Published on January 8, 2012 at 5:01 PM
Hall says he doesn't discourage his patients from taking saw palmetto if the placebo effect appears to be working. “Certainly I've had patients tell me...'I'm taking saw palmetto and it's great,' and I tell them to keep taking it,” he says.
Saw palmetto, with just under $19 million in sales, was the second bestselling herbal supplement in the United States in 2010 (behind cranberry), according to the SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market-research firm. Barry and his colleagues used a proprietary brand of saw palmetto manufactured in Germany for this study. Since other studies using different brands have had similarly disappointing results, it's unlikely that one brand is more effective than another, he says.
Over-the-counter extracts made from the berries of the saw palmetto dwarf palm tree are popular remedies for treating lower urinary tract symptoms from BPH because of “easy and convenient access (no need for a doctor visit or prescription),” according to Dr. Muta Issa, a urologist at Emory University and the Atlanta VA Medical Center. In addition, he said, “there is ... [an] unwarranted psychological fear of loss of sexual ability with prostate medications. As such, men convince themselves that herbs are natural and do not interfere with their sexual ability.”
The study was funded and partially overseen by the National Institutes of Health, although the supplement manufacturer provided all of the saw palmetto and placebo capsules.