Health Q&A with Dr. Michael Jacobson, D.O.: Saw palmetto for lower urinary tract symptoms?

From the January 2019 issue of Heartfelt Magazine.

Q: What is your opinion of saw palmetto herb as a remedy to curb my husband’s frequent nightly trips to the bathroom? And if you recommend it, how many milligrams are needed to be helpful?

A: Thank you for your question about saw palmetto. I have written about that supplement a few times over the years, most recently in the May 2016 issue of Heartfelt Magazine. At that time, I reviewed a summary of scientific literature and reported the following:

“What about “natural” alternatives to prescription medication?

“The most popular ‘natural remedy’ for Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) is saw palmetto, an extract of the berry by that name. In 2001, an estimated 2.5 million adult Americans used this product. Numerous studies have been conducted as to its effectiveness, many of poor quality, and/or only short duration (3 months or less), with conflicting results. For example, a recent trial compared saw palmetto with placebo and found that there was no difference after one year in the two groups in American Urological Society Symptom Index (AUA-SI) scores, maximal urinary flow rates, prostate size, residual volume after voiding, quality of life, or PSA scores during the study. As a result, the AUA recommends further, high-quality research studies, and does not make a recommendation for or against their use.”

In other words, there is (was) not much good evidence to say that it truly helped. However, that does not mean that it is ineffective, and since supplements can vary greatly in quality and purity, one brand might differ from another.

If I had benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), I think I’d consider giving it a try for a few months, using a reputable brand (you might check out consumerlab.com, which grades supplements for their ingredients and quality).

By the way, if your husband finds something that truly helps, please share it with me, and I’ll pass it on to our readers. We’re always interested in a better way.

If you have a health question for Dr. Jacobson, CHM Medical Consultant, please email it. This information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician.

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