Saw Palmetto Relieves Prostate Trouble
Permixon®, an extract of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), effectively relieves the symptoms of a common form of prostate enlargement known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), according to a review published recently in the British Journal of Urology International (2004;94:338–44).
Affecting approximately 70% of men over 70 years old, BPH is a common condition in older men in which the prostate gland enlarges and obstructs urinary flow. BPH symptoms include a frequent need to urinate, weak urine flow, painful urination, and inability to completely empty the bladder (urinary retention). Urinary retention, in turn, increases the risk of bladder and kidney infections and kidney stones. Treatments for BPH include medications and surgery, but both of these options have the potential to cause serious side effects, including sexual dysfunction.
Saw palmetto is a shrub that grows in the southeastern United States. Historically, saw palmetto berries have been used to treat problems of the male urinary tract. An extract that contains the fat-soluble components of the saw palmetto berry appears to suppress the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a strong hormone that can trigger enlargement of the prostate gland. This extract has been studied extensively and found to effectively relieve BPH symptoms.
The current review examined the results of 18 trials and three previous reviews of the effects of Permixon, an extract of saw palmetto standardized to contain high amounts of the fat-soluble components, on BPH and its symptoms. All of the studies found positive effects: Four controlled trials found that treatment with the saw palmetto extract reduced urinary pain and urgency, and improved the strength of urine flow and bladder emptying. In addition, men participating in preliminary trials reported significant quality of life improvement after treatment with the saw palmetto extract.
One study found that the prostate glands of men treated with this extract were significantly smaller after two years. Another found that, compared with no treatment, using the extract of saw palmetto slowed the progression of BPH during a two-year period. Comparison trials found its effects to be similar to those of finasteride and tamsulosin, two standard medications used to treat BPH; however, while some men using the standard medications experienced sexual dysfunction as a side effect, men using the herbal extract did not. The benefits of this saw palmetto extract were demonstrated in both short (one-month) and long (five-year) trials, whether it was taken 160 mg twice per day or 320 mg once per day.
This review of the research on Permixon finds conclusively that the extract is effective and safe for treating BPH. As this brand has been demonstrated to contain high levels of the fat-soluble components of saw palmetto berry believed to be responsible for its benefits in treating BPH, it is believed to be more effective than saw palmetto extracts that are not standardized for their content of fat-soluble components. Other standardized saw palmetto extracts are likely to be as effective as Permixon, but further research is needed to confirm this. Permixon is produced in France and is not currently available in the United States.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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