Supplement Spotlight: Saw Palmetto

What is saw palmetto? Saw palmetto is a tree native to the southeast coast of North America and the Caribbean. Growing to a height of 6 to 10 feet, it is also known as the American dwarf palm tree. It has thorn-shaped leaves that are spread out like a fan and produces maroon-coloured oblong berries, which provide medicinal properties.[1]

Health benefits of saw palmetto

Saw palmetto is best known for being a men’s health supplement. According to Health Canada, saw palmetto is “used in Herbal Medicine to help relieve the urologic symptoms associated with mild to moderate benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).”[2] 

What is BPH?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a common, non-cancerous condition of the prostate. It is an enlargement of the prostate that is caused by an overgrowth of cells (called hyperplasia) around the urethra. By age 70, almost all men will have some prostate enlargement. Although BPH doesn’t increase the risk of prostate cancer, it can cause unpleasant symptoms. When an enlarged prostate puts pressure on the urethra and bladder, it causes urination problems.[3]

What are the symptoms of BPH?

BPH can cause any of the following symptoms:

  • blood in the urine
  • difficulty controlling the bladder (incontinence)
  • difficulty passing urine
  • difficulty starting urine stream
  • more frequent urination, especially at night
  • sudden urge to urinate
  • slow urine stream
  • Inability to empty the bladder completely, which can lead to urinary tract infections and bladder stones³

Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid taking with saw palmetto?

There are no contra-indications for any other supplements or medications.²

Is there anything else I should know about taking saw palmetto?  

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to consult with your doctor first for a proper diagnosis of BPH and to ensure that the symptoms are not caused by another more serious medical condition such as prostate cancer. As when taking any supplement, if your symptoms persist or worsen, please consult with your healthcare practitioner.²

 

[1] Natural Medicines Database. Saw Palmetto. Accessed Oct 8, 2019 at: https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=971

[2] Health Canada. (2018). Saw Palmetto – Serenoa Repens Monograph. Accessed Oct 8, 2019 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=saw.palmetto.sabal&lang=eng

[3] Canadian Cancer Society. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Accessed Oct 9, 2019 at: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/prostate/prostate-cancer/benign-prostatic-hyperplasia/?region=bc