Saw palmetto is a dietary supplement from the fruit of the saw palmetto plant that grows in the southeastern United States. It contains fatty acids and phytosterols and is used to treat many conditions including issues relating to the prostate, urinary tract, and hormonal changes. Saw palmetto dietary supplements are readily available in drug stores, pharmacies, specialty stores and from Internet retailers. When buying saw palmetto, consumers should be aware of the types of supplements available, the purity level, dosage, interactions with medications, and side effects.
Most saw palmetto supplements are in capsule form. The capsules contain extract from the berries of the saw palmetto plant. Saw palmetto extract can also be purchased as a tablet, dried herb, liquid extract, tea, or topical agent. Only one variety of saw palmetto supplement should be used at one time.
Before buying saw palmetto supplements, read the label carefully for statements of purity, as this product is not regulated. Always purchase saw palmetto products from a trusted source that follows strict pharmaceutical manufacturing standards as some herbal products have been found to contain trace amounts of other drugs, metals, and toxins. Experts recommend buying saw palmetto supplements with at least 80% active ingredients, but the amount of active ingredients can vary between 45% and 95% from different manufacturers.
There is no recommended or maximum dosage established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but manufacturers generally recommend between 320 mg and 1800 mg a day or 15 ml to 30 ml of liquid supplement per week. Consult an herbalist or a doctor to determine the correct dosage. Saw palmetto should be taken with food to avoid nausea.
Before buying saw palmetto, be aware that is has interactions with some prescription and over-the-counter medications. Specifically, saw palmetto has known negative interactions with blood thinners, hormone replacement therapy, garlic supplements, ginkgo biloba, birth control pills, iron supplements, and some pain relievers. Saw palmetto can be taken with zinc and vitamin B6 for a synergistic effect, but some experts advise against buying products that combine saw palmetto with other herbal remedies to avoid a potentially harmful interaction.
Saw palmetto might increase some patient's risk of bleeding. Those with stomach or intestinal ulcers, hemophilia, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, or those preparing for surgery should always consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking saw palmetto. Patients with heart disease, liver disease, or asthma are usually advised to avoid saw palmetto altogether.
Saw palmetto herbal supplements have not been approved by the FDA to treat any medical condition. These supplements are not a substitute for prescription medicines or medical treatment. They may be effective in alleviating certain conditions, but their safety and effectiveness has not been officially evaluated. Manufacturers of saw palmetto products sometimes claim that saw palmetto offers medical benefits that have never been scientifically proven.