| dwarf palmetto
Habitat: found in swampy areas and
along the Atlantic coast of the United States.
Description: has a large
underground trunk that produces palmate, green, white-coated leaves. The fruit
is a dark purple-to-black berry which grows in clusters and ripens from October
Medicinal parts: berries - ripe,
Saw palmetto berries are an old American tonic. John
Lloyd, a famous early American medical botanist, observed that animals fed on
these berries grew sleek and fat. This same observation was made by many early
settlers searching for fodder and nutritional supplements for their
Once news of these berries reached medical researchers,
the berries were investigated and their effects verified. Especially in the
1870's, much research demonstrated the berry's effect on general health and
disposition, tranquilization, appetite stimulation, reproductive health, and
body weight. Eventually, pressure from proponents within the medical
establishment led to the herb's inclusion in the National Formulary and the
U.S. Pharmacopoeia. It was dropped from the USP in 1916 and the NF in 1950 as
the medical profession's enthusiasm for natural agents wained. Contributing to
its demise was the fact that no one had found any active principle in the herb
(beyond some relatively inactive plant steroids) to account for its observed
actions. Like many native American herbal remedies, it no longer received much
experimental attention once the era of modern medicine arrived.
Saw palmetto berry's main effects are: on the digestive
system, to stimulate appetite and provide excellent nutrition; on the
reproductive system, to increase the size and secreting ability of the mammary
glands, decrease ovarian and uterine irritability, relieve dysmenorrhea,
ameliorate ovarian dysfunction, and relieve various diseases of the
reproductive apparatus, including symptoms of inflammation, blockage, and
rupture; on the prostate, to remedy enlargement and cystitis.
Saw Palmetto Berries Contain Plant
Dried saw palmetto berries contain high concentrations of
free and bound sitosterols, including the very active beta-sitosterol. When
injected under the skin of animals, they exhibited estrogenic activity.
Although no comparison can be made between this route of administration and
drinking a cup of saw palmetto tea or taking a couple of capsules, one might
speculate that the presence of such high concentrations of sitosterols,
together with other principles in the berry, forms the basis for biological
activity in man. Needless to say, a great deal more research would be required
to verify such a mechanism.
Since saw palmetto's diuretic action
increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride, the herb may potentiate
the hyperglycemic and hyperuricemic effect of glucose-elevating agents.
Diuretics in general may potentiate the
action of antihypertensive ganglionic of periphera adrenergic blocking drugs,
tubocurarine and, to a lesser degree, norepinephrine.
In conjunction with corticotropin (ACTH) or
corticosteroids, this diuretics is more prone to produce hypokalemia.
It should be noted that the use of diuretics
may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs. Furthermore, the diuretic
action of saw palmetto may reduce renal clearance of lithium.
Prolonged use of this diuretic herb may affect certain
laboratory test results such as electrolytes, and especially potassium and
sodium, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), uric acid, glucose, and protein bound iodine
The antidiabetic ability of saw palmetto may be decreased
by the concomitant use of acetazolamide, oral contraceptives, corticosteroids,
dextrothyroxine, epinephrine, ethanol, glucagon, and marijuana.
The antidiabetic effects of the herb may also be decreased
when used in conjunction with phenothiazines, rifampin, thiazide diuretics, and
Conversely, the antidiabetic action of saw palmetto may be
enhanced when used with allopurinol, anabolic steroids, chloramphenicol,
chlofibrate, fenfluramine, guanethidine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors,
phenylbutazone, probenecid, and phenyramidol.
The antidiabetic action of the herb may also be enhanced
when used in conjunction with salicylates, sulfinpyrazone, sulfonamides, and
In the absence of other hard data, it may be assumed that
observable interactions occur between the many central nervous system drugs and
the psychoactive principles in saw palmetto.
There is no known toxicity level of this herb.