Saw palmetto is a popular supplement for men with symptoms of prostate enlargement. The botanical extract has a reputation for easing symptoms such as frequent or difficult urination. According to a new placebo-controlled study, however, that reputation is undeserved.

The scientists tested regular and high doses of saw palmetto in 369 men randomly assigned to the extract or to a placebo. The study lasted nearly a year and a half. During that time, there was no significant improvement in men taking as much as three times the usual dose of saw palmetto berry extract, but there was also no difference between the groups with respect to side effects. This is the second large placebo-controlled trial to report no improvement with saw palmetto for prostate symptoms.

[JAMA, Sept. 28, 2011]

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  1. JD

    Sounds a lot like Bigfoot! Main stream science says it isn’t real but tell that to all the people who’ve seen one. It’s all in who looks at the data (or lack of looking) and how they interpret it. Would be nice to see a few independent non-drug company funded studies. I personally just started taking SP for BPH and placebo or not I hope it works!

  2. Don98

    I side with all of the other positive comments. Recognized symptoms of prostate enlargement about 12 years ago.
    Did some book research on treatments and herbs. Also saw an article by a prominent doctor in Sunday PARADE magazine newspaper supplement.
    Started taking saw palmetto supplements of standardized extracts, not whole berries. (Standardized Extract formula is 85 to 95% fatty acids and 135-152 mg biologically active sterol.) Results were noticeable within a week.
    Had hernia surgery in 2001. Doctor asked typical question about medications for pre-surgery exam. I said vitamin C to prevent colds-flu and saw palmetto for enlarged prostate. He checked me out and told me to keep on doing just as I had been.
    I have experimented or missed my SP gels on occasion and have noticed an almost immediate problem with urination. Now I religiously take my SP three times a day.

  3. parker

    I am skeptical about reports of “studies” that do not reveal who paid for them and where a more complete version of the “studies” can be reviewed.
    The current study and the earlier study might have been supported by an organization that could benefit from their outcome. In all likelihood, a company that manufactures a prescription drug (such as Flomax) would benefit from the expected outcome. I do not know who financed either study.
    On, there is a well-respected talk about how even articles in peer-reviewed medical journals can be biased toward a preferred outcome.

  4. beau10

    What study? By whom. With whose funding? Perhaps a pharma company who now wishes you to Buy! Buy! the latest drug soon to be on the market?

  5. SP

    I was told that I had a large prostate when I was in my forties, but didn’t experience any symtoms until I reached my late fifties. I am currently taking 1800 mg of saw palmetto every day and have been symtom free. I can sleep for seven hours each night with saw palmetto, but when I experiment and go off the supplement I wake up about half way through the night to urinate. It works for me and I’m going to continue as long as the effect continues.

  6. BK

    I can definitely say that over the years when I had increased urination problems Saw Palmetto always reversed this problem…….every single time. Usually it takes about two to three weeks of taking SP pills and the end results are always positive in that the frequency of urination goes back to normal periods. Study or not I will continue to use Saw Palmetto in the future.

  7. Anonymous

    I have done a test of sorts on myself by taking saw palmetto; then I stop taking it for a period of time. When I take it, my urinary frequency is much less than when I do not take it. If that is just a placebo effect, then all the better. It would be nice to be able to treat all ailments successfully with just the placebo effect.

  8. rj

    I am always doubtful of studies, in this case my comment is I have been taking saw palmetto for years with a return to normal urination.

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