Saw palmetto and pygeum for prostate health

Author: ANCP   Date Posted:23 July 2014 

Of all the complementary medicines that may support prostate health and aid the management of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), few are as popular or as well researched as the herbs saw palmetto and pygeum.

Saw palmetto

Saw palmetto has a long history of use in the treatment of prostate and urinary tract problems, and has also traditionally been regarded as an aphrodisiac. saw palmetto prostateIn the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, it was even referred to by North American herbalists as the ‘old man’s friend!’ Saw palmetto has been the subject of numerous scientific studies, some of which suggest that it may reduce symptoms of mild to moderate BPH such as nocturia (needing to get up repeatedly during the night to urinate) and reduced urinary flow, with benefits being experienced in as little as four to eight weeks.

Some (but not all) studies involving men with benign prostatic hypertrophy have even found that taking saw palmetto may lead to improvements in sexual performance. For example, in a pilot study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2012, men who took saw palmetto extract every day for eight weeks experienced improvements not only in their prostate symptoms but also in symptoms of sexual dysfunction.

This small study was not placebo-controlled and more research will be required before its findings can be confirmed). Saw palmetto may work by reducing the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (high levels of which may contribute to the development of BPH) and inhibiting the ability of these hormones to bind to receptors on prostate cells. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that may contribute to its action.


In African herbal medicine, pygeum has traditionally been used to address prostate problems and conditions of the urinary tract as well as to aid sexual performance and treat baldness. Numerous clinical studies suggest that it may lead to moderate improvement in symptoms of BPH such as urinary frequency (including at night-time), urinary urgency, and pain on urination. It may also help strengthen urinary flow and reduce the retention of urine in the bladder after urination.

Analysis of the pooled data from 18 clinical studies revealed that men taking pygeum for BPH were more than twice as likely to experience improvements in symptoms as men who were taking placebo supplements. It’s not yet clear exactly how pygeum works, but proposed mechanisms of action include anti-inflammatory activity, reduction of bladder contractility, and effects on androgens (male hormones).