Saw palmetto is a nutritional supplement extracted from the ripe purple berries of the saw palmetto tree (or plant), which is native to the West Indies and can also be found in the warmer climes of the southeastern United States, mostly along the coast from South Carolina to Florida. Also known by such terms as “American swarf palm tree,” “cabbage palm,” and the exotic-sounding “baies du palmier scie,” it is known for its purported role in enhancing male health, particularly in the prostate.
Saw palmetto apparently doesn’t actually shrink the overall size of the prostate, per webmd.com, but it is useful in reducing the size of the inner lining of the prostate that applies pressure to the tubes that carry urine, thus enhancing the flow during urination. It also has been credited with the ability to thwart the conversion of testosterone to a more potent form known as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that has been linked to hair loss.
Saw Palmetto's Health Benefits Background
Saw palmetto has a long, illustrious history as it relates to health and medical science, starting with the fact it has long been used medicinally by Native Americans in the southeast U.S. Additionally, the 20th century saw a rise in saw palmetto’s use in the treatment of urinary tract problems experienced by men as well as its being used to increase sperm production, per draxe.com. As of 2011, more than $18 million in saw palmetto was being sold annually in America, making it the third most popular such product among herbal dietary supplements.
The fruit-based herb also has been used in the treatment of such conditions as colds, coughs, sore throat and even asthma and migraine headaches, although such reported success in those areas has been mostly anecdotal and lacking detailed scientific case study research and verification. Saw palmetto’s active ingredients include fatty acids, plant sterols, flavonoids, and certain polysaccharides (sugars) that might even reduce inflammation in many affected parts of the body.
Saw Palmetto’s Benefits
Let’s take a peek at just how “fruitful” saw palmetto can be in providing health benefits to our bodies. As always, consult with your physician before starting use:
- Promotes prostate health. Per webmd.com, saw palmetto’s primary use is in reducing symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), a condition involving an enlarged prostate.
- Prevent/slow down hair loss. It is believed that some hair loss is caused by the heightened sensitivity hair follicles have to the aforementioned DHT, with saw palmetto preventing the conversion of testosterone to DHT in the first place.
- Maintain testosterone levels. Thanks to saw palmetto’s ability to inhibit the conversion of testosterone into DHT, the body is more likely to retain its normal testosterone levels, per draxe.com.
- Improve urological health. Our urinary organs weaken as we grow older, often leading to incontinence in aging adults. Research, as cited at organicfacts.net, suggests that saw palmetto’s potent chemical compounds can strengthen urinary organs and thus stop incontinence while enhancing kidney health.
- Bolster libido. Reports have shown such effects are available for both men and women. Saw palmetto’s hormonal influence mostly is in play with testosterone pathways, per organicfacts.net, but it also has been labeled a natural aphrodisiac; that is, it can put some pep into intimate interactions. Note, however, per everydayhealth.com, that women who are pregnant should not be taking saw palmetto becasue of its hormonal makeup.
- Treat impotence. Research continues to come forward supporting the link between saw palmetto use and a rise in sexual performance and vitality.
- Boost immunity. Saw palmetto might be able to help in this regard, such as when it comes to fending off cough and colds, but there’s still plenty of research to be done here.
- Increase muscle mass. Bodybuilders and “gym rats” in general have started turning to saw palmetto as a workout supplement, with preliminary research showing a link between the herbal extract and muscle mass and development. Caution: for such usage, do in moderation and only under a physician’s counsel.