Herbal Help: Saw Palmetto

This new kid on the block may  help to lessen  the symptoms of prostate problems as well as thinning hair.

What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto is a small, fan-shaped palm tree native to the south east coast of America and the Caribbean. Before the 1920s it wasn't recognised for its healing effects, but now we see it as the top herb for male urinary problems.

How can it help me?
According to research it is said to help with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition found in nearly half of men over 50 whereby the prostate gland enlarges. This causes symptoms such as poor urine flow, dribbling, and leaking. The studies have shown men given saw palmetto showed significant improvement to urine flow and a reduction in the need to empty their bladder in the middle of the night.

Further studies have also suggested that it can help to stimulate hair growth. This is done by blocking the action of an enzyme found in the skin and scalp that interacts with testosterone and becomes a contributing factor in the onset of balding.

How should I use it?
The active constituents are found in the berries, but beware they're an acquired taste. Luckily it's more readily available in tablet or capsule form and can be taken alongside other herbs and vitamins.

How much should I take?
It’s always important to stick to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer. While it's thought to be of low toxicity there is the potential for mild side effects such as digestive discomfort. To reduce these it's important to take it with food.

Gabriella Clarke is a qualified medical herbalist and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. She teams centuries of tradition with modern science and practises from her clinic in the heart of the Chilterns in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.