Saw palmetto for prostate problems

Researchers in a recent joint study at the University of Chicago Medical Center and the Dekalb Clinic found that men with lower urinary tract problems, such as an enlarged prostate, may benefit from the herb saw palmetto.

"Our study provides the best evidence to date that saw palmetto can have a beneficial effect" on lower urinary tract problems, said Dr. Glenn Gerber, MD, associate professor of surgery at the university and director of the study.

In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, researchers enrolled 94 men aged 45 years and older, that were diagnosed with urinary retention. After a one-month placebo period, nine men that reported improvement were removed from the trial. The remaining 85 were randomly selected to receive either 160 mg twice per day of standardized saw palmetto, or a placebo.

The study subjects filled out a questionnaire about their urinary symptoms, sexual function, and quality of life, and had their urinary flow rates measured. The tests were repeated one, two, four, and six months into the trial.

After six months, using the International Prostate Symptom Score, the mean score of the saw palmetto group decreased, showing an improvement of 4.4 points compared with 2.2 points in the placebo group. Peak urinary flow rates improved slightly in both groups and self-assessed quality of life improved slightly in both groups. There were no changes reported in sexual function. Dr. Gerber stated, "Saw palmetto clearly offers a symptomatic benefit that can provide a short-term improvement of urinary symptoms as compared with placebo controls."

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