Saw Palmetto has a rich history of use for aiding fertility challenges in both men and women. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a type of creeping shrubby palm tree. It is native to the coastal regions of the southern United States. Many Native American tribes were the first to use this plant as medicine. Traditional use by herbalists across the United States has shown that when it comes to infertility, this herb works best in people with depleted vitality and weakened reproductive function. Many clinical herbalists note that this herb is not helpful for people who already have healthy reproductive function and overall vitality.
The berry of this plant looks much like an olive and is considered a “food” herb. Food herbs are nutritive, nontoxic that can be taken long-term in substantial quantities. Other food herbs are Dandelion, Red Clover, Ginger, and Nettles. This gives you an idea of the safety of Saw Palmetto. It is also important to note that food herbs take time, usually many months to be effective. These are plants that are deeply nourishing and bring about the greatest long-term health benefits.
Saw Palmetto Benefits Fertility in a Variety of Ways
Saw palmetto has a variety of actions. Many of these actions may directly or indirectly support proper function of the reproductive system and overall health of the body. People with high stress, poor immune function, poor lifestyle and dietary habits, have shown to respond well to this herb.
This plant is classified as an adaptogen, antiandrogenic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, urinary antiseptic, immune amphoteric. Saw Palmetto is also a reproductive amphoteric. What does that mean though? It simply means it normalizes reproductive function. Remember, this is only for those whose reproductive function is impaired.
Fertility issues Saw Palmetto is commonly use for:
- Ovarian and uterine pain
- Cystic acne
- Chronic fatigue
- Pelvic congestion
- Hirsutism due to PCOS
- Low Sperm Count
- Low libido
- Elevated levels of androgens
- Irritation and anxiety
- Low cervical mucous
- Endometrial hyperplasia
- Delayed puberty
- Poorly developed secondary sexual characteristics
- Prostate problems
Low Sperm Count
Studies have shown that diet and lifestyle directly impact sperm health. Poor nutritional and lifestyle habits, combined with high levels of stress may cause lower sperm counts. Saw Palmetto is nourishing to the entire endocrine system, which may help improve overall reproductive function in men.
Improved Immune System Function
The adaptogenic and immune supportive actions of Saw Palmetto may help support the male and female body through times of high stress: adrenal fatigue, IVF preparation, fatigue, weakness, fatigue, weakened reproductive system function. Signs of this in men may be impotence, low sperm count, and hormonal imbalance. In women this may present as irregular cycles, hormonal imbalance, ovarian cysts, PCOS, or any situation where uterine stagnation is present. Many people who have taken Saw Palmetto long-term have reported improvement in energy and sense of wellbeing. Many case studies, no matter what the problem was, when Saw Palmetto was used, the men had all reported being in a “better mood.” Saw Palmetto alone cannot solve stress problems, other stress reduction techniques should be implemented as well.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Some women experience hair thinning and/or excess facial and body hair growth known as hirsutism. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of the androgen testosterone. Testosterone present in excessive levels, as found in some women with PCOS, is converted to much stronger dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase. DHT is thought to be responsible for male pattern baldness in men, but also thinning hair in women. This may also cause excessive hair growth in unwanted areas in women, especially on the face.
Women with PCOS usually have high levels of estrogen, and low levels of progesterone; known as estrogen dominance. This may cause uterine hypertrophy, also known as endometrial hyperplasia. Excessive levels of estrogen may cause excessive cell proliferation of the endometrium. The endometrium is the innermost layer of the uterus. Saw Palmetto is strengthening for the body tissues, aiding in proper formation and function of the uterine cells.
Deep Cystic Acne
A chief complaint by women with PCOS is cystic acne. Saw Palmetto has been shown to help reduce cystic acne by binding to androgens. Elevated levels of androgens in women with PCOS has been shown to increase activity of the sebaceous glands, which increases growth of epidermal tissue. This then blocks the follicle and creates a cyst of sebum, keratin and bacteria. Irritation causes the rupture of the cyst, then acute inflammatory response, then abscess, and then a longer healing process which causes scarring.
Saw Palmetto Combines Well With Other Herbs
- Saw Palmetto combines well with Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), Licorice Rt. (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Nettles Root (Urtica dioica) for reduction of PCOS and all related symptoms of associated with this disorder. Licorice has also been found to reduce serum testosterone levels in women with PCOS.
- Saw Palmetto also combines well with Damiana (Turnera diffusa) to support healthy libido. Equal ratio 1:1 for increasing libido.
- For male factor infertility, low sperm count and reduced male reproductive function Saw Palmetto combines well with Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng), Fo-ti (Polygonum multiflorum) and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).
- Combines well with Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) for uterine prolapse and to aid in vaginal tone after multiple childbirths.
- For cystic acne Saw Palmetto combines well with Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) and Oregon Grape root (Mahonia aquifolium).
Suggested Dosage for Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto takes time to be effective. It is suggested for use over a 6 week period, taking note of any improvements over that time. If improvements are noted, it may be continued on for many months for best results. At about 6 months discontinuing use of this herb will help to see how the body is functioning on its own.
Capsule: 400mg capsule a day
Liquid Extract: 1 tsp. liquid extract a day
The plant part used is the berry. These berries contain a variety of chemical compounds that have important balancing actions on the body. The berry has been said to taste like an intense sweet, slight vanilla flavor at first, then like a very strong blue cheese ending in tobacco or pepper juice flavor. The ripe, but not old berry should be dark purplish black and is considered the most effective. Because of its pungency, this plant is most commonly taken in either hydroalcoholic (water and alcohol mixture) extract or by capsule. The state of Florida pulls in an estimated 70 million dollars a year for sales of Saw Palmetto supplements. It is relatively easily harvested plant, making it a sustainable choice as a nutritional supplement.
Important note about quality: The powdered berry in capsules should have a strong odor and pungent aromatic taste. The liquid extract should have a strong aromatic flavor as well. If the product you purchased does not have these qualities, it may not be as effective. Older berries lose their effectiveness. Powdered Saw Palmetto has a shelf life of 1 year.
Because this plant has antiandrogenic effects, manipulating some hormone levels in the body, it is not suggested for combination with any type of medications for fertility that also affect hormone levels. Speak with your doctor prior to using Saw Palmetto if you plan on taking medications for PCOS. Do not use Saw Palmetto prior to getting hormone testing for any fertility issue. Saw Palmetto may affect the test results. Do not use Saw Palmetto during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Saw Palmetto has been found safe for long-term use in most cases. Talk to your doctor or natural healthcare practitioner to see if Saw Palmetto is right for you.
2. Winston, David. Saw Palmetto for Men & Women, Storey Books, 1999