This treatment modality is thought to manage symptoms of cancer, side effects from conventional therapies and/or control pain. Saw palmetto should be used with, not in place of, standard cancer therapy.
What does saw palmetto therapy involve?
Saw palmetto is a herbal remedy made from the berries of a low growing palm native to the southeastern United States. The berries are harvested, dried and ground for preparation as a tea or in a capsule. The berries have long been used by Native Americans to treat problems of the urinary and genitals systems. Saw palmetto is often prescribed for the treatment of benign prostatic hyerplasia (BPH), a non-malignant enlargement of the prostate, or as an anti-inflammatory. Saw palmetto berries do not appear to reduce the size of an enlarged prostate. Instead, they relieve the symptoms associated with BPH such as frequent urination and urine retention without causing impotence.
How is saw palmetto thought to manage specific symptoms of cancer, side effects of conventional therapies and/or control pain?
Saw palmetto is used to alleviate the symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate, either benign or malignant. Saw palmetto reduces inflammation, swelling and the absorption of the male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in prostate tissue. These results act to relieve bladder obstruction and improve urinary flow.
What has been proven about the benefit of saw palmetto?
The University of Texas Center for Alternative Medicine conducted an extensive human studies literature review of saw palmetto and found ten studies applicable to cancer. Several studies reported a significant improvement of symptoms of BPH compared to controls. The American Cancer Society agrees that saw palmetto may be useful in relieving symptoms of BPH after reviewing an overview of eighteen scientific studies on saw palmetto published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is important to understand that BPH is not a malignant condition. There is no available evidence that saw palmetto is of value in the treatment of prostate cancer. Saw palmetto should be used to alleviate symptoms of disease, not as a curative therapy.
What is the potential risk or harm associated with saw palmetto?
Side effects are not common at the recommended dosage levels, but headache, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, dizziness, constipation or diarrhea, insomnia, tiredness and heart pain have been reported.
How much does saw palmetto cost?
Cost will vary with pharmacies. Capsules begin at $10 for 90.
For additional information:
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, TX 77030
Telephone: (800) 392-1611
Web site: www.mdanderson.org/departments/CIMER/
Note: Information about therapies is intended to help you make informed choices, not to endorse any particular therapy. The information is courtesy of "Integrating Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients," a handbook written as an independent study project by Heather Morein. For more information, see the full text of the handbook (PDF), including all references and appendices.