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Saw palmetto and lower urinary tract symptoms: what is the latest evidence?

The use of dietary supplements for treating a wide range of health conditions has grown rapidly in the United States. In the field of men’s health, the most common dietary supplement used is an extract of the berry of the saw palmetto plant, with which men commonly self-medicate in order to treat lower urinary tract symptoms. Throughout the past two decades, substantial literature has emerged examining the biologic and clinical effects of saw palmetto extracts. Several lines of evidence suggest that saw palmetto may exert physiologic effects consistent with a beneficial clinical effect on the mechanisms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Although most clinical studies tend to suggest a modest efficacy benefit of saw palmetto, more recent studies are less consistent and the precise clinical value of saw palmetto for treating lower urinary tract symptoms remains undefined. Overall, there appear to be few safety concerns with short-term use of this herbal medicine, although large-scale and longer-term safety studies have not been performed. Higher-quality studies are currently underway to better define the potential benefits and risks of plant-based extracts for treating symptoms related to benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Authors: Avins AL; Bent S

Curr Urol Rep. 2006 Jul;7(4):260-5.

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