Saw palmetto is a small palm tree, about 2 to 6 feet in height, naturally growing in the southeast of the United States and Atlantic North America, and native to the West Indies. Plants are commonly found in Florida, as well as in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. A row of saw palmetto signifies that you are in a warmer state, and so they are often identified with summer, sun, and fun. But there is more to this palm tree than just its crown of fan-shaped spiny leaves. Its berries are said to be therapeutic and medicinal. Most notably, maintaining a healthy prostate is one of the many effects of saw palmetto.
In the past, Ancient people knew of the medicinal functions of this palm tree, specifically of its berries (fruits). Early Americans believed it was a cure for urinary and reproductive problems; the Mayan people dried, juiced, and drank the berries as a tonic; the Seminoles took them as expectorants and antiseptics; the natives of Florida ate them as staple food; and the Indians considered them as a healing herb.
Historical records prove that aboriginal American medicine-men used it to promote good health, improve appetite, treat female infertility, develop female breasts, increase the production of breast milk in lactating mothers, and soothe painful menstrual cycle.
Before the turn of the century, medical literature described saw palmetto this way: “It is also an expectorant, and controls irritation of mucous tissues. It has proved useful in irritative cough, chronic bronchial coughs, whooping-cough, laryngitis, acute and chronic, acute catarrh, asthma, tubercular laryngitis, and in the cough of phthisis pulmonalis. Upon the digestive organs it acts kindly, improving the appetite, digestion, and assimilation. However, its most pronounced effects appear to be those exerted upon the urino-genital tracts of both male and female, and upon all the organs concerned in reproduction. It is said to enlarge wasted organs, as the breasts, ovaries, and testicles, while the paradoxical claim is also made that it reduces hypertrophy of the prostate.” In 1898, Edwin M, Hale, M.D, wrote the book, “Saw Palmetto”, and explained that extracts from crushed saw palmetto berries could function as an aphrodisiac and treat swollen prostate glands.
Amazingly, until today the berries are known to be an effective cure for swollen prostate glands or BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy) typical to older men, and to maintain a healthy prostate. Some patients experienced a reduced need of going to the bathroom at night, while some did not feel any effect until 1-2 months from taking the extracts. A few studies have discovered that the extracts have decreased enlarged prostate symptoms, treat certain types of prostate infections, and possibly treat prostate cancer when combined with other herbs.
Perhaps due to its effect on the prostate, some use saw palmetto as a diuretic to improve urinary drive, as an aphrodisiac to enhance sexual drive, and as a sedative to promote relaxation.
Meanwhile, other people and herbalists are convinced that saw palmetto has many other uses. It was observed that it can also provide relief for common cold, cough, asthma, sore throat, chronic bronchitis, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and headache. The effects of saw palmetto are generally agreed to be helpful to humans and more research is ongoing on them.