Other Names: Sabal, Shrub Palmetto
Saw palmetto is the fruit of a small shrub in the palm family native to the southeastern United States from South Carolina to southern Mississippi and through out Florida. Most of the fruit is wild harvested in Florida.
The Saw Palmetto plant grows from 6 to 10 feet high, forming what is called the 'palmetto scrub.' It has a crown of large leaves, and the fruit is irregularly-spherical to oblong, deep red-brown, slightly wrinkled, being from 1/2 to 1 inch long and about 1/2 inch in diameter. It contains a hard brown seed. The taste is sweetish and not agreeable.
Saw Palmetto as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the partially dried ripe fruit, the ripe fresh fruit and the ripe dried fruit. The taste of the seeds is soapy and unpleasant.
Saw palmetto was introduced into medicine by. J. B. Read, of Savannah, Georgia, in an 1879 issue of the American Journal of Pharmacy: "By its peculiar soothing power on the mucous membrane it induces sleep, relieves the most troublesome coughs, promotes expectoration, improves digestion, and increases fat, flesh and strength. Its sedative and diuretic properties are remarkable."
An "original communication" in the July 1892 issue of The New Idea stated, "It also exerts a great influence over the organs of reproduction, mammoa, ovarium, prostate, testes, etc. Its action on them is a vitalizer, and is said to be the greatest known, tending to increase their activity and add greatly to their size."
Clinical trials with saw palmetto show that it decreases symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), especially reducing the urge to urinate during the night. Fifty percent of men more than fifty years old may develop BPH. Pressure of the enlarged prostate on the bladder may cause many of these men to awaken four or five times a night with an urge to urinate. Components of fat-soluble extracts of the fruit reduce prostate size and inhibit inflammation. More than 2,000 patients have now been evaluated in clinical trials.
German health authorities allow saw palmetto fruit preparations for difficulty of urination in early stages of BPH. Many Germans attest to saw palmetto's value in reducing non-cancerous prostate enlargement.
Saw palmetto is approved by Commission E for:
- Prostate complaints
- Irritable bladder
Folk Medicine. In folk medicine, Saw Palmetto is used for inflammation of the urinary trnct, bladder, testicles and mammary glands. It has been used for nocturnal enuresis, persistant cough, eczema and improvement of libido.
Homeopathic Uses. The herb is used for micturation problems and inflammation of the urinary tract.
Culinary Uses of Saw Palmetto
In the days of yore, some used saw palmetto leaves as crosses over their doorways to remove curses or hexes so as to protect their households (Fontenot 1994).
No side effects or contraindications other than rare stomach upset have been reported. The primary condition for which the fruit is used, BPH, can only be diagnosed by a physician, so consult one for proper examination and treatment.
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