Veterinarian Reviewed on June 5, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
Saw palmetto is an extract of the fruit that comes from a plant called Serenoa Repens. This plant looks similar to a small palm and has yellow flowers and red fruit. It is the fruit from which the saw palmetto extract is derived.
History Of Saw Palmetto Uses
The use of Saw Palmetto as both a food and a medicine goes back hundreds of years. The Aboriginal Americans both ate this fruit as part of their normal diet and also used it to treat problems of both the urinary tract and reproductive system. The Mayans made a tonic of this fruit which they used as a treatment for an array of problems and the Seminoles would use the berries as an expectorant and an anti-septic. These berries are rich in fatty acids and phytosterols.
Like most natural medicines used by various groups throughout history interest in the Saw Palmetto waned with the advancement of modern medicine. However, with so many man made medicines having such extremely negative side effects, a return to nature’s medicines now called alternative medicine has seen the rise in interest in saw palmetto once more.
What Saw Palmetto Is Used For Today
Saw palmetto is now being used as an ingredient in several alternative medicine products and does show promise in helping with some specific problems such as the treatment of acne and male patterned baldness. However, because the professional medical community still tends to look at what they consider as “Witch doctor treatments” as ineffective and useless, studies to determine just how helpful the Saw Palmetto may be in the treatment of various ailments are slow in coming, leaving only anecdotal reports as any indication that this plant may offer any medical value.
Nevertheless this product is sold as an ingredient in products that are used for breast enhancement and prostate problems and may soon be showing up in more acne and baldness treatment products as well. While there are no studies showing that Saw Palmetto can have a positive effective on any of these conditions there are also no studies showing that it doesn’t.
Is Saw Palmetto Safe?
While Saw Palmetto is usually considered safe it can have negative side effects when taken with other medications and may even be addictive when taken with anti-androgen drugs. It can also interfere with the effectiveness of birth control medications. It should also not be taken by pregnant women or those breast feeding.
In fact, Saw Palmetto or any other herb for that matter should not be taken by anyone with any type of health problem without seeking the advice of a medical or naturopathic professional. While in most cases this product will do no harm it is always best to be sure before taking any supplement.
Saw Palmetto does show a great deal of promise as a medicinal or at least cosmetic aid. However, clinical studies need to be done in order to determine just what conditions or health issues it can effectively treat and what amount of the extract is needed to get the best results. Until this is done, Saw Palmetto will remain just another alternative medical treatment that may or may not provide positive results for those taking it.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan