Saw palmetto, also known as Serenoa repens, is an herbal extract of a small tree that has been used for centuries as a remedy for hormone related disorders. In Europe, saw palmetto is often prescribed for men with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate. Women have also benefited from saw palmetto to relieve difficult menstrual pain, to remedy complications from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) like hair loss and to increase lactation while nursing. Since the potential remedies of saw palmetto have not been proven, it is best to take certain precautions when taking saw palmetto.
According to the MayoClinic, since saw palmetto has a distinct effect on the endocrine system (the hormones) in the body, it is best to avoid the herbal remedy when pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, some tinctures of saw palmetto contain high concentrations of alcohol, which should not be ingested during pregnancy as well. Saw palmetto is thought to reduce the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, which may end up upsetting the balance between oestrogen and testosterone. This hormone balance is extremely important during pregnancy and should not be altered.
Women on Birth Control
For the same reasons, women who are using birth control should first consult their doctor or naturopath before taking saw palmetto. Birth control works on the mechanism of altering female hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle. If taking saw palmetto, the level of hormones that you are supposed at a certain point in your cycle may change, this might cause your birth control to be less effective. Also, the MayoClinic points out that saw palmetto has in some cases been associated with increased risk of bleeding, which might end up making menstrual periods heavier and more difficult.
If you suspect that you have been allergic to certain herbs or plants in the past, you may wish to be careful when taking saw palmetto. According to MedlinePlus, saw palmetto may cause an allergic reaction in some patients that may lead to swelling and difficulty breathing. Other side effects that saw palmetto has caused are dizziness, headaches, depression, insomnia, muscle pain and high blood pressure. If you experience any of those symptoms or if you have stomach, heart, liver or lung problems, you should avoid using saw palmetto.
If you are suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome, you may be prescribed one or more anti androgen drugs. If you are taking any of these drugs, you should not take saw palmetto. These drugs include the alpha-androgen blockers terazosin, doxazosin, prazosin, mesylate and tamsulosin. Some other anti-androgen drugs include finasteride (Propecia, Prosca) or flutamide (Eulexin).
There are multiple other potential negative interactions associated with saw palmetto that you should avoid. According to MedlinePlus, you should avoid taking blood thinners like Cumadin and heparin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Motrin and Aleve and other medications like metronidazole or disulfiram, if you are taking saw palmetto. Saw palmetto may also interact with oestrogenic foods like soy and herbs like black cohosh.
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