Saw palmetto extract

American Indians used saw palmetto fruit for food and to treat various conditions, including urinary and reproductive system problems. It’s widely used in alternative medicine today for urogenital problems, especially benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Given its history, is there any evidence to support this usage?

Unfortunately, no. While writers in the 19th century made, or repeated, grand claims for the efficacy of this herbal treatment, these have not been borne out. Its possible that its main indication, for treating enlarged prostate, comes and goes, so the limited studies with saw palmetto simply captured the process whereby some get better for a time, some get worse, and the evidence can look slightly positive. More recent and much larger studies indicate that it has no effect on urinary tract symptoms when compared to a placebo, and the gold-standard Cochrane review agrees: "Serenoa repens was not more effective than placebo for treatment of urinary symptoms consistent with BPH."

In 2012, the Journal of Family Practice released practice change guidelines regarding saw palmetto, based on a high quality randomised controlled trial and the 2009 Cochrane meta-analysis. They recommend that doctors should no longer advise men to use it for urinary symptoms, because “it has not been found to alleviate symptoms, even at triple the standard dose.“

If there’s any positive news, its that the same study did not find evidence of toxicity. Nonetheless, there’s no benefit to using saw palmetto for urinary symptoms, so give this one a pass.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2012 at 2:18 pm and is filed under health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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