Saw Palmetto Summary:

Saw palmetto is most famous for its ability to tone the male reproductive system. it's used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, male pattern baldness, and as a male aphrodisiac.  Other uses include respiratory complaints and infection, urinary infection, and inflammation. It is the seeds of this palm tree that are used. 

You can find saw palmetto in a variety of formats, but the best is considered to be the liposteric extract. This extract contains the vast majority of the medicinal components in an easy to use, concentrated format. 

The Eclectics called saw palmetto "old mans friend" for its ability to target many of the most common conditions met by the older male population. Respiratory infections, low libido, BPH, and male pattern baldness to name a few. 

Botanical Name

Serenoa repens

Serenoa serrulata



Part Used


Herbal Actions:

[1, 9, 10]

  • Antinflammatory
  • Male tonic
  • Antiprostatic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antiandrogenic
  • Spermatogenic
  • Aromatase Inhibitor
  • Antiprostatic
  • 5-Alpha-Reductase Inhibitor
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Urinary Antiseptic


[1, 10, 11]

Liposterolic Extract (8:1)

320 mg/day

Infusion (1:20)

Not effective. the main medicinal components are hydrophobic in nature.

Dry Herb Equivalent:

1.5-3 g/day

Liquid Extract (1:2)

2-5 mL/day

Tincture (1:5)

5-12.5 mg/day

A Note On Long-Term usage

Saw palmetto is safe to use for long term and is most often used for long periods of time to elicit the best results.

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[1, 10, 11]

+ Male Reproductive System

  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
  • After BPH surgery
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Atrophy of sexual tissues
  • As an aphrodisiac
  • Male pattern baldness (topical
  • Low sperm count
  • Poor sperm morphology
  • Low libido (men)
  • Urinary tract infections

+ Other

  • Inflammation of the respiratory tract
  • Inflammation of the urinary tract
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Cystitis

Common Names:

  • Saw Palmetto
  • Palmier de l'Amerique du Nord (France)
  • Savpalme (Denmark)

Traditional Uses:

In traditional medical systems, the berry of saw palmetto has generally been associated with the prostate gland. [1]. 

Other traditional uses includes respiratory complaints, especially in the presence of chronic cattarh, genitourinary infections and inflammation, inflammation of the breast or testes, and as an aphrodisiac for both males and females. [1]. 

The Eclectics described saw palmetto as "the old mans friend" for its ability to treat chronic respiratory conditions and problems with the prostate. [1]. 

The British herbal pharmocopaeia lists saw palmetto as a diuretic, urinary antiseptic, endocrine agent, and anabolic agent useful for cystitis (chronic or subacute), prostatic hypertrophy, genito-urinary catarrh, testicular atrophy, and sex hormone disorders [9]. 

    Botanical Description:

    Saw palmetto is a small shrub contained in the palmae (palm) family. 

    The common name "saw palmetto" refers to the saw like teeth on the petioles of this palm species. the teeth are very sharp and have the tendency of cutting the skin of those who brush against it. 

    The fruit is a dark colored drupe that contains a single seed. This is the part mainly used medicinally for this species. [1]. 

    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Saw palmetto is native to the Southeastern regions of North America [1, 9]. 

    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    Saw palmetto extracts are generally made from the dried berries, and extracted using 90% ethanol, hexane, or supercritical carbon dioxide. Modern extractions often target the liposterolic extract due to much of the latest research pointing at this fraction as having the highest medicinal value [1]. 

    The higher ethanol extracts will have the highest liposterolic extraction rates and re recommended for use medicinally [1]. 


    Free fatty acids (lauric, myristic, palmitic, and oleic acids), triglycerides, diglycerides, monoglycerides, phytosterols (mainly beta-sitosterol), fatty alcohols, lipase, flavonoids, and polysaccharides, methyl and ethy; esters (contribute to the berries characteristic scent and flavor),  [1]. 


    Liposterolic Extract

    A liposterolic extract which is commonly used today contains 85% to 95% fatty acids, and 0.2% - 0.4% sterols. the flavonoid content is likely to fluctuate depending on the extraction method and is suggested to be highest in the 90% ethanol extract [1]. 

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

    + Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

    BPH is a slow progressing, non-cancerous, enlargement of the fibromuscular and epithelial structures of the prostate. It is mainly caused by the proliferation of the stromal and epithelial cells. This can eventually lead to an impediment or occlusion of the urethra and cause difficulty with urination. This condition varies greatly from person to person, but generally occurs in older age (roughly 50% of men 60 years old and 90% of men aged 85). [1].

    The wide variability of this condition makes it hard to treat and poorly understood. Several prominent theories regarding the cause of this condition have been put forward involving insulin and prolactin levels, sex hormone levels, stem cells, growth factors, irritation and smooth muscle spasming [1].

    One of the main theories as of late is that BPH is caused by an immune mediated inflammatory disease brought on by an infection or autoimmunity. [1].

    Keeping all of this in mind can help us understand why saw palmetto works so well for this condition. It is well studied for this condition, and numerous studies have found evidence towards the effectiveness of saw palmetto towards this condition. [1, 3-8 ].

    One of the main theories regarding the success of saw palmetto towards BPH is through an inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase. This protein converts free testosterone (not bound to SHBG) 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone which is roughly 5 times as to potent as testosterone. [1, 2].



    No long term restrictions have been noted throughout the literature. 



    • Caution of adulterated saw palmetto products with other fatty acids such as olive oil, palm oil [1]. 
    • Prostate cancer should be ruled out before long term application of Saw palmetto as it could mask the symptoms of this condition [1]. 
    • Saw palmetto is considered safe to use during pregnancy, although unlikely to be needed [1]. 


    Still compiling research. 

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    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: May 2017

    Recent Blog Posts:


    1. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China.
    2. Sultan, C., Terraza, A., Devillier, C., Carilla, E., Briley, M., Loire, C., & Descomps, B. (1984). Inhibition of androgen metabolism and binding by a liposterolic extract of “Serenoa repens B” in human foreskin fibroblasts.Journal of steroid biochemistry, 20(1), 515-519.
    3. Stenger, A., Tarayre, J. P., & Carilla, F. (1982). Etude pharmacologique et biochimique de l'extrait hexanique de serenoa repens. B: Gaz Med de France, 89, 2041-2048.
    4. Otto, U., Wagner, B., Becker, H., Schroder, S., & Klosterhalfen, H. (1992). Transplantation of human benign hyperplastic prostate tissue into nude mice: first results of systemic therapy. Urologia internationalis, 48(2), 167-170.
    5. Vela-Navarrete, R., Escribano-Burgos, M., Farre, A. L., Garcia-Cardoso, J., Manzarbeitia, F., & Carrasco, C. (2005). Serenoa repens treatment modifies bax/bcl-2 index expression and caspase-3 activity in prostatic tissue from patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. The Journal of urology, 173(2), 507-510.
    6. Grasso, M., Montesano, A., Buonaguidi, A., Castelli, M., Lania, C., Rigatti, P., ... & Borghi, C. (1994). Comparative effects of alfuzosin versus Serenoa repens in the treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia.Archivos españoles de urología, 48(1), 97-103.
    7. Carraro, J. C., Raynaud, J. P., Koch, G., Chisholm, G. D., Di Silverio, F., Teillac, P., ... & Hanus, M. (1996). Comparison of phytotherapy (Permixon®) with finasteride in the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia: a randomized international study of 1,098 patients. The Prostate, 29(4), 231-240.
    8. Hızlı, F., & Uygur, M. C. (2007). A prospective study of the efficacy of Serenoa repens, tamsulosin, and Serenoa repens plus tamsulosin treatment for patients with benign prostate hyperplasia. International urology and nephrology, 39(3), 879-886.
    9. British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.
    10. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a., MO: Churchill Livingstone.
    11. Blumenthal, M., Brinckmann, J., & Wollschlaeger, B. (2003). The ABC clinical guide to herbs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council.