What is the Connection Between Saw Palmetto and Prostate Health?

Lisa Hernandez

Saw palmetto and prostate health are thought to be closely related. The extract comes from the fruit of the Serenoa repens or Sabal serrulatum, which is a small palm that is widely found in the southeastern United States. It has been shown to be effective in maintaining prostate health in men. Specifically, the extract is used to alleviate an enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Research has indicated that saw palmetto improves urinary flow in men who have an enlarged prostate.

Headache and nausea are side effects associated with saw palmetto.
Headache and nausea are side effects associated with saw palmetto.

Even though saw palmetto is not considered a standardized treatment to support prostate health in some countries, it is the most popular herb recommended for BPH. Several European countries have become convinced that saw palmetto and prostate health are linked that they have licensed the extract. Its history can be traced back to the Mayans, who used it as a tonic, and to the Seminole Indians, who relied on the berries to provide expectorant and antiseptic properties.

Saw palmetto is used to alleviate an enlarged prostate.
Saw palmetto is used to alleviate an enlarged prostate.

An enlarged prostate gland is common in older men. It is thought to occur when men's hormone balance fluctuates as they age. As the prostate enlarges, it can partially block the urethra, impairing urine flow. BPH does not cause prostate cancer. BPH can lead to other serious problems, such as a totally blocked bladder, which in turn can lead to a bladder infection, bladder stones or kidney damage.

The relationship between saw palmetto and prostate health is not completely understood. Some research indicates that the extract has anti-inflammatory properties, which might explain the reason it alleviates BPH. Studies have also shown that saw palmetto extract blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which plays a role in the development of prostate cancer.

There is evidence that saw palmetto extract is comparable to conventional medication in the treatment of BPH, but there are still some cautions associated with its use. There are rare side effects that have been documented. These include headache, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and upset stomach. As of November 2010, there were no published studies indicating any adverse side effects associated with long-term use of saw palmetto extract. Research has seemed to indicate an efficacious relationship between saw palmetto and prostate health.

It is critical that any herbal supplement, including saw palmetto extract, is purchased from a reputable source. This is especially important in countries where supplements are not regulated. It is wise for one to research the potency and purity of supplements before purchasing them. Additionally, it is considered prudent for one to seek a doctor's counsel before taking any supplementation and to advise him or her of all medicines and supplements that are being taken on a regular basis.

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