Is saw palmetto an effective treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)?

Updated: Feb 19, 2021
  • Author: Levi A Deters, MD; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Extracts of saw palmetto berries are the most popular botanical products for BPH. The active components are believed to be a mixture of fatty acids, phytosterols, and alcohols. The proposed mechanisms of action are antiandrogenic effects, 5-alpha-reductase inhibition, and anti-inflammatory effects.

The recommended dosage is 160 mg orally twice daily. Studies show significant subjective improvement in symptoms without objective improvements in urodynamic parameters. Minimal adverse effects include occasional GI discomfort.

The 2010 AUA guidelines, based on more recent studies, do not detect a clinically meaningful effect of saw palmetto on LUTS. Further clinical trials are underway. [1] In fact, in a double-blind, multicenter, placebo-controlled randomized trial at 11 North American clinical sites, saw palmetto extract was studied at up to 3 times the standard dose on lower urinary tract symptoms attributed to BPH. Saw palmetto extract was no more effective than placebo on the American Urological Association Symptom Index. No clearly attributable adverse effects were identified. Similar to the Saw Palmetto Treatment for Enlarged Prostates (STEP) study, saw palmetto was not found to be beneficial for the treatment of LUTS in men. [36]

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