Saw Palmetto Benefits for Men
August 1, 2013
By the time they reach 60, 60% of men suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH, or enlarged prostate. And, by the time they reach 70, 80% of men have been affected by some degree of male pattern baldness.
These male health issues may be common, but treating them can be done early on with a plant extract called saw palmetto. Saw palmettos are palm trees that grow berries loaded with health-promoting compounds. Consequently, men use saw palmetto extract to increase prostate health and combat hormone-related hair loss.
Of course, any man with questions about his prostate health should see a doctor to rule out prostate cancer. Nevertheless, saw palmetto offers many benefits for men. Here’s a brief examination of saw palmetto’s greatest health perks for men.
Decrease Nighttime Bathroom Trips
Men with an enlarged prostate often have to get up several times every night to urinate. This results in loss of sleep, a contributing factor to decreased quality of life. This enlarged prostate symptom is so common it has a scientific name: nocturia.
Saw palmetto offers some relief for nocturia related to enlarged prostate. In one study, saw palmetto reduced nighttime bathroom trips from 3 or more to between 1 and 2 every night. Those in the placebo group had a much less significant drop in nighttime bathroom trips, from a 3.2 per night average to a 2.72 per night average.
According to a review of 18 studies involving nearly 3,000 men, saw palmetto usually reduces nighttime bathroom trips by nearly 1 trip per night.
Increase Urination Flow Rate
An enlarged prostate increases frequency of nighttime bathroom trips largely because the prostate gland surrounds the urethra, or urinary tube. As the prostate enlarges, the urethra gets pinched and therefore cannot release urine as easily. This causes men with enlarged prostate to have a slower urine flow rate and sometimes even difficulty urinating.
In the same way it reduces nocturia, saw palmetto also speeds urine release. Researchers measured a 50.5% faster urine flow rate in one study. By comparison, the placebo only increased flow by 5%.
Another saw palmetto study not only resulted in faster urinary flow but also offered a solid explanation for how saw palmetto decreases urination issues related to enlarged prostate.
Scientists performing this study biopsied prostate tissue to assess any alterations. They discovered men taking saw palmetto extract had decreased swelling in the tissues lining the urethra. These scientists concluded this shrinking of prostate epithelium relieved pressure on the urethra, allowing urine to flow more efficiently.
Improve Erectile Dysfunction
Unfortunately, urinary symptoms caused by enlarged prostate also affect another aspect of men’s health: sexual performance. According to a survey of over 2,000 French men, those with moderate to severe urinary symptoms are 2 to 4 times less likely to have a satisfying sex life.
While it’s not the most reliable use of saw palmetto, research shows saw palmetto moderately decreases erectile dysfunction. Men who took 320 mg saw palmetto for 8 weeks reported greater sexual function and experienced no side effects.
However, not all men who use saw palmetto notice a decrease in erectile dysfunction. Of course, many factors influence erectile function, many of which cannot be altered by saw palmetto or any other health supplement. Age, health conditions, lifestyle, and other medications can all have an effect on sexual performance.
Induce Hair Growth in Men with Male Pattern Baldness
A surprising benefit of saw palmetto is its potential to promote hair growth despite the onset of male pattern baldness. Actually, male pattern baldness is likely caused by the same hormone that causes enlarged prostate: dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
At least two studies have evaluated saw palmetto’s effects on male pattern baldness. The earlier study, performed in 2002, used 10 men between 23 and 64 with mild or moderate baldness. Overall, 6 of the 10 men responded to treatment.
A more recent study published in 2012 tested both saw palmetto and Finasteride, a prescription treatment for male pattern baldness. Saw palmetto induced hair growth in 38% of those treated, while Finasteride increased hair growth in 68% of the treatment group.
This study makes it evident Finasteride is clearly more effective at reducing male pattern baldness. But, Finasteride also causes many sexual performance issues, including erectile dysfunction, lower libido, and ejaculation problems. Saw palmetto, on the other hand, is not as strongly linked with these side effects.
-  “Benign prostatic hyperplasia.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 2011.
-  Mann, Denise. “Male Pattern Baldness: New Root Cause Found?” WebMD. 2012.
-  “Saw Palmetto – Topic Overview.” WebMD. 2009 Jun 30.
-  Champault, G, J C Patel, and A M Bonnard. “A double-blind trial of an extract of the plant Serenoa repens in benight prostatic hyperplasia.” British Journal of Clinical Phamacology. 18.3 (1984): 461-462.
-  Wilt, TJ, A Ishani, I Rutks, and R MacDonald. “Phytotheraphy for benign prostatic hyperplasia.” Public Health Nutrition. 3.4A (2000): 459-72.
-  Overmyer, M. “Saw palmetto shown to shrink prostatic epithelium.” Urology Times. 27.6 (1999): 42.
-  Macfarlane, GJ, H Botto, et al. “The relationship between sexual life and urinary condition in the French community.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 49.10 (1996): 1171-6.
-  Suter, Andreas, Reinhard Saller, Eugen Riedi, and Michael Heinrich. “Improving BPH symptoms and sexual dysfunctions with a saw palmetto preparation? Results from a pilot trial.” Phytotherapy Research. 27.2 (2013): 218-226.
-  “Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens [Bartram] Small).” Mayo Clinic. 2012 Sep 1.
-  “Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction.” WebMD. 2013.
-  Praeger, N, K Bickett, N French, and G Marcovici. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of botanically derived inhibitors of 5-alpha-reductase in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 8.2 (2002): 143-52.
-  Rossi A, E Mari, et al. “Comparative effectiveness of finasteride vs Serenoa repens in male androgenetic alopecia: a two-year study.” International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. 25.4 (2012): 1167-73.
-  “Finasteride.” MedlinePlus. AFHS Consumer Medication Information. 2013.