Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens/Sabal serrulata) is a palm like plant that has white flowers, which produce yellow berries. The berries turn brownish black when ripe and are dried for medicinal use. In the early 1900s, men used the berries to treat urinary tract problems, and even to increase sperm production and boost libido. Today, the primary use of saw palmetto is to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. Researchers aren’t sure exactly how saw palmetto works, but it contains plant-based chemicals that may be effective for BPH. Researchers think that saw palmetto may affect the level of testosterone in the body, and perhaps reduce the amount of an enzyme that promotes the growth of prostate cells. Saw palmetto is often combined with nettle extract to treat BPH.
Nearly every man over the age of 45 has some enlargement of the prostate gland, the small male sex glands that encircle the urethra. Enlargement and inflammation of the prostate can hinder urine flow and affect sexual function. Frequent night-time urination, pain, burning and difficulty with urination are all symptoms of BPH. Conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone is a chemical reaction that contributes to prostate enlargement and its symptoms. Saw palmetto extract may inhibit this chemical reaction. Although primarily used for prostate problems in men, this extract may also benefit women who have conditions caused by excess androgen, such as hirsutism (excess facial hair) and polycystic ovarian disease.