Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Prostate Enlargement/BPH Health Center

Font Size

Does Saw Palmetto Treat Enlarged Prostate?

Study Shows Saw Palmetto Is No Better Than Placebo in Treating Symptoms of BPH
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 27, 2011 -- For years, men with enlarged prostate glands have turned to a supplement called saw palmetto to ease their trouble with urination and other symptoms.

Exactly how saw palmetto was thought to relieve the symptoms is unclear, but the fruit of saw palmetto dwarf palm tree remains widely used.

Now, a new study shows that this popular remedy is no more effective than a placebo or dummy pill at relieving these symptoms -- even in high doses.

The study is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The technical name for an enlarged prostate gland is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Symptoms of BPH include:

  • Trouble with urination
  • Weak urine stream
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Not feeling empty after urination

As a result, men run the risk of developing urinary tract infections and/or needing surgery because of a blockage of urine flow.

Saw Palmetto or Rx Drugs?

So should men skip the saw palmetto and go right to prescription medications?

Not so fast. "There is no real downside to taking saw palmetto, but the patient forgoes treatment that we know works," says researcher Gerald Andriole, MD. He is the Robert K. Royce distinguished professor and chief of urologic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Certain prescription medications can help treat the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. These include alpha blockers such as Cardura (doxazosin), Flomax (tamsulosin), Hytrin (terazosin), and Uroxatral (alfuzosin). These drugs help relax the prostate muscle tissue to increase the flow of urine.

Another category of drugs to treat BPH are 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. These include Avodart (dutasteride) and Proscar (finasteride). They help shrink the enlarged prostate and may prevent further growth. Both types of drugs do have risks.

Some men will need surgery to relieve the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.

"Proven therapies prevent urinary retention and the need for surgery and help reduce the chances of developing a urinary tract infection," Andriole says.

But according to the new study, "men are at the same risk for these events if they take saw palmetto as someone with placebo."

Today on WebMD

Male Incontinence Slideshow
screening tests for men
What Is The Prostate
Foods To Boost Mens Heath
Enlarged Prostate BPH Complex Problem
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia BPH Surgery
How Bad Are Urinary Symptoms From Benign Prostatic
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia BPH Exams And Tests
Treating Enlarged Prostate
What Is The Prostate
Marks Prostate Enlarged
Low Testosterone Explained When Levels Are Too Low

WebMD Special Sections