Gee whiz, that herb can come in handy


Another use for saw palmetto — Serenoa repens — is to fight male condition of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

This is a common condition for men in their latter years and is an enlargement of the prostate gland that it is not cancer — a distinction that must be determined by your doctor.

BPH is responsible for the desire and necessity for frequent urination in men due to the enlarged prostate pressing on the bladder.

Research suggests that Serenoa repens provides mild to moderate improvement in urinary symptoms and flow measures. Serenoa repens produced similar improvement in urinary symptoms and flow compared to the drug Finasteride and is associated with fewer adverse treatment events.

Saw palmetto was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1906 to 1917 and in the National Formulary from 1926 to 1950. Saw palmetto extract is a licensed product in several European countries.

Although doctors have used it with patients for over a decade, an actual study evaluating the long-term use of this herb was not published until 1996.

This was a trial conducted in Germany, where doctors have been using Serenoa repens and other herbs for the therapy of BPH on a regular basis for many years. Eighty-nine urologists and 435 patients entered the three-year prospective study and 315 patients completed it. The patients’ age ranged from 41 to 89 years old. They were treated with Serenoa repens at 160 mg twice a day for three years.

The results showed nighttime urination symptoms to be improved in 73 percent of the patients.

At the start of the study, only 13 patients did not have condition, and at the conclusion of the trial, 114 patients were symptom-free.

Daytime frequency improved in 54 percent of the patients. Residual volume diminished by 50 percent.

After three years of therapy with saw palmetto, no changes in the size of the prostate could be determined. In other words, the size of the enlarged prostate was not reduced, but the tolerance for retaining urine was.

Overall, 80 percent of the patients and doctors felt the improvements on Serenoa repens were either good or very good.

The researchers conclude, “If one compares the results of the present three-year study of IDS 89 (Serenoa repens extract) with published data on the long-term treatment of BPH using synthetic active ingredients — i.e. a three-year Finasteride study and an 18-month study on the selective alpha-1-blocker, Terazosin — one can, despite methodological reservations, conclude somewhat unexpectedly that better clinical (effectiveness) has been documented in respect to the Serenoa repens preparation. Withdrawal from therapy because of adverse events was 1.8 percent with Serenoa repens, as opposed to 11 percent with Finasteride and 10 percent with Terazosin.”

A Hungarian Serenoa repens study published in 1997 is another one to show the herb’s effectiveness of Serenoa repens (Kondas, 1997). Thirty-eight patients with symptoms of BPH were given Serenoa repens for a 12-month period.

Nearly three-fourths of the patients reported improvements, and no side effects were observed. According to studies measuring the urine flow, the peak flow rate (how fast the urine comes out of the bladder) increased significantly and the amount of urine left in the bladder decreased or was nil in nine out of the 10 patients.

The size of the prostate gland decreased by 10 percent. The researchers say, “On the basis of this favorable experience, the authors recommend the administration of Serenoa repens extract in the treatment of patients with mild or moderate symptoms of prostatic hyperplasia.”

The typical dosage is 320 mg per day taken in one dose or 160 mg taken twice daily of what is termed a “standardized extract.”

Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes active practice for 41 years; investigative reporting for many years on stations KTRG and KPOI on Hawaii radio and exercise/fitness yoga TV broadcasts on channel KHVH, also in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a fourth; a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to


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