What Are The Side Effects Of Saw Palmetto?

Our pharmacist answers the latest question regarding the potential side effects of saw palmetto.

Question

What are the side effects of saw palmetto? I want to use it for an enlarged prostate.

Asked by Bootie On Nov 02, 2017

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Nov 02, 2017

Saw Palmetto 1
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a popular over the counter herbal supplement that is mostly used in men for enlarged prostate or BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia). 


Overall, studies show that short term use (3-5 years) of saw palmetto is generally well tolerated and largely free of adverse effects.  The most commonly reported side effects are as follows:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dyspepsia
  • Loss of libido


Many of the above gastrointestinal side effects may be lessened by taking your saw palmetto product with food.


There have been isolated case reports of more serious side effects, but it is unknown whether or not saw palmetto was a major factor in them happening. Below, we list some of the potentially rare side effects that have been reported.


Saw Palmetto Side Effects


Cardiovascular

There are rare reports of certain cardiovascular side effects such as hypertension and angina. Here is a link to one of the larger studies that reported these adverse effects: Study. In that study, 3.1% of the test participants using saw palmetto noticed elevated levels of blood pressure vs. 2.2% in those not taking saw palmetto.


Endocrine

There is some concern that saw palmetto may posses mild anti androgenic effects, much like a popular BPH drug Propecia (finasteride). This could be the reason some people experience a loss of libido. Sexual dysfunction (i.e. impotence, premature ejaculation) may also be an adverse reaction due tothe anti-androgenic effects.


Hematologic

The FDA has received very rare case reports of bleeding episodes in those taking saw palmetto. One such case report can be found here: Case Report


Overall however, saw palmetto is one of the most widely used natural products and has a very strong history of safe use. If you have further questions regarding its use or interactions with medications, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist in New York State and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2010. He has been featured in numerous publications including the Huffington Post as well as a variety of health and pharmacy-related blogs. Please feel free to reach out to him directly if you have any inquiries or want to connect! He's answered thousands of medication and pharmacy-related questions and he's ready to answer yours! Brian.Staiger@PharmacistAnswers.com Office: 716-389-3076

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