Q. Berry or extract?
A. When you purchase saw palmetto, you will find some bottles that provide
crushed berries, not the extracts. Until we learn more about the effects of
using the full contents of the berries, I recommend that you buy the
extracts. The extracts will contain the actual substances that are effective
in treating BPH in a much higher concentration. The berries will provide you
with smaller amounts of the needed active ingredients. Whether the crushed
berries have compounds that provide other benefits is not fully known at
this time. If you want to take the berries, you may need to ingest at least one
or two grams a day. The ratio of the dried berry to the lipophilic extracts is
usually about 10 to 1. Some users prefer to take both the extracts and the
berries, thinking that there are substances within the full berries that
could be beneficial. We certainly need more research in order to have a
Q. What about standardizing saw palmetto products?
A. Since there are hundreds of substances within saw palmetto, it would be
difficult to standardize extracts. How can one product be compared to
another? Which compounds within saw palmetto could serve as markers?
Dr. McLaughlin believes that the monoacylglycerides monolaurin and
monomyristin could serve as marker compounds since they are not easily found
in other herbs or plants. They could easily be evaluated in a laboratory by
a process known as HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography). Thus, by
knowing the amounts of these compounds, it would be easier to standardize
different products. Beta-sitosterol, one of the plant sterols in SP, may not
be a good marker since many other herbs contain this sterol.
St. John's wort is now often standardized by its content of hypericin. For
instance, most bottles will say on them that the product contains 0.3
percent hypericin. saw palmettoP products do not have this standardization, but you will find that most bottles will say that they contain 85 to 95 percent of a
liposterolic extract. Liposterolic is a general term that encompasses the
varieties of fat-soluble compounds within SP. The standardization of saw palmetto products is not likely to occur soon.
Q. Is There a major difference between different trademarked products?
A. Donald Brown, ND, the author of Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health,
(Prima, 1996) says, "The active compounds within saw palmetto can be
extracted in a variety of ways. The most common is using hexane (a volatile,
colorless, liquid hydrocarbon with 6 carbon atoms). The French Company
Pierre Fabre Medicaments uses this process for their product Permixon. Another
product, called Strogen Forte, contains extracts removed by carbon dioxide.
Some vitamin companies will say on their bottle "Non-hexane extract."
Frankly, both ways are fine and I don't see any problems with either method
of extraction. Hexane is the traditional way to extract fatty acids, oils
and sterols from herbs, seeds and berries. Ethanol can also be used for
"It's possible that the constituents of the different products may
be slightly different based on the method of extraction, however, for practical
purposes, their effect on the human prostate should not be too different."
I tend to agree with Dr. Brown. For the time being, and for
practical purposes, it's okay to consider most of these products as near equivalent.
Q. How quickly does saw palmetto get absorbed?
A. When you swallow a SP capsule or tablet, it will go into the
gastrointestinal tract, be absorbed from the intestines, and make its way to
the blood in about an hour or two. The liposterolic extracts have been found
to stay in the blood for a few hours. During this time, a number of
compounds within the saw palmetto extract will make their way to various parts of our bodies, including skin, hair follicles, genital tissues, and prostate.
Studies in rats show that higher concentrations of saw palmetto are
eventually found in the prostate gland as compared to other tissues