Home Prostate Why Saw Palmetto Supplements Shows Promise for Better Prostate Health and More

Why Saw Palmetto Supplements Shows Promise for Better Prostate Health and More

Saw palmetto supplements have been gaining much attention from women and men. People have been using this herbal plant for various ailments for centuries. 

This herb benefits more than prostate health.  Healthcare providers recommend it for men and women who have other health issues. 

Find out what saw palmetto is and how it gives more than urinary relief.

  • Saw palmetto through the years
  • Health benefits 
  • How it works
  • Sources
  • Possible side effects and risks
  • Dosage and timing
  • Safety and efficacy

What are the 5 Potential Benefits of Saw Palmetto Supplements?

Saw palmetto supplements come from a plant in the southern US, like Florida. It has a rich history of use as a natural therapy. People may know it by names like Serenoa repens, cabbage palm, and American dwarf palm tree. Native American tribes used saw palmetto berries to improve urinary and sexual function in men.

Some experts think more evidence is needed to support the use of saw palmetto. However, many studies show promising results. 

Nowadays, healthcare providers often recommend saw palmetto to help with enlarged prostate glands. This natural therapy offers plenty of benefits for both men and women. If you’re curious about its practical uses, read more!

1. Reduce Prostate Problem Symptoms

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlarged prostate gland that sits below the bladder. It’s not cancer, but it shares common symptoms of prostate cancer. An enlarged prostate obstructs the flow of urine, which causes its symptoms. Experts linked BPH to lower urinary tract symptoms or LUTS.

A panel of urologists and BPH/LUTS experts reached a consensus in 2021; saw palmetto holds back 5-alpha reductase enzyme and reduces prostate inflammation. It’s an enzyme that turns testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It occurs by changing the prostate cells’ fluidity and reducing the number of inflamed cells’ number. 

The consensus states that it doesn’t know how much this or any other mechanism impacts BPH/LUTS.  Although, the consensus agreed that saw palmetto extracts are usually safe. It can help reduce mild to moderate LUTS symptoms.

Additionally, saw palmetto contains fatty acids, including lauric acid and phytosterol. These fatty acids reduce prostate inflammation based on a study.

A systematic review looked at 28 studies on the use of herbal products for BPH. One of the most studied herbs was Serenoa repens. It’s known to improve symptoms like urinary flow and prostate function. However, further research is needed to understand its effects better.

2. Ease Urine Flow

You’d know if you have Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) if you have trouble emptying your bladder. You’d also feel that there’s still urine in your bladder even after you’ve voided. BPH affects urinary flow in men. But did you know that saw palmetto also helps women with bladder issues?

A 2020 study looked into the impacts of taking saw palmetto supplements. Forty-four Japanese men aged 40-69 frequently needed to urinate at night. So they took either saw palmetto extract capsules or a placebo for 12 weeks. 

At the end of the study, the saw palmetto group had fewer symptoms. The study also showed no adverse effects. Moreover, taking saw palmetto capsules helped improve urination problems in healthy Japanese men.

Researchers conducted a similar study on adult women in 2022. They assessed the effects of saw palmetto on women with urinary problems. The study used a questionnaire to assess their symptoms. After 12 weeks, the results show that saw palmetto reduced day and night voiding frequency. They had better results than the placebo group. 

The study also reveals how saw palmetto may work. It relaxes the bladder muscles and suppresses nerve function.  Thus, saw palmetto supplements potentially lessen LUTS in women. 

3. May Ease Pelvic Pain

Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP/CPPS) is pain in men’s prostate and pelvic area. Experts have yet to point out the exact cause of this syndrome. But, it may be caused by intertwined factors.

Chronic prostate inflammation is associated with CP/CPPS. So, researchers conducted a study on the effects of saw palmetto on CP/CPPS. A total of 11 various centers with 226 people participated in the study. They received either saw palmetto or a placebo for 12 weeks. 

After two weeks of the first dose, those taking saw palmetto had significant improvements based on index scores. Saw palmetto was safe, effective, and far better than a placebo. 

Further, an unhealthy gut can cause inflammation, pain, and stress. A study suggests that the gut microbiome (community of bacteria) might play a role in CP/CPPS. 

Researchers in another study also came up with similar findings. They collected and analyzed samples from 25 CP/CPPS people and 25 healthy adults. Based on the results, people with CP/CPPS had less diverse gut microbiomes. Thus, the gut microbiome can serve as a biomarker and target for CP/CPPS therapy.

4. Prevents Hair Loss

People have been looking for natural hair growth options, here’s how saw palmetto may work. Stress, diet, and medicines can cause hair loss.  It affects men and women alike. According to experts, androgen hormones can cause 95% of baldness.

For example, alopecia is a temporary or permanent balding or hair-thinning problem when the immune system wrongly thinks your hair follicles are alien. As a result, hair falls out. This case refers to alopecia areata.

Another kind of hair loss is androgenic alopecia, oil glands contain a 5-alpha-reductase enzyme that converts testosterone to 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT). According to researchers, high DHT levels cause hair loss. Saw palmetto is a potent agent that reduces DHT levels.

A study assessed 50 male adults aged 20 to 50 and the use of saw palmetto for 24 weeks. The results show that their hair count increased, and they didn’t experience any side effects. Thus, saw palmetto extract may be used for male baldness. The researchers suggest more than four weeks of use for sustained impact.

5. Might Prevent Cancer Growth

A study identified a new compound related to prostate cancer. This compound, called chalcone glycoside, is found in saw palmetto seeds. Chalcone glycosides act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Saw palmetto also comes with six other known compounds. 

The researchers discovered that these compounds stopped prostate cancer cell growth. Moreover, phenolics from the extracts had antioxidant effects that scavenged free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can build up, resulting in cell damage. Left alone, they can cause sickness and faster aging.

Despite these studies, other researchers expressed their adverse opinion. They claimed that saw palmetto showed no benefit in clinical cancer studies. They advised caution in using complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs).  Moreover, CAMs may be harmful in high doses and when combined with cancer drugs. 

So, it’s best to consult a healthcare provider for proper dose and usage. That way, it lessens the risks of side effects. But, it also ensures CAMs won’t affect the cancer drug’s effect. More studies are needed to confirm saw palmetto’s anticancer effects. 

How Do Saw Palmetto Supplements Work?

Saw palmetto’s role in the body involves three actions based on science. These mechanisms are responsible for the health benefits of saw palmetto supplements.

  1. Hormone suppressor – It’s a substance that stops androgens (male sex hormones) from connecting to androgen receptors or proteins. This action prevents the effects of these hormones in your body. 

For instance, saw palmetto impedes the 5α-reductase based on many studies. This enzyme blocks the interaction of DHT and its receptor. DHT is a hormone that stimulates androgen or male sexual characteristics. As a result, it reduces prostate tissue and hair loss. 

2. Anti-inflammatory – Inflammation is your body’s natural reaction to any foreign attack. Your immune system reacts by releasing chemicals to combat harmful agents. That’s when you experience pain, swelling, and redness. The exact mechanism of saw palmetto as an anti-inflammatory is not well understood.

For example, saw palmetto’s lipido-sterolic extract seems to reduce indicators of prostate inflammation. Experts identify these indicators as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1 beta.  

Moreover, researchers claim that saw palmetto inhibits enzymes that play a role in inflammation. These are lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase.

3. Pro-cell death and cell growth suppressor – Apoptosis means cancer cell death, while anti-proliferative means stopping cancer cell growth. A few studies show saw palmetto can help kill and slow down the spread of cancer cells. 

Based on a study, saw palmetto extract on cancer cells lowered the level of PI3K. It’s a protein involved in cancer cells. At the same time, it increased p53 levels. It’s another protein that helps stop the growth of cancer cells resulting in cell death. And finally, it reduced Bcl-xL, a protein that allows cancer cells to survive.

Despite promising results of studies, experts claim the proof is still limited or lacking.

Where Can You Get Saw Palmetto Supplements?

Specialty stores sell dried extracts, ground, or tea. Saw palmetto supplements in capsules, tablets, and soft gels. Other variants include applications on the skin and anus. 

If you are buying saw palmetto supplements look for those certified organic. They’re also additive- and filler-free without artificial ingredients. Most come from extracted saw palmetto berries containing 80% to 95% free fatty acids

What are the Side Effects?

While saw palmetto supplements have benefits, they may also have downsides. The most common are related to gut discomfort. It includes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea or constipation. Other rare side effects are dizziness, headache, rhinitis, fatigue, or low libido. 

Adverse events are preventable with the correct dose and frequency. Always talk to your healthcare provider to know the best option for you.

How Much Do You Take?

Check the manufacturer’s label for the right dose and frequency of use. Saw palmetto supplements’ usual dose is 320 mg daily. It can be taken once or twice daily for up three years. 

They’re best taken with a meal to prevent stomach upset. Moreover, stick with one kind of supplement or mix the different forms. Taking them all at once may cause symptoms similar to side effects. 

Researchers looked into the different doses of saw palmetto supplements for 357 people. The adult men with LUTS randomly took 160 mg, 320 mg, or 960 mg daily. Their study reveals the men showed no signs of toxicity with high doses for up to 18 months.

Are Saw Palmetto Supplements Safe?

Based on many clinical studies, saw palmetto is generally safe for up to three years. In addition, a study published by the Japanese Pharmacology and Therapeutics shows that it is safe at high doses. Healthy adults received 400 mg of saw palmetto capsules daily for four weeks. The 22 adults didn’t report any side effects after taking excessive amounts.

Like medicines, herbal supplements should be taken with caution. The label “natural” is not a guarantee of safety. Always research a supplement on its contents and claims. If you decide to take saw palmetto, check with your healthcare provider.   

Who Can Not Take It?

Before taking saw palmetto supplements, make sure you don’t have any of these conditions:

  • Blood clotting and bleeding disorders – Saw palmetto can increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Liver problemsA study reports a case of a man who suffered from liver injury. It claimed that herbal supplements containing saw palmetto caused the damage. Although the case is rare, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
  • Pancrease issuesA study shows an older adult with BPH and acid reflux took the herb. He had stomach pain and nausea and was later diagnosed with pancreatitis. The study claims that saw palmetto and onset of pancreatitis may be possible. Like a liver injury, this case is rare. But do consult your healthcare provider for your safety.
  • Before surgery – Saw palmetto might increase the risk of bleeding due to its antiplatelet effect.

Other Precautions

Supplements may likely affect pregnant and breastfeeding women. A study on monkeys reveals the male offspring showed abnormal growth of its genitals. It suggests that if you’re taking saw palmetto, it poses a risk to your unborn male baby.  So, it is best to avoid taking saw palmetto due to its hormonal effect. 

Although, there is not enough research to assess its safety. Experts urge nursing women to avoid taking saw palmetto, which may harm the baby. It’s best to seek advice from your healthcare provider if you intend to take this supplement.

Does Saw Palmetto Interact with Nutrients and Medications?

Saw palmetto might moderately interact with certain drugs and herbs. Your healthcare provider may caution you from taking supplements when taking:

  • Anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs and herbs – saw palmetto might increase your risk of bleeding. Examples of these herbs are ginkgo, ginseng, and turmeric.
  • Contraceptives – the potency can be reduced by saw palmetto.
  • Estrogens drugs and herbs – saw palmetto might enhance the side effects of estrogen.
  • Dutasteride and Finasteride – saw palmetto might worsen the side effects of these drugs that treat enlarged prostate symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: What is saw palmetto used for?

People have been using saw palmetto supplements as a natural remedy. Studies show it may work for enlarged prostate, urinary problems, and hair loss.

Question 2: Does saw palmetto help with hair loss?

Studies have shown saw palmetto supplements most likely promote hair growth. It is because it blocks an enzyme that helps reduce a hormone associated with hair loss.

Question 3: What are the potential side effects of taking saw palmetto?

Saw palmetto supplements are generally safe. But it may come with mild side effects like stomach upset, diarrhea, and headache. In addition, it may increase bleeding risks and can cause harm to an unborn baby.


Saw palmetto supplements had been studied to help reduce symptoms of BPS. It eases urinary issues and pelvic pain in men. Moreover, it prevents hair loss and might potentially prevent the spread of cancer. 

While it’s generally considered safe, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. 

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