Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Saw Palmetto is a small shrubby fan palm in the Arecaceae family, often called Scrub Palms or Sabal, that grows from the Carolinas along the gulf coast to Eastern Texas in clumps or dense thickets in sandy coastal lands or as undergrowth in pine woodlands. It typically does not grow more the 8 or 10 feet in height and is extremely slow growing; some plants are thought to be as old as 700 years. It’s trunks and root-stalk are below ground from which it’s leaves sprout from. The leaves have hard, often toothed bare petioles that end in a radiating fan of about 20 palmately arranged leaflets that can grow several feet in length. The leaves tend to be light green further inland, and silvery grey closer to the coast. It grows dense panicles of yellowish white flowers that mature in October and November into reddish black olive-like drupes. They can be gathered and dried November through January. It is an important wildlife feed, and some species of native moths feed exclusively on the plant. It can be used for landscaping and to attract some pollinators in the garden. It’s highly salt tolerant, prefers full to partial sun, and can tolerate a wide range of soils. It’s fairly drought tolerant once established.

Medicinal Uses
Saw Palmetto is a sweet, warming herb used as a general tonic for the whole male system and boosts the male sex hormones. It is primarily used to treat benign prostate enlargement in men and relieve it’s painful symptoms of frequent urgent urination, decreased flow, difficulty starting and finishing urination, and the need to wake up at night to pee. It’s being evaluated as a treatment for prostate cancer with promising results. It’s considered both a yin and yang tonic, a diuretic and urinary antiseptic, expectorant, aphrodisiac, and a general strengthening and rejuvenative herb. Saw Palmetto can also help build muscles, treat wasting diseases, and impotence. It also can be used to treat colds, asthma, bronchitis, and excessive catarrh due to deficiency and coldness.

Folk Uses
Saw Palmetto leaves were originally used as mattress filing, hats, baskets, and roof thatching by the Native Americans of the gulf coast. When colonists arrived to the area, they began using the plant as well, and by the 19th century physicians were using the berries to treat coughs and bronchitis. It was also used as a way to enlarge women’s breasts and treat benign prostate enlargement in men and strengthen and restore the sexual appetite.

Dosage
As a decoction, 1/2-1 teaspoon of the dried berries per cup of water, simmered for 5 minutes, taken three times a day. As a tincture, 1-2ml taken three times daily. Combined with Damiana and Kola, it makes a good aphrodisiac and can counter debility associated with the male reproductive system. For enlarged prostate glands, it combines well with horsetail and hydrangea.

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Saw Palmetto berries and leaves.

Saw Palmetto berries and leaves.

Saw Palmetto bush.

Saw Palmetto bush.

A typical Saw Palmetto plant community.

A typical Saw Palmetto plant community.

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