Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens) is a plant native to the United States south coast that has both medicinal and dietetic properties.
The Saw Palmetto plant can commonly be found anywhere between Louisiana and Florida in the south, and as far north as South Carolina. The plant was aptly named due to it’s long palm like leaves that have ridges on them similar to those of a saw used in carpentry. The plants grow in patches and can reach height of ten feet or more in warmer climates. The leaves themselves can grow outwards of two feet in diameter.
But the prize of this plant is not it’s saw like leaves but rather the fruit it produces. The plant produces white flowers that in turn produce yellow berries. The berries turn bluish-black when ripe. It is these berries that people collect and are then dried for medicinal use.
Palmetto’s use as a medicinal plant has a very long history. There is evidence that the Mayans used Saw Palmetto in some medicinal form as well as a dried food source. And as early as the 1900′s there have been actual documentations of the Seminole Indians native to the American south east using the berries for as an expectorant and antiseptic as well.
Serenoa was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1906 to 1917 and in the National Formulary from 1926 to 1950. Saw palmetto extract is a licensed product in several European countries. Saw palmetto has not been approved by the FDA in the United States to treat any disease, and it should not be substituted for prescription medications.
The most frequent use of the Plant’s berries is as a natural treatment of BPH – benign prostatic hyperplasia in men. BPH happens when the male prostate gland enlarges and cuts of the normal flow of urine. Saw Palmetto’s effects are to shrink the swelling of the prostate and increase urine flow. There are a few reasons as why scientist think Serenoa is so beneficial to BPH.
In Europe about 70% of herbal prostatic medications are prescribed by physicians! In the EU phytomedicines, including the plant’s extracts and preparations are actually considered non-prescription drugs. In Germany and Austria, herbal remedies are the first line treatment for up to 90% of all patients with obstructive urination complaints due to BPH. In Germany, herbal remedies are generally well accepted as part of routine medical practice and are covered by health insurance. This is generally true though out Europe.
There are actually 38 patented preparations containing Serenoa Repens being marketed by European Pharmaceutical firms. In the US, where the plant originates and it’s medicinal purposes have long been known, doctors and insurance companies are slow to research and implement Saw Palmetto into the US health care systems. But this is slowly changing with alternative health advocates demanding more education and coverage from the health industry as a whole and the insurance companies.
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