Harvard Men's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Saw palmetto and prostate health

Q. Some of my friends take saw palmetto supplements to reduce urinary problems caused by an overgrown prostate, which I was recently diagnosed with. My friends swear by it, but is there any good evidence this stuff helps? Is saw palmetto safe?

A. The short answer is that we don't have great scientific evidence that taking saw palmetto truly reduces male urinary problems. On the other hand, it doesn't appear to cause major side effects either.

Many men try extracts of the saw palmetto (dwarf palm) tree as a "natural" treatment for urinary symptoms associated with noncancerous or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In BPH, the prostate gland grows larger than normal. This causes problems such as difficulty starting to urinate and having to urinate frequently at night (nocturia).

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