Saw Palmetto

By Miguel Vieira from Walnut Creek, CA, USA [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Serenoa serrulata-Saw Palmetto

Family: Palmae or Arecaceae

Names: Sabal, Dwarf Palm Tree, Cabbage Palm, Sabal Serrulata, Brahea serrulata,Chamaerops serrulata,Corypha obliqua, Serenoa serrulata

Habitat: Eastern N. America. Low pine woods, savannahs and thickets, where it often forms substantial thickets. Also found on coastal sand dunes.

hazardsmallAvoid with other hormonal drugs. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation. Take with food. Rare adverse effects include: mild headache and gastrointestinal symptoms. May decrease libido in males. Saw Palmetto Side Effects include possible back pain and blood pressure increase.

Saw palmetto berries are a tonic herb that is used in the treatment of debility, urinary tract problems and for reducing enlarged prostate glands. The partially dried ripe fruit is aphrodisiac, urinary antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, sedative and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of impotence, debility in elderly men, prostate enlargement and inflammation, bronchial complaints associated with coldness, and wasting diseases. Saw palmetto is one of the few Western herbs that are considered to be anabolic (strengthening and building body tissue and encouraging weight gain). The fruit pulp, or a tincture, is given to those suffering from wasting disease, general debility and failure to thrive. The fruit also has a beneficial effect on the urinary system, helping to reduce the size of an enlarged prostate gland and strengthening the neck of the bladder. The fruit has a probable oestrogenic action, it is prescribed in the treatment of impotence, reduced or absent sex drive and testicular atrophy in men. Saw Palmetto Women to stimulate breast enlargement in women. Saw Palmetto Hair Loss prevention is bandied about but it really doesn’t work. The fruit is also used in the treatment of colds, coughs, irritated mucous membranes, asthma etc. A suppository of the powdered fruits, in cocoa butter, has been used as a uterine and vaginal tonic. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Serenoa repens Saw Palmetto for prostatic complaints, irritable bladder.

By Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, United States [CC-BY-3.0-us (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Saw Palmetto:

Serenoa repens; Saw Palmetto is an evergreen Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 2 m (6ft) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 8. It is in leaf 12-Jan. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils. Needs full sun. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Cultivation of Saw Palmetto:

Requires a warm sunny position in a moist but well-drained soil. Plants can succeed in quite dry soils so long as their roots can penetrate to underground water. Growing mainly in coastal areas in its native range, this species is likely to be very tolerant of maritime exposure, though not of cold winds. This species is one of the hardiest of palms and succeeds outdoors in warm temperate zones. It is only likely to be marginally hardy, even in the mildest areas of Britain, and probably tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. Palms usually have deep penetrating root systems and generally establish best when planted out at a young stage. However, older plants are substantially more cold tolerant than juvenile plants. In areas at the limit of their cold tolerance, therefore, it is prudent to grow the plants in containers for some years, giving them winter protection, and only planting them into their permanent positions when sheer size dictates. Palms can also be transplanted even when very large. Although the thick fleshy roots are easily damaged and/or desiccated, new roots are generally freely produced. It is important to stake the plant very firmly to prevent rock, and also to give it plenty of water until re-established – removing many of the leaves can also help. Plants usually sucker freely in the wild and form dense thickets.


Propagation of Saw Palmetto:

Saw Palmetto seed is best sown in a warm greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. It usually germinates freely. Stored seed is more difficult to germinate, it should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water before sowing in a warm greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Although the plant forms suckers, these do not usually transplant well and so seed is the only sure method of propagation.

Collection: The berries of this impressive palm are gathered from September through until January.

Culinary uses of Saw Palmetto:

Edible Parts: Fruit,  Seed.

Edible Uses: 

Fruit – raw or cooked. A sweet flavour but with a soapy taste and a strong vanilla-like aroma. Regular consumption of the fruit is supposed to be very beneficial to the health, improving the digestion and helping to increase weight and strength. Seed – raw or cooked.

Medicinal uses of Saw Palmetto:

Saw_palmetto, Serenoa-repensActions: Diuretic, urinary antiseptic, endocrine agent.

Part Used: Berries.

Indications: Saw Palmetto is a herb that acts to tone and strengthen the male reproductive system. It may be used with safety where a boost to the male sex hormones is required. It is specific in cases of enlarged prostate glands. It will be of value in infections of the genito-urinary tract.

Ellingwood gives the following specific symptomatology: “The direct influence of this agent is exerted upon the entire reproductive apparatus,especially upon the prostate gland of the male. It is demanded in enlarged prostate, with throbbing, aching, dull pain, discharge of prostatic fluid, at times discharge of mucus, also of a yellowish, watery fluid, with weakened sexual power, orchalgia, epididymitis and orchitis, when associated with enlarged prostate. In women, ovarian enlargement, with tenderness and dull aching pains, weakened sexual activity, and small undeveloped mammary glands,are much benefited by its continued use. It is a sedative to all irritable conditions of these organs and is a profound nutritive tonic, operating much like phosphorus. It increases the size and secreting power of the mammary glands where they are abnormally small and inactive. It improves the tone and overcomes irritability of the ovaries, relieving dysmenorrhoea when due to atonicity. It may be given with confidence in wasting of the testes in the early stages and the development of varicocele retarded with the growth and nutrition of the testes developed materially by its use. To this agent is ascribed considerable power in reducing the size of hypertrophied prostate in older men and in quickly relieving cystic and other disorders incident to this condition. Saw Palmetto relieves irritation of the bladder to a satisfactory extent,correcting the irritable character of the urine, increases the muscular power of the patient to expel the urine and produces a sense of relief, that is in every way gratifying and satisfactory. In the treatment of impotence in young men who have been excessive in their habits, or have masturbated, it can be relied upon with positiveness. It will overcome the excitability from exhaustion and increase sexual power in those newly married who, having been anxious concerning their sexual strength or ability, have become suddenly almost entirely impotent after marriage. If the patient is instructed to abstain, from 4 to 6 weeks and to have confidence in his ultimate recovery,this agent in doses of from 20 to 30 drops 3 or 4 times daily, combined with a direct nerve tonic, such as Avena sativa in doses of 15 drops or the one one-hundredth of a grain of phosphorus, will establish a cure. It will relieve any undue irritation, due to excess and exhaustion, that may be present in any part of the genito-urinary apparatus. An exceedingly important use for this remedy that I have not been able to find in the books, is its use for sterility. In simple cases where there is no organic lesion on the part of the patient, this agent has an excellent reputation for restoring the ovarian action properly and assisting in putting the patient into an excellent condition. One conscientious reliable lady physician assures me that in five definite cases, pregnancy has followed the use of this remedy where sterility was pronounced previously, and thought to be incurable. In its influence upon the nasal and bronchial mucous membranes this agent has been given with excellent advantage in the treatment of acute catarrh, chronic bronchial coughs of all characters, including whooping cough, laryngitis and the cough of phthisis. It is credited also with cures in the treatment of aphonia.”

Preparations & Dosage of Saw Palmetto:

Decoction: put 1/2-1 teaspoonful of the berries in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes.This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations: For debility associated with the reproductive system it will combine well with Damiana and Kola. For the treatment of enlarged prostate glands it may be used with Horsetail and Hydrangea.

Other uses of Saw Palmetto:

Basketry,  Brush, String.

The leaf stems have been used in making baskets. The plant has been used to make brushes and cordage.

Esoteric uses of Saw Palmetto:

Magickal uses include healing protection, exorcism, passion and spiritual openings.



The Chemistry:


  • Essential oil
  •  Fixed oil, consisting of 25% fatty acids; caproic, lauric,palmitic & 75% neutral fats
  • Sterols
  •  Polysaccharides; galactose, arabinose and uronic acid.

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Serenoa(Sabal)

Saw Palmetto Boccafoschi and Annoscia S: Comparison of Serenoa repens extract with placebo by controlled clinical trialin patients with prostatic adenomatosis. Urologia 50:1257-68, 1983

Breu W Hagenlocher M Redl K Tittel G Stadler F Wagner H [Anti-inflammatory activity of sabal fruit extracts prepared withsupercritical carbon dioxide. In vitro antagonists of cyclooxygenase and5-lipoxygenase metabolism]

Arzneimittelforschung (1992 Apr) 42(4):547-51

Champault G, Bonnard AM, Cauquil J and Patel JC: Medical treatment of prostatic adenoma. Con trolled trial: PA 109 vs placebo in110 patients. Ann Urol 18:407-10, 1984

Champault G, Patel JC and Bonnard AM: A double-blind trial of an extract of the plant Serenoa repens in benignprostatic hyperplasia. Br J Clin Pharmacol 18:461-2, 1984

Cirillo-Marucco E, Pagliarulo A, Tritto G, et al: Extract of Serenoa repens (PermixonR) in the early treatment of prostatichypertrophy. Urologia 5:1269-77, 1983

Crimi A and Russo A: Extract of Serenoa repens for the treatment of the functional disturbances of prostate hypertrophy. Med Praxis 4:47-51, 1983

Duvia R, Radice GP and Galdini R: Advances in the phytotherapy of prostatic hypertrophy. Med Praxis 4:143-8, 1983

Emili E, Lo Cigno M and Petrone U: Clinical trial of a new drug for treating hypertrophy of the prostate(Permixon). Urologia 50:1042-8, 1983

Hiermann A [The contents of sabal fruits and testing of their anti-inflammatory effect] Arch Pharm (Weinheim) (1989 Feb) 322(2):111-4

Sultan C, Terraza A, Devillier C, et al: Inhibition of androgen metabolism and binding by a liposterolic extract of”Serenoa repens B” in human foreskin fibroblasts. J Steroid Biochem 20:515-9, 1984

Tarayre JP, Delhon A, Lauressergues H, et al: Anti-edematous action of ahexane extract of the stone fruit of Serenoa repens Bartr. Ann Pharm Franc41:559-70, 1983

Tasca A, Barulli M, Cavazzana A, et al: Treatment of obstructivesymptomatology caused by prostatic adenoma with an extract of Serenoa repens.Double-blind clinical study vs. placebo. Minerva Urol Nefrol 37:87-91, 1985

Timmermans LM Timmermans LG Jr [Determination of the activity of extracts of Echinaceae and Sabal in thetreatment of idiopathic megabladder in women] Acta Urol Belg (1990) 58(2):43-59 

Tripodi V, Giancaspro M, Pascarella M, et al: Treatment of prostatichypertrophy with Serenoa repens extract. Med Praxis 4:41-6, 1983 Wagner H Flachsbarth H [A new antiphlogistic principle from Sabal serrulata, I (author’stransl)] Planta Med (1981 Mar) 41(3):244-51

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