Saw-palmetto extract comes from unique berries of a wild, indigenous small palm, Serenoa repens, that grows exclusively in the Southeast United States, predominantly in Florida. Native Americans who used the berries for centuries to treat a host of health conditions, introduced them to settlers. When ripe, the berries turn red and produce an oil that can be extracted without solvents. This extract is why many call the berry a Florida treasure.
Saw-palmetto extract (SPE) is a natural, safe, and effective first line of defense for urinary and prostate health. In Europe, SPE is often prescribed as a pharmaceutical for prostate problems. Most estimates show one out of every two men will struggle with mild-to-moderate prostate-related symptoms. Like accumulating gray hair or wrinkles, the onset of unpleasant urinary issues reveals an aging prostate. Studies show that taking 320 mg of pure SPE daily provides the prostate support that aging men need. That is why saw palmetto continues to be one of the top-20, best-selling, herbal dietary products in the United States.
However, not all products labeled for and claiming to contain saw palmetto are alike.
Prior to ripening, saw palmetto berries are green and do not contain the valued oil. Many manufacturers grind these green berries, label their product as containing saw palmetto, and hope that you don’t know the difference. Obviously, without the oil of the ripe fruit, these products do not provide the clinically proven levels of active compounds necessary to realize the prostate benefits. Many brands claiming to contain SPE have diluted and adulterated their products with cheap vegetable oils, also negating the benefit. In fact, last year the company where I work, Valensa International, engaged in a study to evaluate six other saw- palmetto brands. It found that four of six extracts appeared to be adulterated (engineered) and the remaining two appeared to be outright imitations.
Some harvesters don’t realize the impact that selling green berries has on the market. Ineffective raw material eventually harms land owners, farmers, retailers, manufacturers who extract the oil for other nutraceutical companies, and eventually the consumer, who is desperate for relief. The ground-berry powder sold in capsules, containing only a slight fraction of the efficacious oil, and adulterated SPE both compromise the health of a consumer leaning on saw-palmetto products to improve prostate health and reclaim quality of life.
We have been watching this latest development, said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of American Botanical Council (ABC) and founder and director of the Botanical Adulterants Program, because more ingredients masquerading as saw palmetto have surfaced on the market. We have heard concerns for many years from ethical, responsible members of the industry about adulteration creating unfair competition in the marketplace.
Low testosterone levels are associated with low libido in both men and women. Saw palmetto may boost libido by stopping the breakdown of testosterone in the body. In men, sperm production is guided by testosterone. Too little testosterone results in low sperm count. Similarly, too little testosterone reduces a woman’s egg production. Saw palmetto may increase both male and female fertility by affecting the balance of free testosterone in the body.
Saw Palmetto can be a very useful supplement. As with all supplements, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about whether saw palmetto might be right for you before you begin taking it.
Stephen Hill, MS, is vice-president of quality and product development at Valensa International. He has 17 years of experience in dietary supplements and specializes in saw palmetto. Contact him at [email protected]