Saw Palmetto – An Aphrodisiac for Men and Women

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Since the beginning of civilization, mankind has experimented with various types of herbs to cure sexual dysfunction or simply to put the zing back into their sex lives. Herbs with purported aphrodisiacal properties generally work by curing the body of various disorders which may be interfering with sexual pleasure or by supplying the body with nutrients essential for healthy sex. Saw palmetto is one such herb which has long been reputed to work wonders for the human libido.

About saw palmetto

This is a small fan palm native to West Indies and southeast United States, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. The botanical name of this plant is Serenoa repens where the generic name honors famous American biologist Sereno Watson. The fruit of the palm is in the form of large reddish-black drupe and the berries are believed to have important medicinal properties.

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Saw palmetto as an aphrodisiac

Saw palmetto berries have recently come under scientific scrutiny for their potential in treating urinary tract infections and this is perhaps how they gained their reputation as aphrodisiacs. Studies have shown that saw palmetto berries are rich in fatty acids and phytosterols, many of which may be useful in combating infections of the urinary tract as well as the reproductive system. Extract of the berries have been found to be particularly effective in treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. This is a condition primarily affecting middle-aged and older men where the prostate gland is enlarged and leads to symptoms of urinary hesitancy, frequent and painful urination. All these conditions not only interfere with normal sexual function but in many cases make copulation painful. Moreover an enlarged prostate restricts blood flow which can cause impotence and hamper sexual performance. Saw palmetto returns the prostate back to a normal size alleviating painful symptoms and allowing proper blood flow to male sexual organs. Use of saw palmetto therefore may help men to tide over urinary as well as erectile problems and enjoy healthy sex.

The same action of saw palmetto berries can be helpful to women suffering from infections of urinary tract and reproductive tract system. Because of their anatomy, women are more prone to urinary tract infections which in turn can lead to uncomfortable or painful sex. In such cases, saw palmetto berries can be used to treat infections and heal the body for pleasurable sex.

Yet another way in which saw palmetto acts as an aphrodisiac is by its ability to regulate the level of hormones in the human body. Extracts of the berries have been found to be particularly effective in maintaining the right level of testosterone which is one of the most important hormones necessary for a healthy libido. Interestingly this effect of saw palmetto berries is found in men as well as women whose requirement of testosterone levels are different but both of whom need the hormone for boosting the libido.

Saw palmetto berries are believed to contain compounds known as phytoestrogen which may explain its effect on hormones of the body, particularly in women. Phytoestrogens mimic the action of natural estrogens, an important sex hormone found in the female body. This is perhaps why saw palmetto berries have figured in traditional medicines as treatment for female infertility and painful menstruation. According to folk medicine, the berries were also used to increase lactation among breastfeeding women and to increase the size of breasts. Since all these uses of saw palmetto berries prepared the body for healthy sex and even sexual pleasure, they were believed to act as aphrodisiac.

Among other medicinal uses of saw palmetto are as a diuretic which promotes urinary tract health and as an expectorant which clears the chest, sinus and nose of congestion. Various indigenous tribes of America like the Mayans and Seminoles have long used saw palmetto berries as a tonic for the whole body. Medicine men in these cultures would advise use of the berries to convalescents to regain vitality and to young men and women as a way of increasing sexual vigor.

Using saw palmetto

For medicinal purposes, only the berries of saw palmetto are used, either in the natural form or as extracts. A number of herbal preparations with saw palmetto berry extracts are retailed from health food stores. These preparations may contain the extract in the form of capsules, liquids or tinctures. A standardized extract should contain 85-95% fatty acids and sterols found in the natural berries. For therapeutic purposes, ten to twelve berries can be eaten daily to produce a cumulative effect. Their potency as an aphrodisiac is increased when they are combined with damiana leaves. In the form of capsules, the recommended dosage is 160-320 mg per day of saw palmetto berry extract. As a treatment for prostate conditions, it may take as long as one month of saw palmetto use for results to be noticed.

The possible side effects of using saw palmetto

Used in limited quantities, saw palmetto berries do not have any significant side effects. However overdose of berries or the extract has been known to lead to gastro-intestinal disorders in some individuals.

Beta-sitosterol, a compound present in saw palmetto extract, is chemically similar to cholesterol. High levels of sitosterol concentrations in blood have been correlated with increased severity of heart disease in men who have a history of earlier heart attacks.

Since saw palmetto berries may increase anti-coagulant activity and the effect of some sex hormones, concurrent use of drugs or herbal preparations with similar action should be avoided. Also refrain from using saw palmetto if pregnant, planning pregnancy or suffering from a disease of the gastrointestinal tract.

Saw palmetto has a long history of aphrodisiacal use, especially among many indigenous cultures of North America. The fact that even modern science is exploring the potential of the herb in treatment of genitor-urinary conditions is proof of the validity of its historical reputation and traditional use in the enhancement of sexual pleasure.