Saw Palmetto

Scientific names: Serenoa repens

Other common names: American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm, fan palm


Immune Support, Men, Women, Urinary Tract Support

Saw palmetto berries have been used in American folk medicine for several hundred years as an aphrodisiac and fortreating prostate problems. Native Americans in the southeast United States have used saw palmetto since the 1700s to treat male urinary problems.

A pungent tea made from saw palmetto berries was commonly used in the early 1900s to treat prostate enlargement andurinary tract infections. It was also used in men to increase sperm production and sex drive, although these uses arediscounted today. One of the first published medical recommendations that saw palmetto was effective in treating prostateproblems appeared in the 1926 edition of United States Dispensatory.


Saw palmetto is primarily used to treat mild to moderate benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), stages I, II. It is also used to treat chronic and subacute cystitis; to increase breast size, sperm count, sexual potency; and as a mild diuretic.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) Action

Saw palmetto has been studied extensively for its use in the treatment of BPH. The herb has been found to decrease both the symptoms of BPH and the swelling of the prostate. A study of a saw palmetto herbal blend versus a placebo noted a decrease in the symptoms and swelling in moderately symptomatic clients with BPH in the experimental group. Saw palmetto extract was shown to inhibit alpha 1-adrenoceptors, which may be involved in the production of urinary tract symptoms of BPH. Another study found that saw palmetto exerts a significant effect on urine flow rates and that it is able to control symptoms effectively [1].

Active Constituents of Saw Palmetto

Carbohydrates Invert sugar 28.2%, mannitol, high molecular weight polysaccharides (e.g. MW 100 000) with galactose, arabinose and uronic acid(1) identified as main sugar components for one. Fixed oils 26.7%. Many free fatty acids and their glycerides. Monoacylglycerides (1-monolaurin, 1-monomyristicin).(2) Oleic acid (unsaturated) and capric acid, caproic acid, caprylic acid, lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid (saturated). Steroids b-Sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol and other compounds.(3–5) Other constituents Flavonoids (e.g. rutin, isoquercitrin, kaempferol),(5) pigment (carotene), resin, tannin and volatile oil 1.5%. Most commercial preparations of saw palmetto contain lipophilic extracts. [2]


The principle chemical constituents consist of:

Phytosterols, fatty acids, carbohydrates, monoacylglycerides, and selected other compounds. Of these, the probable active compounds are among the phytosterols, fatty acids and their ethyl esters, and monoacylglycerides.

Parts Used


Additional Resources

[1] Skidmore-Roth, L. Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs & Supplements, 3rd ed. St. Louis: Mosby, Inc., Elsevier; 2006:555-557.

[2] Joanne Barnes; Linda A. Anderson; J. David Phillipson. Herbal Medicines, 3rd Ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press 2007:521-529

View Important Precautions

Important Precautions

Not for use during pregnancy or lactation. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.