Serenoa repens

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-18 (EDT)

See Also Botanical Monographs

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is best known as a man's tonic. It historically has been used for conditions such as benign prostate hypertrophy, cystitis, impotence and general issues around urination. To explore the characteristics, medicinal uses and prescribing considerations of this herb in more detail, check out the references indicated.[1], [2]


  • Common Names: Saw palmetto, Sabal
  • Family: Arecaceae/Palmaceae
  • Habitat: Serenoa repens is native to sand dunes along coasts from South Carolina to Texas.
  • Parts Used: Fruit (berry)
  • Constituents: Fatty acids and phytosterols
  • Medicinal Actions: tonic for the male reproductive system, antiprostatic, diuretic and urinary antiseptic, antiandrogenic, antimicrobial, phytoestrogen, inhibits 5alpha-reductase conversion of testosterone to DHT, inhibits DHT binding to cell receptors


Historical Uses:

Serenoa repens was traditionally eaten as a food by Native peoples and used as a tonic for men.

Medicinal Uses:

Prescribing Considerations

The information provided is intended to augment the treatment from a naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional. Although most herbs are generally safe, it is recommended that you avoid self-prescribing especially when there is an underlying ongoing medical condition, if you are on any prescription medications or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Formulations and Preparation

  • Decoction - 2-4 tsp/cup (5 min) three times daily
  • Tincture - (1:5, 60%) three times daily
  • Dried fruit - 0.5-1g three times daily
  • Fluid extract - 0.6-1.5mL (1:1, 60%) three times daily

Better absorption when taken with a meal containing fat.


The safety and prescribing considerations for this herb include:[3] [4]

  • Generally regarded as safe.
  • Side-effects are rare but may include gastrointestinal upset.
  • Cautions and Contraindications: pregnancy and lactation (safety not established), a few weeks prior to surgery (severe intraoperative hemorrhage, single case report), contraindicated in hemostatic disorders (hemorrhage, speculative)
  • Drug-Herb Interactions.[3]
  • Steroidal Sex Hormones - Interaction experimentally demonstrated in vitro but not corroborated in human studies. Speculative.
  • Anticoagulants, Oral Vitamin K Antagonists - A single case report claims a possible connection between a patient's undisclosed Saw palmetto use and increase intraoperative bleeding time during brain surgery (report does not meet minimal criteria to substantiate an association between the adverse bleeding and Saw palmetto consumption). Speculative.


  1. Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide Second Edition Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, CCNM Toronto.
  2. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul, Barlow Kerry, Gowan Matt (2011) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Advanced Botanical Medicine. V3 CCNM Press, Toronto.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stargrove Mitchell Bebell, Treasure Jonathan, McKee Dwight L (2008) Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies.
  4. Brinker Francis (1997) Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions: Plus Herbal Adjuncts With Medicines, 4th Edition Eclectic Medical Publications.