Saw palmetto is an herb that has been used as a tonic, antiseptic and expectorant as well as a treatment for enlarged prostate. It is taken from the berries of a variety of dwarf palm tree that is native to Southern California, along with other southern coastal regions of the United States. It began to see popularity during World War II, when people used it to increase sexual stamina, libido, and sperm production. Although interest waned in the 1950s, there was a resurgence of interest in the 1990s, and saw palmetto continues to be used as an herbal supplement to treat hormonal balances in both women and men.
Although not regulated by the FDA, this palmetto is thought by many to effectively treat urinary difficulties that are a result of prostate enlargement, or Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH). It is a common treatment in Europe to treat BPH, and has been proven effective there for promoting normal, healthy urination. This is thought to be because the supplement reduces swelling and inflammation in the prostate gland, as well as limiting the absorption of testosterone in the prostate.
Since saw palmetto blocks absorption of testosterone in the prostate and has other hormonal effects. The herb is used for other hormonal disorders, such as acne, male baldness, low libido, low sperm count, PMS, and other reproductive issues, with varying effectiveness.
Saw palmetto is available as an herbal supplement as well as in teas. However, it does not dissolve well in tea, as the extract is an oil extracted from the tree's berries, and the oil does not blend well into water. The usual daily dose is 320 mg of saw palmetto extract or between one and two grams of crushed berries. Potency of this herb varies, but is is recommended that it contains 80 to 90% liposterolic content.
There are not many serious side effects associated with saw palmetto. The most common side effect is diarrhea or upset stomach, which is reduced or eliminated when the herb is taken with food. There have been a few reports that this supplement has caused erection difficulty, severe bleeding, changes in libido, or breast tenderness. Individuals who have bleeding or clotting disorders or hormone-related conditions should talk to their physicians before taking it.