Saw palmetto is best taken with meals since it is fat-soluble. Most of the
time, the recommended dosage is one pill twice a day. However, a higher
dosage of 320 mg taken once a day is also an option.
Q. For which conditions is saw palmetto useful?
A. The best known use of saw palmetto is for the treatment of prostate
enlargement. However, there's a possibility that substances in saw palmetto
could have an influence on a variety of body tissues. They may even have
anti-tumor potential. I'll review the research discussing these influences
in a later chapter.
It appears that urinary symptoms due to mild to moderate prostate
enlargement respond more readily to saw palmetto than symptoms due to severe enlargement (Ebbinghaus, 1995).
Q. How does saw palmetto work?
A. Unfortunately, many herbal and natural medicines have had far less
research money devoted to them than they deserve. SP is no exception.
Consequently, we don't know all the answers to the exact mechanisms of how
the different compounds within SP work. However, there have been enough
studies to give us some clues. Some of most likely mechanisms include the
reduction in the amount of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in prostate tissue,
inhibition of binding of DHT to androgen receptors in prostate cells, and
the anti-estrogenic action in prostate tissue. I will discuss the studies
supporting or refuting these claims in greater detail in a later chapter.
Unlike a particular medicine, such as Proscar, which has one active
ingredient, saw palmetto has a number of different compounds within it.
Thus, you can see why it would be complicated to evaluate all the possible
interactions that these compounds have on a variety of tissues within our
bodies. Furthermore, it is possible that a single compound within saw
palmetto may not have much of an influence on its own although its
combination with the other compounds would have a synergistic effect.
The more I learn about the human body, the more I realize how complicated it
is. Early in my medical career I often unquestioningly accepted the results
of studies done in a laboratory or on animals and was quick to use this
information to generalize to humans. I now know otherwise. In order to
understand truly how a medicine works, it has to be studied directly on
humans. Although laboratory and animal studies can give us important
information, they are never a replacement for thorough human evaluations.
Another complicating factor is that modern medicine does not advance solely
on the basis of seeking the most efficient therapy for human diseases. There
are significant economic factors that influence the funding of studies, the
subsequent interpretation of the results, and especially the dissemination
of this information. Many of the studies done with saw palmetto were financed
either by companies who market this extract, such as Pierre Fabre
Medicament, or by pharmaceutical companies, such as Merck, who have developed competing drugs that treat prostate enlargement. Merck has the drug Proscar. Not
surprisingly, the results of studies obtained by Merck scientists on the
method of action of saw palmetto are often in marked disagreement with the
results obtained by scientists working under the auspices of saw
palmetto-selling companies. Full details are provided later.
Q. Is there info available re taking saw palmetto along with perscription
meds such as high blood pressure meds?
A. As far as we know, saw palmetto does not interfere to any clinical degree
with other medicines.