November is Men’s Health Month and November 19th is International Men’s Day which has been celebrated for the last 21 years to raise worldwide awareness about the positive value men bring to the world, their families, and communities. I recently wrote an article about the different kinds of masculinity represented by Joe Biden and Donald Trump. One of the differences has to do with Biden’s willingness to talk about his vulnerabilities and the challenges he has faced over the years with his physical and emotional health.
If you are a man you have, among other important body parts, a prostate gland. If you are a smart man, and I’m guessing you are since you’re reading this article, you want to keep all your body parts in peak physical condition, so they all work well together.
When it comes to men’s urinary health, Saw Palmetto is the undeniable king of botanical ingredients. No ingredient has a longer history and greater popularity around the world.
Saw Palmetto was used by Native Americans dating back to the 1700s. The first clinical reference appeared in a letter from Dr. JB Read to the American Journal of Pharmacy in April of 1879. Eli Lilly and Company marketed a Saw Palmetto berry liquid extract in the early 1900s and today it is widely sold by pharmaceutical and health companies across Europe to support prostate health and associated urinary issues.
And while it is the leading prostate health dietary supplement ingredient in the United States, few men and fewer doctors understand the different forms of Saw Palmetto. When it comes to men’s urinary health, not all Saw Palmetto is created equal.
I learned that the hard way. When I hit mid-life, I began having urinary problems including waking up more at night having to pee and “urgency,” that experience of having to go, like, now! These are not life-threatening problems, but they definitely can diminish our quality of life.
I went to my health food store, bought a bottle of 250 capsules and gave them a try. I wanted them to work. I hoped they would work. They seemed to work for a short time. Then, they stopped working. Before I gave up altogether, I decided to learn more about Saw Palmetto. I am glad I did. I finally found the real deal.
What is Saw Palmetto?
Saw palmetto (or Serenoa repens) is a special and unique dwarf palm tree that grows only in the southeastern United States. The vast majority grows in the wild in Florida. And every year from about July to October, Saw Palmetto plants yield berries that change from green, to yellow, to orange, and to purple as they ripen. These berries are the part of the Saw Palmetto plant used for men’s urinary health.
Not All Saw Palmetto is Created Equal
There are two primary forms of Saw Palmetto available in the United States:
- Saw Palmetto berry powder.
- Most products in the USA are made with unripe, inexpensive green berries that are dried, ground up, and put into capsules. While this is the most commonly purchased saw palmetto product, there is no scientific evidence showing benefits.
- Saw Palmetto berry oil extract.
The technical name is Lipidosterolic extract of Serenoa repens. If you perform a google search on this scientific name, you will find a treasure trove of clinical research showing effectiveness.
The magic of saw palmetto resides in the oil extracted from ripening berries. In particular, the benefits come from the rich fatty acids found in the oil extract. The scientific evidence shows benefits only for Saw Palmetto extract. However, even among extracts available in the USA, there can be wide variability of purity, potency, and dosing. As a dietary supplement, there is no FDA assurance of consistent quality and quantity of the key ingredients.
What to Look for When Choosing a Saw Palmetto Product
Like most people I did not understand the differences, so I thought any Saw Palmetto product would help. Most men just go to their health food store or order online and think they are getting a product that works. And they often do work for a short time.
Our mind is powerful. If we believe something will work, our mind can influence the biochemistry in our bodies. That’s the reality behind “the placebo effect.” But we all want a product that has ingredients that are proven to work and has effects beyond the power of the placebo. So, before I gave up on Saw Palmetto, after it ceased working for me, I looked for a product that offered the following:
- Contains Saw Palmetto extract. Review the Supplement Facts label (back of bottle) to insure it contains saw palmetto extract. If it says, “Saw palmetto”, “Saw palmetto berries”, “Saw palmetto fruit”, or anything else except “Saw palmetto extract”, then you are getting a product with no evidence of effectiveness.
- Is standardized to contain at least 80% fatty acids. Check to be sure the Saw Palmetto extract is standardized to contain at least 80% fatty acids consistent with The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) monograph which sets quality standards for medicines and dietary supplements. Standardized means there is consistence among every dose in every bottle.
- Verified by Independent 3rd Party. There are several hundred brands of Saw Palmetto products on the market. Studies have shown some don’t contain the dose stated on the label or contains foreign ingredients not listed on the label. Verification by an independent 3rd party like USP, ensures that the product your buying is pure, potent, and made to FDA good manufacturing standards.
- Made in the USA. Saw Palmetto is native to the southeastern United States, the only place in the world where it grows.
Nature can be a powerful driver of health and wellbeing. Saw Palmetto extracts extensive historical and clinical background establishes it as a unique and very important natural treasure, one that men can confidently use to support your urinary and prostate health. That is if you are an educated buyer, which I assume you are, if you’ve hung in there to read this whole article.
So, if you haven’t tried Saw Palmetto, educate yourself and look for the real deal and buy products that have Saw Palmetto extract, contain at least 80% fatty acids, are verified by an independent third party, and are made in the U.S.A. If you have tried the other formulations like I did, don’t give up. I am glad I kept looking and learning and hope you do as well.
If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer if I can. For more articles on men’s health, come visit me at my blog.
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