Testosterone, Saw Palmetto Berries and BPH, What Men Should Know

Back in the 1990’s, I owned a health food store in New York. Many men came into my store complaining of frequent urination. When I suggested a high quality saw palmetto berry supplement, many of them told me that they already tried that and it didn’t work. When I asked them what brand they had used, they always told me some type of low quality discount store brand. When they tried the brand that I suggested, available only at health food stores, they almost always came back and told me it had worked. Let’s explore some of the benefits of a high quality saw palmetto berry supplement.

Saw Palmetto berry extract inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase which changes testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The extract also appears to inhibit DHT from binding to cell receptor sites which increases the breakdown of DHT and encourages its excretion.

Limiting your body’s ability to change testosterone into DHT can be very important for several reasons. DHT is the primary contributing factor in male pattern baldness. [1][2] But more importantly, because DHT plays a role in the development and exacerbation of prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). [3][4] This happens because DHT enlarges the prostate gland. When the prostate becomes enlarged, frequent urination is a common symptom.

Numerous clinical trials with saw palmetto berry extract used in the treatment of BPH have found it safe and effective for the treatment of mild-to-moderate BPH compared to placebo. [5][6] Unlike prescription drugs, saw palmetto does not have serious unwanted side effects.

Native Americans of the south eastern United Sates have used saw palmetto berries as a food source and a medicine for hundreds of years with no terrible side effects. They used it in the treatment of both frequent urination and trouble urinating.

Saw palmetto berry extract has been approved for the treatment of prostate problems by the German Commission E, which a scientific advisory board and the German equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In Germany, saw palmetto is often recommended by physicians for the treatment of an enlarged prostate. In fact, in many European countries, a number of prescription and over-the-counter remedies for enlarged prostate contain saw palmetto extract.

On the other hand, the prescription drugs used in the treatment of BPH also lower DHT by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. But the drugs can have terrible side effects that might continue after stopping the treatment. The side effects may include erectile dysfunction, diminished libido and male breast cancer. [7][8] They are also known to have cognitive side effects, including depression, [9] brain fog and memory loss. [8]

If you decide to take saw palmetto berries to treat the symptoms of BHP, make sure you get a quality product. I suggest a product that has been standardized to contain at least 85 percent fatty acids and sterols.  And remember, if you want it to work, you need to take it every day and give it some time to work its magic.  It usually takes up to 45 days to start showing lessening of symptoms and may take as long as 90 days to show some results.

  1. Nordqvist C (2012-02-23).“What Is DHT (Dihydrotestosterone)? What Is DHT’s Role In Baldness?”. Medical News Today.
  2. “Male Pattern Baldness Causes”.Hair Loss Health Center. WebMD, LLC.
  3. “Prostate Enlargement – What Causes The Prostate To Enlarge?”. ehealthMD
  4. Freedland SJ, Isaacs WB, Platz EA, Terris MK, Aronson WJ, Amling CL, Presti JC, Kane CJ (October 2005). “Prostate size and risk of high-grade, advanced prostate cancer and biochemical progression after radical prostatectomy: a search database study”. Clin. Oncol. 23 (30): 7546–54.doi:10.1200/JCO.2005.05.025.PMID 16234520.
  5. Wilt T, Ishani A, Mac Donald R (2002). “Serenoa repens for benign prostatic hyperplasia”. In Tacklind, James. Cochrane Database Syst Rev(3): CD001423. doi:1002/14651858.CD001423PMID 12137626.
  6. [5] Boyle, P; Robertson C, Lowe F, Roehrborn C (Apr 2004). “Updated meta-analysis of clinical trials of Serenoa repens extract in the treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia”.BJU Int 93 (6): 751–756.doi:1111/j.1464-410X.2003.04735.xPMID 15049985.
  7. Irwig MS, Kolukula S (June 2011). “Persistent sexual side effects of finasteride for male pattern hair loss”. J Sex Med8(6): 1747–53. doi:1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02255.x.PMID 21418145.
  8. Traish AM, Hassani J, Guay AT, Zitzmann M, Hansen ML (March 2011). “Adverse side effects of 5α-reductase inhibitors therapy: persistent diminished libido and erectile dysfunction and depression in a subset of patients”.J Sex Med 8 (3): 872–84. doi:1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02157.x.PMID 21176115.
  9. Rahimi-Ardabili B, Pourandarjani R, Habibollahi P, Mualeki A (2006). “Finasteride induced depression: a prospective study”BMC Clin Pharmacol 6: 7. doi:1186/1472-6904-6-7.PMC 1622749.PMID 17026771.