By David Richards, D.C., M.D.
Q: Should otherwise healthy men who have no symptoms take saw palmetto or a multivitamin with saw palmetto in it?
A: It is important to understand that saw palmetto is not a nutrient that is necessary to the prostate; it is a foreign substance just like a prescribed drug. Do not be fooled by false claims about saw palmetto such as “supports prostate health,” as it does nothing of the sort. If a man is having symptoms referable to the prostate, such as urinating at night or straining to urinate, and the symptoms are bothersome to him and interfere with his quality of life, then medication that is effective at relieving symptoms can be considered. Unfortunately, saw palmetto does not fall into that category because it has been shown in numerous studies (including a recent one that used three times the usual dose) to be of no value.1,2
On the other hand, if a man is not having any symptoms related to his prostate, it makes no sense for him to waste his money on something that he doesn’t need, is ineffective for its stated purpose, and is considered an “endocrine disrupter,” as it may interfere with the action of the male hormone testosterone.3
1. Barry MJ, Meleth S, Lee JY, et al. Effecf of Increasing Doses of Saw Palmetto Extract on Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms. A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2011;306(12):1344-1351.
2. Bent el al. Saw palmetto for benign prostatic hyperplasia. N Engl J Med. 2006 Feb 9;354(6):557-66.
3. Tacklind J, MacDonald R, Rutks I and Wilt TJ, 2009. Serenoa repens for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews 15 (2):CD001423. The Cochrane Library 2010, Issue 4.