Saw palmetto is a fruit-bearing plant with numerous medicinal applications, most notably the ability to reduce symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH, in men.
Saw palmetto is a natural antioxidant and also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. That makes it potentially valuable in treating numerous other conditions, including arthritis, acne, and irritable bowel syndrome, to name a few.
Our team of experts put dozens of today’s saw palmetto supplements under the critical microscope and concluded that the following represent the 10 best.
1. Essential Elements Saw Palmetto
Essential Elements covers all the bases with their outstanding Saw Palmetto supplement. Besides providing the doctor-recommended 320 mg of saw palmetto in each serving, they also include 260 mg of pumpkin seed oil. Together the two take serious aim at BPH.
What we like: The benefits of the saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil combination extend beyond reducing symptoms of BPH. It can also help women deal with hormone-related headaches and hot flashes and lower cholesterol levels.
Flaws: Keep those gelcaps out of the direct sunlight.
2. NOW Supplements Saw Palmetto
Now Supplements is a family-owned business dating back to 1968. Their Saw Palmetto supplement is indicative of their approach. It’s potent, pure, and free of compromising ingredients. Like all Now supplements, it is also affordable.
What we like: Now Supplements can be depended on to provide pure, potent supplements. And this is no exception. Each of these capsules is loaded with up to 95% fatty acids, along with 80 mg of pumpkin seed oil to reduce cholesterol.
Flaws: Tends to sell out quick.
3. Doctor’s Best Saw Palmetto
If you are looking for a truly potent saw palmetto supplement to deal with BPH, you can’t do much better than Doctor’s Best. Not only do they provide an impressive dose of fatty acids, but their extraction method ensures no harsh chemicals are left behind.
What we like: With 85% fatty acid content per capsule, Doctor’s Best is not messing around with this supplement. That makes it an ideal supplement for guys dealing with BPH and associated urinary issues.
Flaws: We are not fond of proprietary blends. That includes the ‘Prosterol’ blend used here.
4. Zhou Nutrition Saw Palmetto
Zhou Nutrition has quietly become a force in the supplement business by providing affordable, high-quality supplements like this. Each Zhou Nutrition Saw Palmetto capsule contains 500 mg of saw palmetto with 45% fatty acid content.
What we like: These saw palmetto gelcaps from Zhou Nutrition are made with a combination of saw palmetto berry powder and berry extract. The result is a potent saw palmetto supplement that will help men and women deal with a variety of vexing conditions.
Flaws: Not gleaned from the whole plant extract.
5. Gaia Herbs Saw Palmetto
Gaia Herbs has built its reputation, at least in part, on their willingness to embrace complete transparency when it comes to their ingredients. A lot of people appreciate this openness and will not trust any other brand.
What we like: These Saw Palmetto veggie gelcaps contain 85% fatty acids. It’s one of the most potent saw palmetto supplements on the market. The company is completely transparent about their ingredients and uses only veggie gelatin for their capsules.
Flaws: For the sake of the planet, they should consider cutting down on the packaging.
6. Solgar Saw Palmetto
Solgar Saw Palmetto reflects the company’s commitment to using only the highest quality source materials for their supplements. In this case, that means whole plant extract and not only saw palmetto berry powder.
What we like: Solgar does not provide the largest dose per capsule, but they do glean much of their saw palmetto from the whole plant extract. That generally produces a more potent supplement.
Flaws: The 45% fatty acid content, while not bad, is not great either. Thankfully, the company uses whole plant extract, which compensates to a degree.
7. Swanson Saw Palmetto
Swanson Saw Palmetto enhances hormonal balance, addresses BPH symptoms, and provides a range of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Men and women will appreciate its no-nonsense effectiveness.
What we like: Swanson delivers 540 mg of berry-derived saw palmetto in each capsule. That’s among the largest doses you’ll find. While the fatty acid content is relatively modest, the size of the capsule compensates.
Flaws: Capsule is made with animal gelatin.
8. Havasu Nutrition Saw Palmetto
Everything about this Havasu Saw Palmetto supplement is designed with purity and potency in mind. The capsule is large, the fatty acid content is (relatively) high, and the capsule itself is made from vegetable gelatin, not animal byproducts.
What we like: Havasu Nutrition Saw Palmetto is gleaned from seeds, not the whole saw palmetto plant. However, they make up for that by providing a full 500 mg per capsule, with each capsule comprising 45% fatty acids.
Flaws: Relatively expensive.
9. Herb Pharm Saw Palmetto Berry Liquid Extract
When researching this topic, we were surprised at how few high-quality liquid saw palmetto supplements are out there. This one from Herb Pharm was the best by far with a very impressive fatty acid content and a surprisingly agreeable taste.
What we like: This is a great choice for those averse to swallowing large capsules. Each recommended dose contains nearly 600 mg of saw palmetto, with up to 74% fatty acid content. There’s also 40 mg of pumpkin seed oil to fight high cholesterol.
Flaws: Portion control can be an issue for those with eyesight problems.
10. Nature’s Bounty Natural Saw Palmetto
The last of our saw palmetto supplements comes to us from Nature’s Bounty. The company has over 40 years’ experience producing high-quality supplements. This one is a sound choice for guys dealing with BPH and its side effects.
What we like: Nature’s Bounty Natural Saw Palmetto provides 450 mg of saw palmetto extract per capsule. This is a highly potent saw palmetto gleaned from the whole plant and not just the berries. It’s also free of allergens, sugar, and artificial ingredients.
Flaws: Capsules are made from bovine gelatin.
Who Needs Saw Palmetto?
Men need saw palmetto, and to a lesser but still significant degree, women do too. According to the Harvard Medical School, half of all men will have an enlarged prostate gland by the time they reach 60 (1). Of those who live to 85, 90% will have an enlarged prostate.
While BPH is not typically life-threatening, it can interfere with quality of life, cause urinary problems, and may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. Saw palmetto has demonstrated an ability to mitigate the symptoms of BPH and, in some cases, arrest its progress.
Women often suffer from a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. PCOS is usually accompanied by a hormonal imbalance that can lead to numerous health issues, including disruptions to the menstrual cycle, excessive body hair, weight gain, acne, and skin discoloration. There is reason to believe saw palmetto can neutralize the hormonal imbalances behind these vexing symptoms.
Beyond that, anyone wanting to take advantage of saw palmetto’s numerous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits should also consider taking it.
How We Ranked
To the FDA, saw palmetto is a dietary supplement. Therefore, its production is not regulated to the same degree as prescription medications. This can make assessing the relative value of different saw palmetto supplements challenging. But our experts are always up for a good challenge.
The first thing we looked for was whether the producer used the whole plant or just the saw palmetto berries. Whole plant extracts are considered more efficacious and are absorbed more easily and completely by the body than berry-only products. So we tended to give the nod to those whole plant extracts.
But source material was not the only consideration. We also considered dosage, along with what percentage of a given serving was made up of beneficial fatty acids. The more, the better was the clear guidance in that regard.
We also looked at whether a given supplement contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If it did, it did not rank for our list. We also took a dim view of artificial preservatives and fillers, as well as unnecessary flavor additives. And every supplement had to be produced in a GMP-certified facility under FDA supervision.
Finally, we spent hours sifting through customer reviews. They may be an imperfect source of usable data, but if 100 customers are all complaining about the same thing, then it is something that needs to be considered.
Saw palmetto promotes prostate health. This is saw palmetto’s #1 claim to fame and the reason most men use it. Scientific studies have confirmed the ability of saw palmetto to reduce swelling of the prostate (2) and alleviate the symptoms that come with it. Most men will experience a swollen prostate when they get older. Whenever possible, the time to take saw palmetto is before it happens.
Saw palmetto has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it plays a key role in the process of healing. On the other hand, it sometimes gets out of control and leads to all manner of health problems, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel conditions. Saw palmetto has anti-inflammatory properties that may help keep these conditions at bay.
Saw palmetto might help with respiratory conditions like asthma. Asthma is an inflammatory condition wherein the airways overreact to stimulus and become inflamed. Because of its anti-inflammatory abilities, saw palmetto might help people with asthma keep their airways clear. These same anti-inflammatory capabilities may also be beneficial for those with bronchitis or allergies.
Saw palmetto improves urinary health. Saw palmetto has diuretic (3) properties, which help it promote urine flow. This is important for men with BPH who commonly suffer from disruptions to their normal urinary activity, due to the enlargement of the prostate gland. Saw palmetto, with its diuretic abilities, helps improve urine flow, which has the added benefit of fending off urinary tract infections.
Saw palmetto may be effective against arthritis pain and stiffness. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, saw palmetto can be useful in battling numerous health conditions, including arthritis. Arthritis and inflammation are inextricably linked since arthritis produces inflammation, and inflammation aggravates arthritis. By reducing inflammation saw palmetto can reduce stiffness in the joints, which will, in turn, reduce the associated pain.
Saw palmetto is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants (4) are the only defense human beings have against the scourge of free radicals. Free radicals are unbalanced atoms present in everyone’s body, which, if left unchecked, can cause cell death and lead to heart disease, cancer, and more. Antioxidants seek out these unbalanced atoms and neutralize them. Saw palmetto is rich in antioxidants.
Saw palmetto may be useful before prostate surgery. The evidence is often contradictory, but some doctors believe that taking saw palmetto in the weeks leading up to prostate surgery can minimize complications from that surgery. While this seems encouraging, be aware that as of this writing, there have not been any clinical studies to support or reject this notion.
Saw palmetto can help balance testosterone levels. For both men and women, maintaining a proper balance of hormones is crucial. When testosterone production waivers or increases, it can produce a number of different health problems, including hair loss, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, weight gain or loss, unwanted facial hair in women, and more. Saw palmetto has demonstrated an ability to balance testosterone levels.
Saw palmetto may help with acne. Acne is one of those things you might have expected medical science to have found a cure for now by now. But such is not the case. The best we can hope for are effective treatments. Saw palmetto has shown potential for being one of those treatments (5). Saw palmetto reduces the production of sebum, an oily substance secreted by the skin that clogs hair follicles and causes acne.
Saw palmetto may help reduce hair loss. There are several factors that influence hair loss. Genetics is one, certainly. And nothing can be done about that, yet. But hair loss also occurs for other reasons, particularly in women. Hormonal imbalances where the body produces too many male hormones can cause a woman to start losing hair. Because saw palmetto can restore hormonal balance, it may also be useful in treating hair loss (6).
Saw palmetto may be effective in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS, or Polycystic ovarian syndrome (7), typically affects young women and can lead to irregular periods and the development of unwanted facial hair. PCOS is typically caused by excess androgen (testosterone) production. Saw palmetto may reduce testosterone production and activity in women and reduce the effects of PCOS.
Saw palmetto can help normalize your menstrual cycle. As we mentioned above, PCOS can not only produce unwanted facial hair, but it can disrupt a woman’s normal menstrual cycle. By promoting proper hormonal balance and reducing the amount of testosterone active in a woman’s system, these irregular menstrual cycles can often be eliminated.
Saw palmetto may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Saw palmetto has proven its ability to arrest BPH in older men (8). This is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because stopping BPH in its tracks may reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. The scientific jury is still out on a definitive connection between BPH and prostate cancer. But there is enough evidence to support the notion that there is a link.
Saw palmetto is low in side effects. While saw palmetto rarely produces adverse side effects, it has been known to happen on occasion. Especially if a person takes more than the recommended amount. In such cases, they may experience a headache, lightheadedness, or nausea. Some people have complained of diarrhea or constipation. Again, though, such side effects are rare.
Saw palmetto may boost libido. There is compelling scientific evidence to support the long-held belief that saw palmetto can increase libido in men (9). It is believed this increase in sexual function is related to saw palmetto’s ability to increase testosterone production and improve prostate health. The prostate is, after all, a crucial component of male sexual function. So it follows that a healthier prostate may lead to a healthier sex life.
Saw palmetto may help stabilize blood glucose levels. Scientific evidence regarding saw palmetto’s ability to help stabilize blood sugar is lacking, primarily because there have yet to be any reputable large scale health studies on the subject. Until those studies happen, what we have is a growing body of circumstantial evidence that points to saw palmetto possibly being effective at stabilizing blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes.
Saw palmetto may produce natural breast enlargement. There is some evidence that saw palmetto can act as a natural breast enhancer. How it does so is not entirely understood. It may reduce the production and activity of testosterone in women’s bodies, thereby clearing the way for female hormones to assert their influence. Or, it may promote the production of zearalenone (10), a hormone known to promote breast development.
Saw palmetto is safe for most men and women. As we have seen, saw palmetto is both safe and effective when taken as directed (11). It is more than just the ‘supplement du jour’. It is a viable way to treat an array of disorders, primarily those affecting the male prostate gland. Side effects are rare, and both men and women typically tolerate saw palmetto supplements well.
Saw palmetto can enhance overall health. Most men will be interested in saw palmetto for its ability to mitigate BPH symptoms, and most women for its ability to balance hormone levels. But the bottom line is that, because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, saw palmetto can help just about anyone achieve a higher degree of overall health. And you can’t really ask much more than that from any supplement.
Q: What is saw palmetto?
A: Saw palmetto (12) – sometimes referred to as ‘serenoa repens’ – is a fruit-bearing plant native to North America. It has been a staple of traditional medicine for centuries. Native peoples also used saw palmetto berries as a food source. But that tradition has almost completely disappeared. Today, saw palmetto is prized for its ability to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and urinary conditions, as well as for providing numerous antioxidant benefits.
Q: Who should take saw palmetto?
A: Saw palmetto has numerous applications due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities, and because of its ability to modulate hormone levels in both men and women. Men with BPH should consider using saw palmetto. Also, people suffering from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and IBS, people with asthma or bronchitis, and those suffering from low libido should also consider saw palmetto.
Q: Is saw palmetto really an effective treatment for BHP?
A: Yes, saw palmetto is an effective treatment for BPH (13). While the clinical data is still a bit thin, the data there is suggests saw palmetto can arrest BPH progression and, at the same time, improve urinary flow while reducing the need for frequent urination, a common side effect of BPH. Saw palmetto is considered an attractive alternative to big pharma medicines because it produces few side effects and is well-tolerated.
Q: Can saw palmetto prevent prostate cancer?
A: There is evidence that saw palmetto can have a positive effect on symptoms of BPH. However, it would be a stretch to say it can prevent prostate cancer. The mechanisms which lead to the development of prostate cancer are still not fully understood. Although BPH is considered a potential risk factor. Because of that, saw palmetto may, in time, prove itself effective in preventing prostate cancer in some instances.
Q: What’s all the talk about fatty acids?
A: The fatty acids in saw palmetto play host to the active ingredients, the phytosterols. Phytosterols are often used to lower cholesterol (14). But due to their anti-inflammatory properties (15), they provide a range of other benefits as well. Without the fatty acids, a saw palmetto supplement would not be worth much. So the higher the concentration of fatty acids, the higher the concentration of beneficial phytosterols.
Q: Should I take saw palmetto before prostate surgery?
A: Some medical professionals believe that taking 320 mg per day for up to two months may help reduce the chances of complications during the surgery and may reduce the amount of time it takes to recover (16). Keep in mind, however, that saw palmetto can thin the blood slightly. So you may bleed a bit more during surgery. You should inform your surgeon ahead of time if you intend to take saw palmetto in the period before surgery.
Q: Is there a ‘right’ way to take saw palmetto?
A: There is no right or wrong way to take saw palmetto. But to ensure you remember to take it, you should probably make taking it part of a daily routine, like lunch or dinner. Since the active compounds in saw palmetto are fat-soluble, some suggest that taking it with food may facilitate absorption. But most people will likely see little difference in effectiveness whether they take it with food or on an empty stomach with a glass of water.
Q: How much saw palmetto should I take?
A: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. And because health professionals consider saw palmetto a supplement, medical guidance is wanting. The best advice is to follow the dosing recommendations on the label of whatever saw palmetto supplement you buy. If you think you need more, you should discuss it with your doctor, since taking too much may lead to diarrhea or headache.
Q: Should women take saw palmetto?
A: Saw palmetto is often thought of as a ‘men’s supplement’ because of its ability to treat BPH. But women can also benefit from its use. There is evidence it may help relieve menstrual cramps. Beyond that, saw palmetto is a powerful antioxidant with benefits for both men and women. Saw palmetto also has anti-inflammatory (17) abilities, making it a potential treatment for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Q: Can saw palmetto be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis?
A: There are two types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, which is the result of wear and tear on the joints, and rheumatoid arthritis (18), which is an autoimmune disease. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system malfunctions and turns on healthy tissue in the joints, killing it off and causing pain and disfigurement. As anti-inflammatory agents are commonly used as part of a treatment regime (19), it is possible that saw palmetto could too.
Q: Can saw palmetto treat polycystic ovarian syndrome?
A: Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the result of a hormonal imbalance. It can disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle and cause her to grow unwanted body and facial hair. An excessive amount of androgen hormones – most notably testosterone – are often directly or indirectly to blame for this. Since saw palmetto is able to restore hormonal balance, it is a potential treatment for this condition (20).
Q: Are there any side effects to taking saw palmetto?
A: When taken as directed, saw palmetto produces very little by way of adverse side effects (21). When side effects do occur, they are typically mild and may include headache, constipation, diarrhea, or dizziness. If you believe you are experiencing side effects from taking saw palmetto, stop taking it and consult your doctor.
Q: Does saw palmetto cause stomach problems?
A: It is hard to know where some stories get started, but there is no scientific evidence that, when used as directed, saw palmetto creates serious stomach issues. It may have something to with the fact that taking more than directed may cause an upset stomach or diarrhea. But again, no evidence suggests saw palmetto will produce long-term stomach problems of any kind.
Q: Is saw palmetto safe for women?
A: Saw palmetto is considered generally safe for women of all ages, though it is not recommended for children. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, however, should consult their doctor before taking saw palmetto. In addition, women being treated with blood thinners should avoid saw palmetto, since saw palmetto can also thin the blood.
Q: How long do I need to take saw palmetto?
A: It depends on why you are taking it. If you wish to avoid developing BPH, then it would be wise to take it on a daily basis over an extended period of time, likely years. As of this writing, there are no known ill effects from long-term saw palmetto supplementation (22). If you are taking it to alleviate symptoms of an existing condition, such as BPH or CPOS, you should take it daily and allow up to 6 weeks to see results.
Q: Can saw palmetto be used to treat arthritis?
A: Because saw palmetto has robust anti-inflammatory properties, it can be useful in treating symptoms of arthritis. Arthritis is an inflammatory condition, and any treatment that aspires to be successful in treating it needs to have anti-inflammatory abilities. Many older guys are, in fact, surprised when they start taking saw palmetto for their BPH and wind up enjoying relief from the pain and stiffness of their arthritis.
Q: Can saw palmetto help control blood sugar levels?
A: This is a hotly debated subject, with saw palmetto users on one side confident that the supplement is helping them control their blood sugars, and medical professionals on the other side pointing out that there have been no studies performed to confirm this. As a result, it is impossible to say with any certainty that saw palmetto can influence blood glucose. The best idea is to talk it over with your doctor before taking saw palmetto for this purpose.
Q: Can saw palmetto help with migraines?
A: Migraines (23) are mysterious and vexing episodes whose triggers include light, food, and stress. It is believed that during a migraine, blood vessels and nerves in the brain fall victim to inflammation. This results in pain, disorientation, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, and other classic symptoms of the migraine. Because saw palmetto has well-known anti-inflammatory capabilities, it may prove useful in the treatment of migraines.
Q: Who should not use saw palmetto?
A: Saw palmetto is an herb that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. For most men and women, it is completely safe when taken as directed. That said, it is recommended that pregnant and nursing women avoid saw palmetto, mostly out of an abundance of caution. People suffering from hemophilia (24) should also avoid saw palmetto since it tends to thin the blood.
Q: Does saw palmetto produce any adverse drug reactions?
A: If you are being treated with blood thinners, you should avoid saw palmetto due to its blood-thinning abilities. Also, if you are currently undergoing hormone therapy (25), you should talk to your doctor before taking saw palmetto. That is because saw palmetto can affect a person’s hormonal balance. That is particularly true for women. So if you are currently taking Climara, Fempatch, or related drugs, talk to your doctor before using saw palmetto.
Saw palmetto can help reduce symptoms of BPH in men, may reduce the chances of developing prostate cancer, and can be useful in the treatment of PCOS in women.
Saw palmetto provides robust anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, making it potentially useful in the treatment of arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and many other conditions.
Best of all, saw palmetto is generally well-tolerated, produces few side effects, is quite affordable, and does not require a prescription.
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