Evidence

These uses have been tested in humans or animals.  Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven.  Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Key to grades

A
Strong scientific evidence for this use
B
Good scientific evidence for this use
C
Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D
Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work)
F
Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work)

Grading rationale

Evidence gradeCondition to which grade level applies
A

Enlarged prostate

Saw palmetto has been long been used to treat enlarged prostate. According to a report, more than two million American men use saw palmetto for enlarged prostate, and it is often recommended as an alternative therapy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many studies report that saw palmetto may be as effective as the hormonal agent finasteride (Proscar®) and may cause fewer side effects when used to treat bladder problems. Most studies used the saw palmetto product Permixon®. Although more recent research failed to find significant benefits of saw palmetto, the available evidence suggests that it may be an effective treatment for enlarged prostate.
C

Hair loss

Saw palmetto may block some hormonal effects and may be an effective treatment for hair loss, with benefits similar to the agent finasteride (Propecia®), when applied to the scalp. Early research suggests that saw palmetto may improve hair density, but evidence is limited at this time. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.
C

Preparation for surgery (prostate surgery)

Saw palmetto may help the recovery process in patients undergoing prostate surgery. Early research suggests that saw palmetto may improve the effectiveness of surgery, as well as reduce bleeding and duration of catheter use. However, results are conflicting, and more research is needed in this area.
C

Prostate cancer

Saw palmetto is commonly used for many types of prostate problems, including prostate cancer. Research suggests that saw palmetto may block the growth of cancer cells. However, there is limited human research on the effectiveness of saw palmetto for this condition. Evidence is lacking in support of PC-SPES®, a discontinued product that contains saw palmetto, for prostate cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning not to use PC-SPES® because it may contain warfarin and alprazolam, which may cause bleeding.
C

Prostate inflammation

There is conflicting evidence on the use of saw palmetto in treating prostate inflammation. Although some studies report that saw palmetto may improve symptoms, obvious benefit over standard drugs is lacking. Much of the research has focused on saw palmetto as part of a combination therapy. Further research is needed to understand the potential effects of saw palmetto alone.
C

Urination

There is limited evidence on the use of saw palmetto to treat underactive bladder. Available studies are low-quality or use saw palmetto in combination with other therapies. More research is needed in this area.

Uses based on tradition or theory

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Acne, asthma, athletic performance enhancement, bacterial infections, bladder inflammation, breast milk stimulant, breast augmentation, breast reduction, bronchitis, clear sinuses, cough, cystitis, diabetes, diarrhea, diuretic, dysentery, Epstein-Barr virus, hair growth (excess), high blood pressure, hormone imbalances (estrogen or testosterone), immune stimulation, impotence, indigestion, inflammation, laryngitis, menstrual pain, migraine headache, muscle or intestinal spasms, ovarian cysts, pain, pelvic congestive syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, postnasal drip, reproductive organ problems, sedation, sexual dysfunction, sore throat, sperm production, testicular atrophy, upper respiratory tract infection, urethritis, urinary antiseptic, urinary tract disorders, uterine disorders, vaginal disorders.

This evidence-based monograph was prepared by The Natural Standard Research Collaboration

www.naturalstandard.com