This fact sheet provides basic information about the herb saw palmetto -- common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Saw palmetto grows in the southern United States.
Common Names--saw palmetto, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm
There are no warning signs of early prostate cancer. Once a tumor causes the prostate gland to swell, or once cancer spreads beyond the prostate, the following symptoms may happen:
A frequent need to urinate, especially at night
Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine
A weak or interrupted urinary stream
Leaking of urine when laughing or coughing
Inability to urinate standing up
A painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
Blood in urine or semen
Saw palmetto is also used for other conditions, including chronic pelvic pain, bladder disorders, decreased sex drive, hair loss, and hormone imbalances.
How It Is Used
The ripe fruit of saw palmetto is used in several forms, including ground and dried fruit or whole berries. It is available as a liquid extract, tablets, capsules, and as an infusion or a tea.
What the Science Says
Several small studies suggest that saw palmetto may be effective for treating BPH symptoms.
In 2006, a large study of 225 men with moderate-to-severe BPH found no improvement with 320 mg saw palmetto daily for 1 year versus placebo. NCCAM co-funded the study with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of saw palmetto for reducing the size of an enlarged prostate or for any other conditions.
Saw palmetto does not appear to affect readings of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. PSA is protein produced by cells in the prostate. The PSA test is used to screen for prostate cancer and to monitor patients who have had prostate cancer.
Side Effects and Cautions
Saw palmetto may cause mild side effects, including stomach discomfort.
Some men using saw palmetto have reported side effects such as tender breasts and a decline in sexual desire.
Tell your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including saw palmetto. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.