Saw Palmetto-induced Pancreatitis

Ismaila Jibrin, MD; Ayodele Erinle, MD; Abdulfattah Saidi, MD; Zakari Y. Aliyu, MD


South Med J. 2006;99(6):611-612. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Saw palmetto is a frequently used botanical agent in benign prostatic enlargement (BPH). Although it has been reported to cause cholestatic hepatitis and many medical conditions, Saw palmetto has not been implicated in acute pancreatitis. We report a case of a probable Saw palmetto induced acute hepatitis and pancreatitis.

A 55-year-old reformed alcoholic, sober for greater than 15 years, presented with severe non-radiating epigastric pain associated with nausea and vomiting. His only significant comorbidity is BPH for which he intermittently took Saw palmetto for about four years. Physical examination revealed normal vital signs, tender epigastrium without guarding or rebound tenderness. Cullen and Gray Turner signs were negative. Complete blood count and basic metabolic profile were normal. Additional laboratory values include a serum amylase: 2,152 mmol/L, lipase: 39,346 mmol/L, serum triglyceride: 38 mmol/L, AST: 1265, ALT: 1232 and alkaline phosphatase was 185. Abdominal ultrasound and magnetic resonance cholangiography revealed sludge without stones. A hepatic indole diacetic acid scan was negative. Patient responded clinically and biochemically to withdrawal of Saw palmetto. Two similar episodes of improvements followed by recurrence were noted with discontinuations and reinstitution of Saw Palmetto.

Simultaneous and sustained response of hepatitis and pancreatitis to Saw palmetto abstinence with reoccurrence on reinstitution strongly favors drug effect. Natural medicinal preparations are therefore not necessarily safe and the importance of detailed medication history (including supplements) cannot be over emphasized.


Saw palmetto is a frequently used botanical agent in benign prostatic enlargement (BPH). It is an extract of the American dwarf palm tree and is thought to cause cholestatic hepatitis through both estrogenic and antiandrogenic effects. Our literature search did not reveal any reports associating saw palmetto and acute pancreatitis. We report a case of probable saw palmetto-induced acute hepatitis and pancreatitis.


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