Saw Palmetto

From WikiMD

Common Names: saw palmetto, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm

Latin Names: Serenoa repens, Serenoa serrulata, Sabal serrulata


  • Saw palmetto is a small palm tree native to the southeastern United States. Its fruit was used medicinally by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
  • Currently, saw palmetto is used as a dietary supplement for urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate gland (also called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH), as well as for chronic pelvic pain, decreased sex drive, migraine, hair loss, and other conditions.
  • Extracts of the fruit of saw palmetto are used in tablets or capsules. Saw palmetto has also been used as ground, dried, or whole berries, a liquid extract, or a tea.

Information about Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is a popular herbal medication and extract derived from the fruit of the low growing, small palm, Serenoa repens, which has fan shaped leaves and is native to Florida and the Southeast United States. 

Saw Palmetto & Honey Bee
Saw Palmetto & Honey Bee

Clinical use of Saw Palmetto

Currently, saw palmetto is used mostly for symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy. 

Liver safety of Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto has been implicated in rare cases of clinically apparent liver injury, but its specific role in causing liver injury remains uncertain.  

Mechanism of action of Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is a widely used herbal derived from the fruit of the low growing bushy palm of the same name (Serenoa repens).  Native Americans used saw palmetto fruit both as a food as well as an herbal remedy with multiple uses, including as a sedative, diuretic, sleeping aid, expectorant and cough suppressant, aid to lactation, infertility, indigestion and urinary problems. 

Use in herbal medicine

Currently, saw palmetto is one of the most widely used herbal medications and is used largely for symptomatic benign prostatic hypertrophy.  Saw palmetto is available in multiple formulations including liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, and as an herbal tea. 

Active ingredient

The active components of palmetto extracts are believed to be the volatile oils and free fatty acids which have activity in inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase and the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotesterone, which has been demonstrated in vitro, but not in human studies. 

Dosage and administration for Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is available in multiple over-the-counter preparations often in combination with other herbals or dietary supplements, and most commonly for symptoms of urinary hesitancy, urgency or burning. 

Side effects of Saw Palmetto

Side effects of saw palmetto are uncommon and mild and may include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea.  In most randomized controlled clinical trials, side effects were no more frequent with saw palmetto than with placebo therapy.

Saw Palmetto blooming
Saw Palmetto blooming


  • Rigorous, well-conducted studies have evaluated saw palmetto for urinary tract symptoms associated with prostate enlargement in men.
  • Much less is known about the use of saw palmetto as a dietary supplement for other health purposes or by other groups of people.
  • The scientific evidence does not support using saw palmetto for any health condition.
  • High-quality scientific studies have shown that saw palmetto is no more effective than a placebo (an inactive substance) in relieving urinary tract symptoms caused by prostate enlargement. These studies include a 2011 NIH-funded study that tested saw palmetto in amounts up to three times the usual dose.


  • Saw palmetto is well tolerated by most users. It may cause mild side effects, including digestive symptoms or headache.
  • Saw palmetto does not appear to affect readings of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, even when taken in higher-than-usual amounts. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland. PSA levels have been used to screen for prostate cancer and are also used to monitor patients who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  • Saw palmetto has not been shown to interact with medications.
  • Information on the safety of saw palmetto comes primarily from studies in men. Little is known about the safety or side effects of saw palmetto in women or children.
Honey Bee on Saw Palmetto
Honey bees help pollinate the venerable Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) and then later enjoy the nutritious oils on the mature fruit


In short term clinical trials, saw palmetto appeared to be beneficial in improving symptoms of prostatic hypertrophy, but it had no effects on prostate size or serum prostatic specific antigen (PSA) levels.  In longer term studies, the benefit of saw palmetto in improving urinary symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy was less clear. 

Herbal and dietary supplements

Chinese and Other Asian Herbal Medicines

Multi-Ingredient Nutritional Supplements

See also Nutritional supplements

Comprehensive list of common dietary supplements with detailed product information including brand name, how it is supplied, net contents, product ID etc, sorted alphabetically.

List of dietary supplements sorted alphabetically


Dietary supplements






















Herbal and dietary supplements

Chinese and Other Asian Herbal Medicines

Multi-Ingredient Nutritional Supplements

See also Nutritional supplements


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