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What is saw palmetto?

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Quick Answer

Saw palmetto is an herb used to treat symptoms of enlarged prostate, explains Mayo Clinic. Although it is not standard care in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends it as an alternative treatment.

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Full Answer

Saw palmetto can treat inflammation, low sperm count, hair loss and low sex drive, notes Mayo Clinic. It can also aid in treating bronchitis, migraines, diabetes and prostate cancer. Patients can take saw palmetto in the form of a tincture, sterol and fatty acid extracts, fluid extract, berries or tea. Only adults should use saw palmetto, and there is no proven effective or safe dose for children. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid saw palmetto to prevent developmental issues in the baby.

Individuals sensitive or allergic to saw palmetto or other members of the Palmae or Arecaceae family should avoid saw palmetto as well, warns Mayo Clinic. While there are few allergic symptoms associated with saw palmetto, a study reports that three out of 70 people developed allergic reactions to a combination product that included the substance. Common negative side effects of saw palmetto include vomiting, stomach pain, bad breath, constipation and indigestion. The role of saw palmetto in more adverse effects, including liver damage, ulcers and jaundice, is not clear as of 2015.

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