Nutrition Action Healthletter
Center for Science in the Public InterestSeptember 2000 — U.S. Edition 

 Saw Palmetto-More Information

Does saw palmetto relieve the symptoms of an enlarged prostate?

In April, 2000, the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) reviewed the nine best-designed trials of saw palmetto and concluded that “these studies provide evidence of moderate scientific quality that commercial extracts of saw palmetto at a dose of 160 mg twice a day are more effective than a placebo in relieving lower urinary tract symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia including frequency, urgency, dysuria, nocturia, and impaired urinary flow. These effects are reported to begin within 30 days of treatment and to continue through at least 6 months, the longest period studied to date... Saw palmetto extracts do not significantly affect prostatic size or reduce PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels in the blood; nor do they appear to alter sexual function. Common side effects are mild and not consistently different from those reported in patients on placebo. No serious adverse events are known to be associated with saw palmetto.”

    For the USP announcement and a summary of their review

    For a copy of their full Monograph on saw palmetto. Follow the instructions on the webpage (the copy is free).

    For the Medline abstract of the large trial comparing saw palmetto with finasteride (Proscar), which concluded that “both treatments relieve the symptoms of BPH [benign prostatic hypertrophy] in about two-thirds of patients,”

Quality of saw palmetto products tested 27 leading brands of saw palmetto products purchased at the end of 1999. Twenty-one of the 27 claimed to contain 85 percent fatty acids, the concentration used in the successful studies of saw palmetto. Of these 21 brands, 17 passed laboratory analysis.  (Bear in mind that their results are based on testing only one sample of each brand and that the Web site does not disclose the names of brands that failed their testing. However, the site does update its listings, as companies arrange to have their products analyzed.)

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