Capsules: Saw Palmetto for Prostate Health

Newsbreaks in herb research: One study shows saw palmetto to be as effective as finasteride, with fewer side effects.

| July/August 1997

  • Photo by Stephen Lea/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons:

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is as effective as the conventional drug finasteride at relieving symptoms of benign prostate enlargement, but it produces fewer side effects, according to one study.

The study, published in the journal The Prostate, confirmed that the commercial saw palmetto extract Permixon is equally as effective as finasteride at relieving symptoms of benign pros­tatic hyperplasia, or BPH, with fewer complaints of decreased sex drive or impotence.

The clinical trial, which involved eighty-seven urology centers in nine European countries, compared the use of Permixon with finasteride in the treatment of 1,098 men older than fifty who had been diagnosed with BPH.

A total of 553 participants took 160 mg of the saw palmetto extract twice daily for twenty-six weeks. The remaining 545 participants took 5 mg of finasteride daily (the manufacturer’s suggested dose) for twenty-six weeks. A total of 951 men completed the study, 467 receiving the saw palmetto and 484 receiving the finasteride. Participants were evaluated before the study began and at intervals of six, thirteen, and twenty-six weeks.

Researchers recorded peak and average urinary flow rates, sexual function, and other factors. They concluded that both treatments relieved BPH symptoms in about two-thirds of patients. Finasteride produced a significant decrease in prostate size, but the saw palmetto product did not, suggesting different mechanisms of action for its effectiveness, and the saw palmetto product produced significantly fewer complaints of decreased libido or impotence compared with finasteride.(6)


(6)Carraro, J. C., et al. “Comparison of the Phytotherapy (Permixon) with Finasteride in the Treatment of Benign Prostate Hyperplasia: A Randomized International Study of 1,098 Patients.” The Prostate 1996, 29:231–240. 

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