In men, the prostate gland often gets bigger with age, and this enlargement usually beings around age 40 to 45. A condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the medical term for a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate, is very common and occurs in more than half of all men. While medical professionals believe that BPH does not increase your risk for prostate cancer, the symptoms of BPH and prostate cancer are similar and prostate cancer can go undiagnosed. Symptoms of BPH include the frequent urge to urinate, difficulty starting and maintaining a steady stream of urine, dribbling after urination, and the inability to fully empty the bladder.
There are many drug treatments available to treat prostate enlargement. They usually work by relaxing the muscles located near the prostate or by blocking the enzyme 5-α-reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT, a compound that stimulates growth of the prostate. These drugs can have many unpleasant side effects like dizziness, low blood pressure, syncope, erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, and impotence. In some cases, surgery is used to decrease the size of the prostate if it becomes too big. Fortunately, natural treatments like saw palmetto can be very effective at treating BPH.
Saw palmetto is extracted from the fruit of the plant Serenoa repens. Saw palmetto benefits are related to its content of many health-promoting nutrients including fatty acids, sterols, flavanoids, and more. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and it can also act as a relaxant to the muscles of the bladder and those surrounding the prostate, helping to relieve pressure and symptoms. Saw palmetto also may block hormone receptors, and can prevent fluid build up as well.
In laboratory studies, saw palmetto has been shown to have anti-proliferative actions. This causes a reduction in prostate size due to an inhibition of cell growth. This characteristic also prevents the spread of human prostate cancer cell lines.
Saw palmetto also can block the enzyme 5-α-reductase. As mentioned earlier, this enzyme converts testosterone to DHT, which is a more potent form of the hormone that promotes growth of the prostate. The sterols and fatty acids in saw palmetto inhibit the activity of this enzyme, much like many drug treatments aim to do.
Saw palmetto benefits BPH symptoms
There are numerous controlled, clinical studies that provide strong evidence for the effectiveness of saw palmetto for prostate health, especially for reducing prostate size and symptoms of BPH. In one study, patients with BPH were given 320 mg of saw palmetto or placebo each day for 12 months. Symptoms of BPH significantly improved for all patients receiving the saw palmetto treatment.
Using saw palmetto for prostate health
The recommended dose for saw palmetto to treat BPH and other prostate problems is 320 mg/day. Research suggests that taking saw palmetto along with added beta-sitosterol might be even more effective than saw palmetto alone. Beta-sitosterol is a type of compound called a phytosterol, and it is found in saw palmetto. However, some studies show that supplementation with beta-sitosterol itself, and as an addition to saw palmetto extract, can be very effective. Find a combination supplement with these two ingredients for best results. It may take time for effects to be seen and for symptoms to reduce. Work with your doctor to monitor your prostate health and discuss your treatment options.
Share your experience
Do you have symptoms of BPH? What natural treatments have you tried? Have you had any luck using saw palmetto? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
This post originally appeared in 2014 and has been updated.