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10 Side Effects Of Saw Palmetto To Know Before Using

Side Effects Of Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto can cause nausea, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. It can cause dizziness and headaches and may inflame the inner lining of the nose, causing a runny or blocked nose. With its hormone-like effects, saw palmetto can cause fatigue, low libido, and impotence and even interfere with birth control pills. It's also not advised for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Since it can thin the blood, avoid consuming it for 2 weeks before any surgery.

Native to the southeastern part of the United States, the berries of saw palmetto have been traditionally used as a food and medicine by Native Americans. In the recent years, saw palmetto has been in the news for helping sort a variety of problems, from benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate gland to hair loss.1

Although it’s not very clear how exactly saw palmetto works, experts think that it impacts testosterone levels in the body and also reduces an enzyme which encourages the growth of prostate cells. Sugars present in the berries may also lessen inflammation and enhance your immune system.2 Active ingredients of saw palmetto include plant sterols, fatty acids, and flavonoids.

What’s not to like, you may ask? But if you want to use this herbal remedy whether for your prostate or hair, you need to take saw palmetto with caution. There is a possibility that it won’t agree with you or may have serious side effects. Here are some you should be aware of.

1. Gastrointestinal Problems

Adverse effects like abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation have been reported with the use of saw palmetto. Taking it along with food might be helpful if you find that it causes a stomach upset.3

2. Headache And Dizziness

Some people have reported feeling dizzy and experiencing headaches while using saw palmetto.4

3. Sexual Problems

A review that looked at 46 studies of saw palmetto found that participants frequently reported a decrease in libido as a side effect of using it. Some people have also found that it can cause impotence.5 6

4. Fatigue

Tiredness or fatigue is another effect that’s frequently reported by people who use saw palmetto.

5. Runny Or Blocked Nose

This is another reported side effect of saw palmetto. Rhinitis is a condition in which the lining inside your nose becomes inflamed and swollen. Your nasal passage gets blocked as a result, stimulating mucus glands in your nose. Symptoms typical of this condition include a runny or blocked nose.7 8

6. Increased Bleeding

Saw palmetto has blood-thinning effects. It can, therefore, reduce the clotting ability of blood and increase your chances of bleeding. If you are slated for surgery or any dental work, it’s advisable to stop taking saw palmetto at least 2 weeks before the procedure. Also, remember to inform your doctor about saw palmetto or any other supplements or medicines you may be using.

It’s also not a good idea to take saw palmetto with medicines used for blood thinning or herbal supplements like ginkgo, danshen, capsicum, dong quai, clove, garlic, ginger, horse chestnut, panax ginseng , turmeric, poplar, willow, red clover, and vitamin E which also affect blood clotting.9

7. Reduced Effectiveness Of Birth Control Pills

Saw palmetto may result in the reduction of androgen (male hormone) and estrogen (female hormone) receptors. This means it may have hormone-like effects on your body. This property can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives and increase chances of an unplanned pregnancy.10

8. Not Safe During Pregnancy

Since saw palmetto can have hormone-like effects, it’s not appropriate to use it during pregnancy.11

9. Not Safe While You’re Breastfeeding

For the same reasons, it’s best to avoid saw palmetto while you are nursing. Also, it may be passed into breast milk – the impact of saw palmetto on nursing babies is yet unknown so it’s better to avoid taking the risk.12

10. Liver Or Pancreas Damage

There has been a report or two of damage to the pancreas and liver among people who took saw palmetto. However, it’s not clear whether these effects were caused specifically by saw palmetto.13 In any case, if you experience symptoms that indicate a problem with your pancreas or liver, you should immediately stop using saw palmetto and see a doctor.

Extreme pain in your upper abdomen which spreads to your back, fast heart rate, vomiting, and nausea can be indicative of damage to the pancreas.

Pain in the upper abdomen, itching, nausea, jaundice, loss of appetite, fatigue, clay colored stools, and dark urine can point to liver damage.14

References   [ + ]

1. Prager, Nelson, Karen Bickett, Nita French, and Geno Marcovici. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of botanically derived inhibitors of 5-α-reductase in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia.” The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 8, no. 2 (2002): 143-152.
2, 10, 11, 13. Saw palmetto. University of Maryland.
3, 6, 9, 12. Saw palmetto. University of Michigan.
4. Saw palmetto. University of Michigan.
5. Agbabiaka, Taofikat B., Max H. Pittler, Barbara Wider, and Edzard Ernst. “Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto).” Drug safety 32, no. 8 (2009): 637-647.
7. Agbabiaka, Taofikat B., Max H. Pittler, Barbara Wider, and Edzard Ernst. “Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto).” Drug safety 32, no. 8 (2009): 637-647.
8. Non-allergic rhinitis – Causes. National Health Service.
14. Saw palmetto. University of Michigan.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.