It is a promising herbal remedy, a common sight in the natural supplements aisle of your pharmacy. Principally, men use it most because it is believed to reduce a swollen prostate. But sometimes alternative health news isn’t so rosy, and Doctors Health Press must let you know: saw palmetto may not be the best bet for the prostate.
A new study, in the prestigious “Journal of the American Medical Association” found that saw palmetto does not relieve symptoms of an enlarged prostate, even when taken in very high doses.
Many older U.S. men take saw palmetto extract in an attempt to reduce bothersome symptoms of a swollen prostate, including frequent urination and a sense of urgency. Its use in Europe is even more widespread, because doctors often recommend saw palmetto over traditional drugs.
Medically, the condition is called “benign prostatic hyperplasia” (BPH). If a man lives long enough, he will develop an enlarged prostate. It is exceedingly common. For saw palmetto, earlier studies have produced conflicting results. And none had evaluated the herb in high doses.
So, in the new study, men took up to three times the standard dose. It included more than 300 men aged 45 and older who had moderate symptoms, such as frequent urination, difficulty emptying their bladders, and a weak urine stream. They received a daily dose of saw palmetto extract, beginning at 320 milligrams, or placebo.
After 24 weeks, the saw palmetto dosage was increased to 640 milligrams a day, and after another 24 weeks, to 960 milligrams a day — triple the standard dose. In all, men took saw palmetto or a placebo for nearly 17 months. The researchers found that among men who took saw palmetto, prostate problems improved slightly, but not more than in men taking a placebo.
About half of all men over age 50 have BPH, which becomes more common as men age. If urination becomes difficult or painful, patients should visit their doctors. They can also look into what may now be the No. 1 natural option: pygeum, another herb.