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Saw Palmetto

Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening. The following is a list of things that you should be aware of before using saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). These are referred to as drug/herb interactions.

Warning 1 - Contraindications:Saw palmetto is counterindicated for use in children, during pregnancy, lactation and for those with breast cancer.

Warning 2 - Hormone therapy: Saw palmetto may antagonize and interfere with hormone therapy.

Warning 3 - Immunosuppressants: Saw palmetto may increase or decrease the effect of immunosuppressants. Use with immunosuppressants is counterindicated.

Warning 4 - NSAIDs: Concurrent use of saw palmetto with NSAIDs may lead to increased bleeding time. Experts recommend that saw palmetto and NSAIDs should NOT be used concurrently.

Warning 5 - Antiplatelet agents: This herb may lead to increased bleeding when taken concurrently with antiplatelet agents.

Warning 6 - Anticoagulants: Saw palmetto has a drug interaction with anticoagulants - may potentiate anticoagulant effect of salicylants. Talk to your doctor if you use anticoagulants.

Warning 7 - Hyperthyroidism: Due to its potential hormonal effects, saw palmetto may induce or worsen an overactive thyroid.

Used as a natural health remedy Saw palmetto is used for the following benefits:
  • Relieves the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia, stages I and II.
  • Used as a treatment slow or stop hair loss.
  • Helps nourish the urinary tract and kidneys.
  • Helps to treat acne.
  • Regulates the sex hormones.
  • Promotes reproductive strength.
  • Helps the growth of new body tissue, especially reproductive tissue.
  • Supports the normal development and activity of the reproductive organs.
  • Beneficial for colds, asthma, mucus and lung conditions.
  • Stimulates the appetite and can help people to regain weight.
  • Beneficial in cases of thyroid deficiency (underactive thyroid).
  • This herb was used by Native American men to increase sexual vigor (aphrodisiac) and by women to firm the breasts.

Side Effects of Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto is a safe herb for most people. There have been a few cases of minor side effects which include:
  1. Diarrhea
  2. Heart palpitations
  3. Stomach upset
  4. GI disturbances
Other side effects may may also occur when taking saw palmetto internally. (See form below)

As with any herb, a serious allergic reaction is possible. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. These may include a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.

Saw palmetto is a member of the palm family (Arecaceae). It is native to the West Indies and the Atlantic Coast of North America, from South Carolina to Florida. The plant can grow to a height of 20 feet (6.10 m), with leaves up to 3 feet (0.914 m) across. The fleshy blue-black berries are about 0.75 inch (1.9 cm) in diameter. Saw palmetto berries contain sterols and lipids, including relatively high concentrations of free and bound sitosterols. The following chemicals have been identified in the berries: anthranilic acid, capric acid, caproic acid, caprylic acid, -carotene, ferulic acid, mannitol, beta-sitosterol, beta-sitosterol-D-glucoside, linoleic acid, myristic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, 1-monolaurin and 1-monomyristin.

When taken orally saw palmetto has a terminal distribution half-life of 129 hours. The active phytosterols are slowly excreted in the bile. This means that it may take up to 27 days for the body to completely clear saw palmetto form the system.

Return to the Herb List.

For questions and answers about the side effects of herbs see the Herb Forum

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This consumer advocate website is protected by copyright 2011 Askdocweb, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This is a layman's report on Saw Palmetto and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. Do not use the information on this forum as a substitute for your doctor's advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any drug and follow your doctor's directions. Askdocweb, Inc. may be paid a commission on products sold through links to other websites. For more information see FTC Disclaimer. Source material: Food and Drug Administration, Medline, Physician's Desk Reference, and the largest community of people in the world, those who are concerned about side effects and healthcare.
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