Saw palmetto is a fruit-bearing palm tree, native to the subtropical Southeastern United States. The saw palmetto plant produces berries that contain potentially useful compounds for treating or reducing symptoms in a variety of medical conditions.

With the consumption of this natural supplement comes numerous potential health benefits that could make it a useful addition to your daily diet. So, just what are the uses, benefits, and side effects of saw palmetto?

What is Saw Palmetto?

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens), also known as the American Dwarf Palm Tree, the Chou Palmiste, the Ju-Zhong, and numerous other names, is a fruit-bearing tree that is used for medicinal purposes. The berries that the plant produces contain a potentially beneficial compound that can be used in a variety of ways. The compound can be utilized by simply eating the berry, adding it to a tea, chemical extraction, or by drying out the berry creating a powder.

Used to treat conditions such as male pattern baldness and prevent complications with prostate surgery, the fruit from a saw palmetto tree is a controversial addition to the world of health and wellness.

This dwarf palm tree is native to the southeast regions of North America and is specifically abundant in Florida, Georgia, Cuba, and the Bahamas. This tree produces seeded dark berries that have been long used for its nutritional properties. These berries typically provide high amounts of antioxidants such as vitamin E and plant compounds within its consumption. 

Benefits

Saw palmetto comes in a few different forms, including topical and oral. Both of these uses contain many benefits if used properly. The benefits of saw palmetto range from reducing inflammation of the prostate due to infection, treating a common cold, and even aiding those with insomnia

What else does saw palmetto do for your body? Some of the most common benefits of saw palmetto include:

Possibly Effective For

  • Prostate surgery (transurethral resection of the prostate; TURP), as taking 320 mg of saw palmetto daily for 2 months before prostate surgery can reduce the time spent in surgery, blood loss, the development of problems during surgery, and the total time spent in the hospital.

Possibly Ineffective For

  • Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia; BPH), as some research has shown that saw palmetto can modestly improve symptoms, but other reliable research indicates that saw palmetto has little to no benefit for reducing these symptoms.

Insufficient Evidence For

  • Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia)
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Baldness
  • Bladder Control
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Common cold
  • Cough
  • Male pattern hair growth in women (hirsutism)
  • Insomnia
  • Migraine
  • Increasing sexual desire in healthy people
  • Sexual problems that prevent satisfaction during sexual activity
  • Sore throat

Side Effects

As with most supplements, there are some possible side effects to eating raw and dried saw palmetto berries, but their safety hasn’t been directly studied. For the most part, saw palmetto is generally safe for most people.

Furthermore, it’s still important to be wary of the possible side effects that may come with the consumption of saw palmetto berries. Some of these side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea 

If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, avoid taking saw palmetto as it could be dangerous because of its ability to act as a hormone. Also, it’s important to avoid use if you’ve recently had or will have surgery, as it can cause blood clotting and extra bleeding during and after the surgery. For best results, stop using saw palmetto at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

How to Take Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto can be taken in many different forms. These include:

  • Eating the whole berry
  • Steeped to make a tea
  • Taken as a dried supplement
  • Oily liquid extraction
  • Applied to scalp

No matter the method that you decide to take saw palmetto with, it’s likely that you’ll experience the benefits of the supplement after around 4-6 weeks of use. 

Dosage

How much saw palmetto to take daily? When taken as a dried supplement or an oily liquid extraction, it’s recommended to take saw in daily dosages of 160-320 mg for the most effective use. This level of dosage should allow users to see the benefits without noticing too much of the potential side effects. 

For best results, it’s recommended that you consult your healthcare provider before taking saw palmetto to ensure your safety and appropriate dosage.

Final Thoughts

Saw palmetto serves as an easy supplement that you can add to your everyday diet and lifestyle. Though generally deemed healthy, exact saw palmetto benefits are not completely clear. 

If you are thinking about adding a saw palmetto to your diet, you should consult with your doctor first. They will be able to provide more information on whether or not saw palmetto would be a healthy addition to your diet.

Further, when purchasing products that contain saw palmetto, look to the packaging labels for more information. You may want to look out for the following:

  • What, if any, government labels the package has to determine the level of regulation and testing the product underwent
  • Other ingredients in the product that you could be sensitive to

Disclaimers: This article does not constitute professional medical advice, nor can it replace the advice of a licensed professional.

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