Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
Identification: Saw Palmetto is a small hardy fan palm whose stem usually remains below ground or runs just along the surface. In some cases, it develops an erect or arching trunk that may lift the whorl of leaves 2-8 ft above ground. The palmate leaves are 2-3 ft across and green or bluish green. The cluster of leaves gets about 4-6 ft
high with a similar spread. In the wild, saw palmetto often grows in clumps 20 ft or more in diameter. The petioles (leaf stems) are about 2 ft long and sharply saw-toothed. The fruits are round, black when ripe and about an inch in diameter.
Family: Arecaceae (Palmae) (Palm family)
Other Names: Cabbage Palm, Fan Palm, Sabal, Sabal Serrulata, Scrub Palm, Serenoa.
Flowers: May – July.
Habitat: Saw palmetto occurs naturally on the coastal plain from South Carolina to southeastern Louisiana. It grows in a wide range of habitats from seaside sand dunes and dry scrub to moist forests, pine flatwoods and even wetlands. Saw palmetto can be the dominant ground cover in certain southeastern pine forests, sometimes covering hundreds of acres.
Parts Used: Fruits (berries).
Constituents: Essential oil, fixed oil (consisting of 25% fatty acids; caproic, lauric, palmitic & 75% neutral fats), sterols,
polysaccharides (galactose, arabinose and uronic acid).
Medicinal Properties: Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diuretic, and sedative.
Uses: In the western world, saw palmetto is used mainly to relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) — a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. The urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, passes through the prostate gland. For most men, BPH is a normal part of aging. An enlarged prostate, however, may cause men to have trouble starting or maintaining urination, need to urinate more often, have urine leaks, or need to urinate during the night.
Some unconfirmed reports seem to indicate that saw palmetto may stimulate hair growth, some women reportedly use it to increase breast size, and it has also been promoted to enhance sexual desire for both men and women. No scientific evidence supports any of these uses.
Contraindications: Avoid in patients with breast cancer. Do not use any herbal product if pregnant, lactating mother, infant, or young child.
Preparations and Dosages: Tincture: [Fresh Berry, 1:2, Dry Berry, 1:5, 80% alcohol] 30 to 90 drops. Standard Infusion: 2-4 ounces, all forms up to 3 times a day. Decoction: Put 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful of the berries in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.