Saw Palmetto Side Effects

saw palmetto side efects

In the past few years, there has been a tremendous resurgence of people pursuing more homeopathic and natural remedies to their ailments rather than turning to more modern medicine and drugs. Many people believe that herbal and natural remedies are safer and in some cases more efficient than the pharmaceuticals they would be receiving from the pharmacy or doctor. Let’s take a look at one such natural remedy, Saw Palmetto, and see what saw palmetto side effects you may experience.

What is Saw Palmetto Used For?

The Saw Palmetto plant’s fruit offers medicinal properties.  The most common uses for saw palmetto for men’s health are related to the prostate [1].  It is often used by people struggling with an enlarged prostate and has been shown in some studies to help with issues related to an enlarged prostate, such as decreasing the frequency of late night trips to the bathroom. It has also been studied extensively for use before prostate surgery, and has been shown to reduce the time spent in surgery, amount of blood loss, and decrease the occurrence of surgical complications when taken at 320mg a day for two months before the surgery.  In addition to using for prostate health, saw palmetto is a general remedy for colds, sore throats, asthma, increasing libido, hair growth, and migraines.

How Does Saw Palmetto Work?

Interestingly enough, the active compound in saw palmetto has not yet been identified, but it falls under the “liposterolic” category of fruits.  The fatty acids in these compounds can block an enzyme that converts testosterone in the body into a compound called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.   DHT is more androgenic in the body which is what causes it to be associated with issues such as hair loss in men and prostate issues [2].

Possible Saw Palmetto Side Effects

Saw Palmetto has been determined safe for the general public, but there are a few important things to note.  Individuals taking birth control should not take saw palmetto because of the way it interacts with hormones in the body.  Saw Palmetto can decrease the effectiveness of birth control or estrogen in the body and can lead to other side effects when taken alongside hormones [3].  For similar reasons it is not advised to take saw palmetto while pregnant or nursing, since changes to hormones in the body during pregnancy is already occurring and saw palmetto might cause side effects. Lastly, if you are taking any form of medication that is intended to slow blood clotting, such as anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs, avoid saw palmetto since it can compound this effect and can increase your chances of bruising and bleeding.   Aside from these exceptions, saw palmetto for most people should not exhibit any side effects, but has been reported to sometimes trigger nausea, headaches, constipation, and diarrhea.


  1. Saw palmetto supplement use and prostate cancer risk.
    Bonnar-Pizzorno RM1, Littman AJ, Kestin M, White E. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(1):21-7.
  2. Assessment of the usefulness of dihydrotestosterone in the diagnostics of patients with androgenetic alopecia
    Izabela Urysiak-Czubatka, Małgorzata L. Kmieć,corresponding author and Grażyna Broniarczyk-Dyła Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2014 Aug; 31(4): 207–215.
    Published online 2014 Sep 8. doi: [10.5114/pdia.2014.40925]
  3. Appendix HSaw Palmetto: Prototype Monograph Summary1
    Copyright 2005 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
    Bookshelf ID: NBK216059 Institute of Medicine (US) and National Research Council (US) Committee on the Framework for Evaluating the Safety of Dietary Supplements.
    Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005.
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