The Supplement Guide
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Saw Palmetto

General Description


Saw Palmetto is a supplement that is sold as an extract in either liquid or freeze dried form (as capsules.) The supplement is which is extracted from the fruit of the Saw Palmetto Plant.


The fatty acids and phytotesterols in the extract are said to help in the treatment of male urinary tract infections, swelling of the prostrate tissues and also in the prevention of prostate cancer.


Prostrate problems what the supplement is most commonly used to treat in North America although it does have other therapeutic uses.


Sources of The Supplement 


Saw Palmetto, also known as Seronoa repens is a small palm that grows in clumps or thickets in sandy coastal lands and in pinewoods and hard wood forests.


The plant itself is what is known as a fan palm. It has one or two inches long leaves that spray forth from slender stems that grow in thickets.  The extract that is used to make Saw Palmetto supplements is extracted from the fruit of this plant, which is large, burgundy colored and pitted. Structurally the fruit resembles an elongated, prickly pear with a very thick skin.


Currently there are a lot of studies being done on Saw Palmetto and that has encouraged it’s cultivars to produce more than ever -- especially in the United states Florida is the biggest commercial producer of Saw Palmetto.  The plant is also naturally abundant in that state although it can also be found growing wild from the southeast coastline of South Caroline and southeaster to Georgia to Southern Mississippi. 


Saw Palmetto is also cultivated as a crop in Texas, Mexico and the Caribbean where it is not a naturalized plant.


Historically, the fruit of this common palm was used by the Native American Indians as an aphrodisiac and anti-depressant and also to treat uro-genital and respiratory problems.


Common Uses


The benefits of using Saw Palmetto are claimed to be:


  • Libido boosting (it is also often marketed as an aphrodisiac and is used to treat impotence and frigidity)
  • Anabolic (it is marketed as a supplement to build muscles tissue)
  • Treating chronic bronchitis, coughs, chest congestion and asthma
  • Stimulating breast growth in women by suppressing the function of androgens
  • Treating prostate conditions
  • Preventing prostrate conditions
  • Balding
  • A treatment for anxiety


Of the above claims only the prostrate claims seem to be backed up by contemporary scientific studies that have been completed and published in the last twenty years.  However the supplement’s reputation for being an aphrodisiac, lean muscle tissue and treating bronchitis have been well known for many years in Europe.


The supplement is not primarily known as a treatment for anxiety in this day and age but in the eighteenth century European settlers in Virginia and Florida noticed that the fruit had the ability to calm nervous and anxious disorders. It is likely that today Saw Palmetto’s anti-anxiety and anti-depressant qualities have been overshadowed by herbs that are more commonly promoted as treatments for nervous conditions such as Valerian and St. John’s Wort.  As the fruit of this palm does contain a lot of essential fatty acids there is reason to believe that this claim could be supported as fatty acids support brain function and improve mood.


The cure for balding is alleged to be due to the fatty acids in the herb that inhibit the production of dihydrotesterone (also known as DHT).  This substance converts into a substance that causes hair loss and also the multiplication of cells in the prostrate gland.  Anything that combats the production of DHT is good for anti-aging and both balding and prostrate problems are definitely symptoms of growing older in men.


Saw Palmetto is taken to help conditions that affect the prostrate and in particular, benign prostrate enlargement. It is also thought to help prevent prostrate cancer. However keep in mind studies on the effects of saw palmetto on prostrate cancer have only been done in test tubes and not on humans.


In particular, saw palmetto can help allay symptoms such as painful urination, frequent urination and also help increase the amount of urine that is excreted at one time. It is also used to prevent the dribbling of urine from the penis as the result of the urethra narrowing due to prostrate enlargement.


Numerous studies has so far shown that saw palmetto extract does have some value when it comes to alleviating the urinary symptoms associated with benign prostrate enlargement and urinary tract infections in males.

Men have been taking Saw Palmetto extract for years to try as a preventative measure against prostrate cancer. In 1994, The Life Extension Foundation was one of the first organizations to publish an article about this matter.


It was a German study reported on by LEF that initiated the trend to take Saw Palmetto for prostrate problems. This German study was the first to determine definitively that this supplement exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on prostate tissue. Saw palmetto extract works by strongly inhibiting proinflammatory acids that are characteristic of the disease. 


Individuals with painful or difficult urination who participated in this German study. saw their urinary flow increase from 24.9% to 62.5%.  88% of the men who participated reported some kind of benefit from taking the supplement.


More recently, on December 13, 2000, a presentation made by researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Boston at convention for the American Society for Cell Biology concluded that saw palmetto inhibits prostate cancer cell growth in a test tube. At this convention the researchers described how they used the extract to slow the growth of prostrate cancer cells and how this substance was five times more effective then anything else they used to try and combat the prostrate cancer cells.


Two studies, one in France and one in Germany have also concluded that taking Saw Palmetto is almost as effective at relieving the symptoms for men who suffer from prostrate enlargement (also known as BPH or Benign Prostrate Hyperplasia.) as a commonly prescribed prescription drug called Finasteride.


This of course bodes well for sufferers of prostrate conditions as usually saw palmetto is very well tolerated by the men who take it. It is also very inexpensive and costs about seven times less then the medication that is typically prescribed for this problem.
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