Don’t take saw palmetto to relieve urinary problems caused by an enlarged prostate. Derived from berries of the saw palm tree, saw palmetto has been the object of much study, with some promising results.
However, the largest and longest study so far, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has confirmed that this herb doesn’t help. It tested several doses of a high-quality standardized extract in 357 middle-aged men with moderate urinary symptoms over a 72-week period.
Even at three times the standard 320-milligram dose, the saw palmetto extract did not reduce symptoms any better than a placebo.
While some early research suggested benefits, a randomized trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 showed no real effect on symptoms in men with moderate to severe BPH who took saw palmetto for one year: It did not increase urinary flow or decrease prostate size.
If you do decide to try saw palmetto anyway, talk with your doctor about it. As with all herbal treatments, you can’t be sure what you’re getting when you buy these supplements, and no one knows what the optimal dose is. Do not take saw palmetto if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking a blood thinner. It may not be safe to take it with finasteride or some other BPH drugs.
Selenium, lycopene, nettles, royal palm, reishi mushrooms and various pumpkin-seed extracts also are touted for BPH symptoms, but there is no credible evidence they help.