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Saw Palmetto benefits and uses

13 October 2020

Saw palmetto is a popular supplement taken for a range of problems associated with male health, including prostate health and hair loss.

Saw Palmetto berries on a spoon
Saw Palmetto’s main use is to treat enlarged and weakened prostate glands

What is saw palmetto used for?

Saw palmetto, also known as Serenoa repens, is used to treat prostate problems (such as an enlarged prostate), urinary disorders and also to promote hair growth. It’s also used as a libido booster, to reduce inflammation and against cancer.

What’s the history of saw palmetto?

Saw palmetto is a type of palm tree that’s found in North America and the Caribbean. It has been used by native Americans for centuries, specifically the Seminole tribe, who used it as a libido and fertility booster, to treat urinary infections, and as a sedative.

What’s the best way to take saw palmetto?

You can find saw palmetto supplements (which consist of dried, ground saw palmetto), in tablet or capsule form, in liquid and also in tea form.

Does saw palmetto really work?

Saw palmetto appears to increase urine flow, which in turn could help relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or benign prostate enlargement. It would also help with lower urinary tract symptoms for the same reasons. But although several studies have shown a benefit, a systematic review (a Cochrane review) found that it didn’t provide significant benefits. However, it may depend on the dosage. One study published in BJU International found that 320mg of permixon saw palmetto extract was more effective than a placebo in reducing nighttime urination and improving urine flow.

In terms of promoting hair growth, results are also mixed. A small-scale study did find that a daily dose of 200mg of saw palmetto along with beta-sitosterol reduced hair loss in men by 60%, compared to a placebo.

Where can I get saw palmetto?

Capsules or tablets are available to buy online or at healthfood shops such as Holland and Barrett.

How long does saw palmetto take to work?

For the studies that showed benefits for hair loss saw palmetto was taken for two years, so to see the same benefits you’d need to do the same. These results were seen with 320mg per day every day. Similarly for prostate healthy the supplement would need to be taken long-term.

What are the side effects of taking saw palmetto?

Side effects are rare but may include diarrhoea, headache, nausea and/or vomiting.

Are there any contraindications when taking saw palmetto?

If you are already taking medication for your prostate or urinary disorder, check with your GP first before taking saw palmetto supplements.

Need to talk to a GP from the comfort of your own home? Saga Health Insurance customers can talk to a qualified, practising UK GP 24 hours a day by phone. Find out more about our GP service.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.