For men’s health, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a noteworthy herb, particularly in combating conditions linked to the prostate. Patients use saw palmetto for the “growing problem” of prostate enlargement, or benign prostatic hypertrophy.

Essentially, prostate enlargement in men is viewed as a consequence of aging that can lead to symptoms of more frequent urination, particularly at night, and the sensation the bladder is never truly empty. Research does show that overall, saw palmetto provides beneficial effects for these symptoms [Source: Wilt, Carraro, Braeckman]. Most clinical results indicate that it works best for mild to moderate symptoms. Saw palmetto has been tolerated very well in trials, as no specific side effects were reported. Compared to standard medications, it performs just as well, if not better [Source: Carraro].

Patients need to be aware of saw palmetto’s limitations. To date, the research is not in place to support its use as a primary treatment for prostate cancer. Saw palmetto has only been proven helpful for benign conditions of the prostate, and may do nothing for symptoms resulting from cancer or the cancer itself. Men who observe the onset of frequent and nighttime urination should discuss this with a doctor. Tests for prostate cancer can be done, and the need for saw palmetto better determined.

Saw palmetto does not lower the PSA score, a common lab value used to follow the health of the prostate [Source: Carraro, Marks]. Patients with a high PSA value can still find relief for symptoms like frequent urination, but they should not take saw palmetto solely to lower their PSA test. It also doesn’t dramatically change the size of the prostate [Source: Marks].

Saw palmetto offers a simple and safe option for men. Patients can start at doses of 160 mg, taken twice a day. Changes in bladder frequency and urgency should always be discussed with a doctor to determine the source of the symptoms. There are additional supplements that provide support for an aging prostate.