Saw palmetto is popularly used throughout Europe to treat symptoms associated with BPH (enlarged prostate). It is also the most popularly used herbal supplement for this condition in the United States. Many human trials have reported that saw palmetto improved symptoms associated with BPH, such as nighttime urination and urinary flow. Although some trials have reported no difference between the effects of saw palmetto and placebo, in general, the scientific evidence favors the effectiveness of saw palmetto over placebo.
In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 369 men with BPH to increasing doses of saw palmetto or placebo for 72 weeks. Treatment doses started at 320 milligrams of saw palmetto daily, then at 24 weeks increased to two doses of 320 milligrams daily, and finally at 48 weeks increased to three doses of 320 milligrams daily.
Before inclusion in the study, the men went through two screening sessions. Individuals ultimately included had at least a peak urinary flow rate of 4 milliliters per second and an American Urological Association Symptom Index (AUASI) score between 8 and 24. The change in the AUASI score was used as the main outcome measure.
Contrary to previous findings, the researchers found that the men in the placebo group had a greater average decrease in AUASI scores than the men in the saw palmetto group. AUASI scores in the placebo group decreased from 14.69 to 11.70, while the average decrease in the saw palmetto group was slightly less from 14.42 to 12.22. Furthermore, there were no notable differences in changes for secondary outcome measures, including sleep quality and peak urine flow.
The authors concluded that contrary to previous findings, saw palmetto may not reduce urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH more than placebo. Further research is necessary.
For more information on integrative therapies with evidence of benefit for BPH, such as pygeum and plant sterols, please vist Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.
For more information about saw palmetto, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.