Weekly Herb Review #16-Saw Palmetto

Common Names: Saw Palmetto (Sabal Palm, a?the plant cathetera)

Scientific Name: Serenoa repens (syn. Serenoa serulata, Sabal serrulata)

Family: Arecacea (Palmaceae)

Parts Used: Ripe Fruit (berry) (I stress ripe, because the fruits mature at different rates on the tree. Be sure you get your fruit from a company that supplies ripe picked fruit and not fruit that has been chemically ripened)

Harvesting: A fan palm tree that can grow to 20 feet in height, Saw Palmetto thrives in the sand dunes of sub-tropical areas. The berries are gathered from September to January.

Qualities: Pungent, Warming, Slightly Sweet, Oily, Soapy

Constituents/Nutrition: High in fatty acids and phytosterols, some of which have been shown to inhibit Dihydrotestosterone formation. Saw Palmetto also contains Flavonoids, Lipids, Fatty Acids, Resins, Tannins and is high in Phosphorus and Zinc.

Properties/Actions: Reproductive and Endocrine Restorative; Nervine Relaxant; Inhibits the conversion of Testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone and decreases its (DHT) binding to receptors, thus decreasing cell proliferation in the prostate; Anti-androgenic; Anti-inflammatory; Antispasmodic; Diuretic; Urinary Antiseptic; May also have Anti-estrogenic effects.

Uses/Indications: Amenorrhea, PMS, wasting diseases and atony of the pelvic organs, impotence, infertility, prostate health, prostate and ovarian hyperplasia, enuresis in children and elderly, BPH and related symptoms, PCOS, acne, female hirsuitism.

Folk History/Magical Uses:

  • Historically used as an aphrodisiac and sexual stimulant, it was said to make infertile men fertile and to increase the breast size in women.
  • Used by the Eclectics to promote weight gain, increase nutrient assimilation, and to restore the nervous and reproductive systems, and respiratory mucosa.
  • Used by North American Indians who pressed the fruits, fermented the juice and made it into a a?love tonica.
  • Used by the Maya for BPH, but also for stomach ailments and dysentery.

Research:
Role of phytotherapy in men with lower urinary tract symptoms.
Serenoa repens extract is comparable with 5-alpha reductase (finasteride) and alpha-1 antagonist in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia in terms of symptom score and peak urinary flow rate improvement, but has a lower incidence of associated sexual dysfunction. Furthermore, long-term usage (36 months) of Serenoa repens decreases the progression rate of the condition as compared with watchful waiting. In addition, the efficacies of Serenoa repens are proven in several placebo-controlled trials. Curr Opin Urol. 2005 Jan;15(1):45-8.

Evaluation of male sexual function in patients with Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) associated with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) treated with a phytotherapeutic agent (Permixon)[ie. Saw Palmetto standardized extract], Tamsulosin or Finasteride.
The present study demonstrates that Permixon therapy has no negative impact on male sexual function. Both Finasteride and Tamsulosin had a slight impact on sexual function, especially on ejaculation, although these effects were rare and in line with previous reports about these two drugs.
Eur Urol. 2005 Aug;48(2):269-76. Epub 2005 Apr 18.

Long-term efficacy and safety of a combination of sabal and urtica extract for lower urinary tract symptoms–a placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial.
The efficacy and tolerability of a fixed combination of 160 mg sabal fruit extract WS 1473 and 120 mg urtica root extract WS 1031 per capsule (PRO 160/120) was investigated in elderly, male patients suffering from lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia in a prospective multicenter trial. A total of 257 patients (129 and 128, respectively) were randomized to treatment with PRO 160/120 or placebo (127 and 126 were evaluable for efficacy)a| In conclusion, PRO 160/120 was clearly superior to the placebo for the amelioration of LUTS as measured by the I-PSS. PRO 160/120 is advantageous in obstructive and irritative urinary symptoms and in patients with moderate and severe symptoms. The tolerability of the herbal extract was excellent.
World J Urol. 2005 Jun;23(2):139-46. Epub 2005 Jun 1.
(Though I generally use non-standardize/whole herb tinctures, this is still a great study for proving effectiveness of Standardized extract.)

An alternative medicine study of herbal effects on the penetration of zona-free hamster oocytes and the integrity of sperm deoxyribonucleic acid.
OBJECTIVE: To analyze the effects of certain herbs on sperm DNA and on the fertilization process. Zona-free hamster oocytes were incubated for 1 hour in saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), echinacea purpura, ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), or control medium before sperm-oocyte interaction. CONCLUSION(S): High concentrations of St. John’s wort, echinacea, and ginkgo had adverse effects on oocytes. Saw palmetto had no effect. The data suggested that St. John’s wort, ginkgo, and echinacea at high concentrations damage reproductive cells. St. John’s wort was mutagenic to sperm cells.
Fertil Steril. 1999 Mar;71(3):517-22.
(OK, you have got to be kidding me!! So, what you are telling me is that if I take my eggs out and soak them in herbs, then put them back in and attempt to get pregnant that I might have problems conceiving?? Well, yeah! I would think so! So, how exactly is this study helpful to me?)

Cautions/Side Effects: None are known, but caution is warranted in pregnancy as Saw Palmetto seems to have an effect on the hormones. The tea has also caused minor GI discomfort for some people (maybe this is because it tastes so much like stinky feet??)

Preparation/Dosage:

  • Decoction of 4-8g TID (I have seen dosages given for teas, but if it is the fats that we are wanting, it seems like either eating the fruit or making a tincture would be more effective than a tea.)
    Tincture a 1-3 ml TID, 1:5 60% EtOH
  • BHP recommends 0.5-1g of dried herb or 0.6-1.5ml extract TID, 1:1, 60% EtOH
  • German Commission E recommends 1-2g berries or 320mg standardized to 85-95% fatty acids.
    Can also be used as a suppository for the prostate.
  • Saw Palmetto can be combined with Damiana and Cola in general debility; and with Horsetail and Hydrangea in BPH.
  • Saw Palmetto flowers also make a nice honey! (I just ordered some this! I’ll let you know if it is any good :-) )

Recipe:

Saw Palmetto Schnapps

  • Saw Palmetto fruits: 4 heaping tablespoons
  • Vanilla: 2 beans
  • Lemon: grated peel
  • Sour Orange Blossoms: 1 teaspoonful
  • Gin: 3 cups
  • Brown sugar: as desired

Grind the Saw Palmetto fruits and slit the vanilla beans. Add these to the gin together with the grated peel of an unsprayed lemon and the sour orange blossoms. Shake thoroughly. Let stand for at least 1 week. Shake occasionally. Filter and sweeten with brown sugar, if needed. Enjoy your little love tonic with a friend!

My Thoughts:
Most of the medical research out there on the effectiveness of Saw Palmetto has been done on Permixon (a lipido-sterolic extract of Serenoa repens). I found no studies that used a whole plant tincture, except those stating that a Saw Palmetto is now being used by many men for prostate healtha. But that doesnata help me much. I know that traditionally Saw Palmetto has been used in many cultures that simply ate or tinctured it and reported similar results. So, do I need this research to tell me what history has already proven?

In a recent talk that I attended by David Winston, he stated that he has had great results using the unstandardized tincture of Saw Palmetto for PCOS, inflammation of the urinary tract, for fibroids, cystic acne, upper respiratory conditions and as an immune potentiator and mild adaptogen.

The Eclectics also used Saw Palmetto extensively and never standardized it.

I guess I just like to take my herbs in as whole a form as possible. It seems like once you take the plant and start chemically processing it in a lab, it as more like a drug than an herb.

Bibliography:

Green, J. (1991). The male herbal: health care for men and boys. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press.

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Holmes, P. (1998). The energetics of western herbs, vol 1. Colorado: Snow Lotus Press.

Ratsch, C. (1997). Plants of love. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Saw Palmetto. Retrieved on March 30, 2006 from:
http://www.herbmed.org/Herbs/Herb2.htm

Saw Palmetto. Retrieved on March 30, 2006 from:
http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/orn/palms/palmetto.jpg

Saw Palmetto. Retrieved on March 30, 2006 from:
http://www.nbbd.com/godo/cns/Brochures/vistas/SawPalmetto.jpg

Serenoa serrulata (Hook). Retrieved on March 30, 2006 from:
http://www.purplesage.org.uk/profiles/sawpalmetto.htm

Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum. New Jersey: Herbacy Press.

Tilgner, S. (1999). Herbal medicine from the heart of the earth. Creswell, OR: Wise Acres Press.

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