Saw palmetto is an herb comprised of fatty acids and derived from the berries of a North American palm-like tree. It is used to inhibit the hormone DHT, which is produced by testosterone. The most common use for saw palmetto is as treatment for an enlarged prostate in men. The herb is also marketed as an aphrodisiac, to treat genital and reproductive system problems, and to build muscle mass. Despite containing some medical properties, saw palmetto can have dangerous side effects and drug interactions if not used under the supervision of a medical professional.


Some research suggests, as stated by InteliHealth, that the herb "may improve symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy, such as urine flow and burning with urination." More studies have researched the herb in connection with reducing hair loss from aging and hormones, and urinary disorders. Because of the limited amount of studies and questions regarding the procedures used during such research, this information is not considered to be conclusive.

Suggested Uses

The use of saw palmetto to treat medical issues has been widespread throughout Europe but only recently gained popularity in the United States, where the only herb-bearing palms grow.

Suggested uses for the herb include, but are not limited to, treatment for enlarged prostate, impotence, urinary disorders, hair loss, muscle loss, persistent coughs and digestive problems.


Many people incorrectly assume that all herbs are safe because they are natural, but this is false. Herbs are not as strictly governed by the Food and Drug Administration as pharmaceutical drugs. Claims do not necessarily have to be substantiated, and health risks are not always labeled.

There is a potential hazard to those with an allergy to saw palmetto. In certain individuals who take the herb, trouble breathing might occur as well as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and other severe symptoms. If any of these symptoms occur, you should stop use of the herb immediately and seek medical assistance.

Drug Interactions

Because saw palmetto affects hormones, any drug used to reduce or increase hormones might cause an adverse reaction. Women who are on birth control pills or patches should refrain from using the herb. Saw palmetto also limits blood's natural ability to clot and should not be used with drugs that cause an increased risk of bleeding, such as aspirin, Coumadin, Plavix, Motrin and others.

Saw palmetto is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties and might conflict with other anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drugs. Blood pressure medicine should also be avoided in conjunction with the herb.


Saw palmetto has been used for many years to treat a variety of medical conditions; however, women should weigh the perceived benefit with the health risks associated with this herb. Consult your physician before beginning any herbal regimen.

About the Author

April Ort

April Ort began writing in 2007. he has more than 15 years experience in the financial industry, has held a travel agent license and has interviewed a variety of celebrities. Ort is currently working in the health-care industry as an operational trainer and completing her Bachelor of Science in communications with a focus on journalism.