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Saw Palmetto, or Serenoa repens, is a palm plant that produces small berries from which extracts are prepared. The berries can be used whole, in tablets, extracts, capsules, or teas. The believed health benefits of Saw Palmetto are numerous. The extracts are most commonly used in the treatment of Chronic Prostatitis and BPH.
The most widely accepted theory for the mechanism by which Saw Palmetto works is its ability to inhibit the enzyme 5alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to the active dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT promotes cellular division within the prostate thus leads to the enlargement of the organ. Blocking 5alpha–reductase, the level of DHT diminishes thus, in theory, the prostate stops enlarging, and at least anecdotally, will undrgo shrinking.
Another theory for explaining how Saw Palmetto works speculates that Saw Palmetto decreases the concentration of estrogen activity in the prostate. By reducing the estrogen activity, DHT is more easily eliminated from the prostate, thus helps shrink BPH.
Recommended dietary allowances/doses
The recommended dose is 160 milligrams twice daily, but some studies suggest that taking 160 milligrams once daily is equally effective. Unfortunately, the lack of well controlled studies make therapeutic claims questionable. If the key to eliminate BPH would reside in blocking the 5alpha-reductase enzyme, there are now many synthetic, easily quantifiable substances available to prove this hypothesis. In my opinion, this type of medical management of BPH ignores the infectious background of the condition and thus loses valuable time before effective therapy is undertaken with the proper antibiotics.