Saw palmetto is generally well tolerated.
What are the side effects from taking saw palmetto?
Taking saw palmetto supplements with food may reduce these side effects.
In men, additional side effects of saw palmetto should be considered:
Like many other health supplements, saw palmetto in the United States is not regulated by the FDA (Food & Drug Agency).
An unregulated market means that there is greater likelihood of varying quality between batches from different suppliers; there is also a chance that a batch may be contaminated. Buy saw palmetto supplements from reputable suppliers to reduce this risk.
Some saw palmetto supplements may contain other minerals, vitamins, herbs and other additives. The supplement may therefore not be of a purity high enough for any claimed benefits; dosage may have to be adjusted if an extract is weak in purity.
There have been a small number of reported cases, but no direct evidence suggesting saw palmetto may be associated with:
As a precaution, people with conditions relating to the lungs, heart, liver or stomach should seek advice from their doctor first.
A possible link between heart disease and saw palmetto is that saw palmetto contains the chemical beta-sitosterol which is similar to cholesterol. Raised sitosterol concentrations are linked to an increased frequency of heart problems in men at high risk of coronary heart disease . More research is required to investigate any link between between saw palmetto and cholesterol.
Saw palmetto may also influence hormonal activity. Although unproven, extract of saw palmetto berries may alter the balance of sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. This could interfere with the effectiveness of hormone related drugs such as:
Seek advice from your doctor if you are considering taking saw palmetto and hormone related drugs.
Due to possible hormonal activity, saw palmetto is not recommended for people taking medications which affect the balance of hormones. Such medications include the birth control pill taken by women.
Pregnant women or those breast feeding should not take saw palmetto; there is not enough research on saw palmetto and its effects on pregnancy and breastfeeding.
PSA is an abbreviated form of the term prostate-specific antigen. PSA is a protein which can be measured to help detect or monitor the presence of prostate cancer in men.
Saw palmetto may cause a drop in PSA levels making diagnosis of prostate cancer more difficult; however there is no evidence at present to support this.
On a more positive note, saw palmetto may be of use in reducing PSA levels if raised levels are found.
Seek advice from a physician if you are considering taking saw palmetto for a specific health condition or complaint.