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What Are the Dangers of Saw Palmetto?

By Helen Nnama

Saw palmetto, known as American dwarf palm or cabbage palm, is a plant that features medicinal and therapeutic properties, used for the management of urinary symptoms associated with enlarged prostate glands in men. Aside from prostate conditions, saw palmetto is used in bladder disorders, chronic pelvic pain, hormonal imbalance, hair loss, sore throat and decreased sex drive. Saw palmetto works as a diuretic and sedative, but it poses some risks.

Delays Blood Clotting

According to Medline Plus, taking saw palmetto may cause bleeding and delay blood clotting, potentially put the patient at risk for bruising. Surgeons advise patients scheduled for any surgical procedure to stop using saw palmetto at least two weeks before surgery. This herb should not be taken together with anti-coagulants and anti-platelet medications, such as Heparin and Coumadin, to avoid a dangerous increase in blood-thinning. Patients with conditions such as stomach ulcers, intestinal ulcers, hemophilia and blood-clotting disorders should avoid taking saw palmetto.

Liver Damage

Liver damage is one of the possible risks of saw palmetto, as described in Medline Plus. The liver, the body’s largest internal organ cleans and filters the blood of alcohol and toxins. These materials come from various sources such as food, beverages, medications and dietary supplements. Materials that damage the liver are called hepatotoxic substances. Saw palmetto can become potentially hepatotoxic in some patients, most especially for those who have pre-existing liver conditions. Patients who develop liver damage from taking saw palmetto exhibit loss of appetite, clay-colored stools and jaundice or yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.

Stomach Discomfort

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, stomach discomfort is among the possible risks of saw palmetto. This dietary supplement is generally well-tolerated when taken by mouth; saw palmetto does not even have any interactions with food. Stomach discomfort may occur as a side effect for patients who are allergic or hypersensitive to saw palmetto. Stomach discomfort can also occur when taking saw palmetto in large doses. For adults, the regular dose for saw palmetto is not more than 320 mg daily.

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