An international panel of urologists published findings in June 2022 that won’t come as a surprise to most herbal researchers: “Saw palmetto extract is a valid treatment option for men with mild-to-moderate lower urinary tract symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.”

The panel was a collaboration of seven researcher-urologists from Europe and North America.

The researchers reviewd 50 earlier studies conducted on saw palmetto during the past 30 years.

Saw palmetto is often cited as the most-researched natural ingredient relative to urinary tract conditions and men’s prostate health; however, according to some experts, the results have been mixed.

“Mixed” is actually a very misleading term. Even a novice researcher reviewing medical databases such as PubMed.gov will quickly find that the vast majority of studies on saw palmetto come to a positive conclusions.

Regardless, “mixed results” is the default boilerplate wording used by pharmaceutical-funded organizations like Wikipedia when discussing any herb with a medical history. Even when studies support an herbal treatment being beneficial at a ratio of 50-1, the tally will still be reported as “mixed.”

Consensus lacking

Other factors adding to the lack of consensus on saw palmetto include: Disagreement between the American Urological Association and the European Association of Urology regarding guidelines for the use; lack of agreement on what the exact “mechanism of action” is that makes extracts effective; and inconsistent test results due to the wide variation in extract quality.

It was with all these challenges in mind that the collaboration of urologists set out to review the existing global literature, with a goal of publishing a series of consensus papers that could be utilized by health professionals around the world.

“Across the globe, there has been a lack of consensus with regards to the effectiveness of saw palmetto extract resulting in differing recommendations by health organizations around the world,” says study co-author Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a board-certified urologist, in a media release.

Directly addressing the need for more widespread recognition of saw palmetto’s urinary tract benefits, Brahmbhatt added: “The goal of this expert panel was to contribute to our collective understanding of the science and generate discussion about the role a high-quality saw palmetto extract can play in men’s health.”

What is saw palmetto?

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is the sole species currently classified in the genus Serenoa. It is a small palm tree, growing to a maximum height of about 10 feet, and is native to the southeastern United States. The berries of the saw palmetto palm trees were a staple food and medicine for the Native Americans in that region, and the knowledge of their use was adopted by the early settlers.

According to MountSanai.org: “In the early 1900s, men used the berries to treat urinary tract problems, and even to increase sperm production and boost libido.”

Though a more technically-advanced process, today the berries are harvested for the same reason—to manufacture the extracts that are popular in nutritional supplements. It is also possible to buy the berries, in dried form, to make an herbal tea at home. The herbal tea is used for the same nutritional/medicinal properties.

Urologists, researchers, consensus makers

The international panel first met virtually on April 24, 2021 to discuss a potential role for more widespread use of saw palmetto extract in North America. The objective of the review was to determine if the global literature and experience of the urologists supported the unequivocal use of saw palmetto for urinary tract infections.

After continued discussion over several months the panel agreed on seven consensus statements they felt were supported by previous research and published findings. The team reviewed over 50 original clinical research studies to come to their conclusions.

Full details of the panel’s findings can be downloaded here. Two important points the panel discussed—perhaps the most important points—should be considered by all saw palmetto consumers include:

• Much of the debate on the effectiveness of saw palmetto could be settled by lowering the “unrealistically high initial expectations” by people taking extracts.

Consumers have come to expect quick, drug-like results from natural products that oftentimes don’t work that way. Saw palmetto is one of those. Results are achieved over time, and, according to the researchers, it is more effective for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms—not moderate-to-severe symptoms.

• Results can vary dramatically depending on the quality of the saw palmetto extract. Buyers should be wary of low-priced products and recognize that potency may be lacking—or may not even be saw palmetto extract at all.

The study is published in the journal Uro in June 2022.

Saw palmetto is one of the ingredients comprising the potent proprietary formula in Optimal Opti-T.

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Source: Uro/MDPI database.