The Herbal Dilemma
Almost every day I am asked about recommendations on herbal or phytotherapeutic therapies for BPH. Many of which people see on TV with claims of improving prostate health.
Most of the products in the United States contain the berry extract saw palmetto (Serenoa Repens/sabal serrulata). It is believed that the liposterolic extract may have antiandrogen and anti-inflammatory properties of the prostate. Only a few suboptimal studies have shown any clinical effect.
I often concede to my patients that as a western doctor, the treatments that I recommend must be proven therapies, which can withstand the rigorous testing and show reproducible outcomes.
Not all herbal remedies have been well studied, however, Saw Palmetto like has. Because Saw Palmetto was once a half billion dollar industry in the US with little regulation on its production, many researchers set out to prove its claims.
Two large well-controlled studies found that Saw Palmetto was no better than placebo for the treatment of BPH symptoms. Just as importantly, the studies also found no significant side effects were reported.
My take-home message to patients interested in using Saw Palmetto for mild symptoms of BPH is that it’s not likely to help or hurt you. Patients with moderate to severe symptoms of BPH should adhere to traditional medical therapies.
“Saw Palmetto extract for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a systematic review.” JAMMA 1998