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Saw Palmetto

Treatment Overview

Saw palmetto is a type of palm tree that grows in the southeastern United States.

The berry of the saw palmetto plant contains a compound that may reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include dribbling after urination and getting up many times during the night to urinate. Some people also use it for chronic pelvic pain, hair loss, migraine, and other conditions.

From the 1870s until 1950, saw palmetto was a common treatment for prostate and other urinary problems. It is still used in Europe as a treatment for BPH and is approved by the German Commission E. The Commission E evaluates herbal treatments for their safety and efficacy (how well they work).

In Canada, saw palmetto is available as a natural health product.

Why It Is Used

Saw palmetto is most often used for symptoms of an enlarged prostate (BPH). Experts disagree on whether saw palmetto improves symptoms of BPH.

Risks

Few problems have been reported among men taking saw palmetto. But some people may experience stomach problems.

Men who have problems urinating should see a doctor to rule out prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is treatable, but treatment may be more successful when you find and treat the cancer as early as possible.

The Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, regulates natural health products in Canada. Natural health products, including saw palmetto, must be reviewed and approved by the NNHPD before they can be sold in Canada.

Always tell your doctor if you are using a natural health product or if you are thinking about combining a natural health product with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a natural health product.

When using natural health products, keep in mind the following:

  • Like conventional medicines, natural health products may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and non-prescription medicines or other natural health products you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or natural health product may make other health conditions worse.
  • Natural health products may not be standardized in their manufacturing. This means that how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
  • The long-term effects of most Natural health products, other than vitamins and minerals, are not known. Many Natural health products are not used long-term.

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