presentations.

What’s it recommended for? What are its possible side effects?

In the following article, we’ll look at the answers to these questions!

Uses and benefits of saw palmetto

For centuries, Native Americans have used saw palmetto for nourishment and to relieve symptoms such as coughs, sore throats, and congestion from the common cold. But what other uses does it have?

Hair loss

Although the scientific evidence is scant, it shows promise. Many suggest that the extract from saw palmetto berries may inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, known to convert testosterone into DHT, a molecule that promotes hair loss and prostate enlargement.

A study published in the Turkish Journal of Dermatology found that 50% of men who applied this extract topically in along with 10% Trichogen™ VEG increased their hair count by nearly 12% after a few months of treatment.

Saw palmetto supplements in pill and capsule form.
Saw palmetto supplements are known for their effects on men’s health.

Read also: Androgenic Alopecia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

According to research in Research and Reports in Urology, saw palmetto has potential as an adjunctive treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also called “enlarged prostate.”

Similarly, a study of 82 patients revealed that those who took a 320 mg capsule of saw palmetto extract significantly reduced symptoms of the disease. Therefore, experts believe that, in the future, it could be the starting point for new treatments.

Urological system

There’s scientific evidence that this remedy can improve urological symptoms and urine flow resulting from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Twenty-eight percent of men reduced symptoms, 24% increased peak urine flow, and 43% increased overall flow.

Prostate cancer

A review of studies found that saw palmetto supplements are among the top five complementary treatments used by prostate cancer patients.

As we mentioned, these supplements can block the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which has to do with prostate enlargement and, therefore, prostate cancer.

Although it’s not yet clear how it works, observations have shown that men who take inhibitors of this enzyme tend to be less prone to the development of this disease.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Oncology, sabal can stop the growth of LNCaP, DU145, and PC3 prostate cancer cells. However, it’s important to note that it can cause impotence and a decrease in libido.

Saw Palmetto Safety and Recommendations

Although it’s considered safe in most healthy adults, it’s not recommended for children, pregnant, and lactating women. Saw palmetto may cause adverse effects such as mild headaches and stomachaches. However, it’s possible to avoid the latter by taking the extract with food.

It’s advisable to talk to your doctor in case of taking these supplements if you’re close to undergoing surgery or treatment. You should keep in mind that its compounds may cause excessive bleeding or interactions with medications such as anticoagulants.

Finally, since it has similar effects to finasteride, a drug that treats hair loss and BPH, you should take both simultaneously, unless your doctor recommends it. It may also reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.

A man pouring vitamin supplements into his hand.
Saw palmetto supplements may interact with some medications. Therefore, it’s important to ask your doctor before taking saw palmetto.

You may be interested in: Three Natural Remedies To Treat Balding

What to remember about Saw palmetto

Saw palmetto, or sabal, is a small palm tree from which we can obtain an extract and other medicinal derivatives. While it’s popular for soothing coughs and other cold symptoms, there’s no evidence to support such purposes. However, some studies suggest that it’s beneficial against conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and hair loss.

In any case, it’s important to take precautions when using this type of supplement. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children should avoid this substance, as should those who are currently taking medication.

In any case, it’s best to consult a doctor before taking this herbal product regularly.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Arca, E., Açıkgöz, G., Yeniay, Y., & Caliskan, E. (2014). The evaluation of efficacy and safety of topical saw palmetto and trichogen veg complex for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. Turkish Journal of Dermatology, 8(4), 210. https://doi.org/10.4274/tdd.2302
  • Pais, P., Villar, A., & Rull, S. (2016). Determination of the potency of a novel saw palmetto supercritical CO2 extract (SPSE) for 5α-reductase isoform II inhibition using a cell-free in vitro test system. Research and reports in urology, 8, 41–49. https://doi.org/10.2147/RRU.S96576
  • Suter, A., Saller, R., Riedi, E., & Heinrich, M. (2013). Improving BPH symptoms and sexual dysfunctions with a saw palmetto preparation? Results from a pilot trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 27(2), 218–226. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.4696
  • Penugonda, K., & Lindshield, B. L. (2013). Fatty acid and phytosterol content of commercial saw palmetto supplements. Nutrients, 5(9), 3617–3633. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu5093617
  • Yang, Y., Ikezoe, T., Zheng, Z., Taguchi, H., Koeffler, H. P., & Zhu, W. G. (2007). Saw Palmetto induces growth arrest and apoptosis of androgen-dependent prostate cancer LNCaP cells via inactivation of STAT 3 and androgen receptor signaling. International journal of oncology, 31(3), 593–600.
  • Wilt, T. J., Ishani, A., Stark, G., MacDonald, R., Lau, J., & Mulrow, C. (1998). Saw palmetto extracts for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a systematic review. JAMA, 280(18), 1604–1609. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.280.18.1604

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.