Saw Palmetto, Dwarf Palm

Case history
A 76-year old gentleman came to the office complaining of dribbling after urination and weak urinary stream for several years. On rectal examination, a moderately enlarged prostate was found which was of rubbery consistency. Prostagutt, a saw palmetto extract from Germany, was prescribed (160 mg. capsule twice a day). Two months later, his urinary symptoms had disappeared completely. He continued with this treatment until his death at 83 of heart failure.

What is saw palmetto?
It is a low, shrubby plant belonging to the palm family and found growing along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to North Carolina. The short trunk develops from a creeping root stalk producing palmate green-to-white-coated leaves on saw-toothed petioles (serra = saw). The olive-like, dark purple-to-black berries grow in bunches. These berries taste sweet and afterwards cause a sharp burning sensation in the mouth.

The family of palm trees is very important in the tropics for nutrition (dates, coconuts, tapioca) and for providing building materials. Only sabal serrulata has been used for medical purposes. It was used by the Indians for urogenital conditions and, later, for lung and skin conditions by naturopaths, homeopaths and anthroposophic physicians. It stimulates urine flow and excretion of uric acid. It works on the bladder neck, prostate and testes. Five drops of the mother tincture of the berries, taken several times daily, has been useful in prostate hypertrophy, prostatorrhea, diminished sexual strength, and inflammation of the testes. In women, it has been used for inflammation of the ovaries, tilted uterus, urethritis, mastitis, dysmennorrhea, bladder catarrh, bed wetting, soreness and a feeling of heaviness in the uterus, dysuria, delayed menstruation and pain in the breasts. It also has been used for bronchitis, stubborn coughs and eczema.

Although there seems to be such a wide range of indications, saw palmetto has become popular in treating benign prostate hypertrophy (BHP). Let us now focus on BHP and bladder weakness.

According to a current theory, BHP is caused by dihydrotestorsterone (DHT), a testosterone metabolite. Proscar, a new drug, aims at inhibiting the enzyme 5 alpha reductase which converts testosterone into DHT, but according to the information in the C.P.S. less than 50% of the patients experience an increase in urinary flow rate.  The lipo sterolic extract of saw palmetto berries is said to contain substances which inhibit the formation of DHT by inhibiting the aforementioned enzyme. Studies in Europe confirmed the value of saw palmetto berry extract, and the results were less residual urine after voiding, fewer nocturnal visits to the bathroom and stronger stream. The dose in these studies is 160 mg. twice a day. The extract also decreases edema and stimulates the immune system.

Benign prostate hypertrophy and bladder weakness are an expression that the ether force of the bladder and the sucking process between bladder and kidneys are gradually diminishing with age. The earth forces are gaining the upper hand while the etheric forces in the lower organism are dwindling. Swelling, hardening and inflammation are the result. In women, this corresponds to the feeling of heaviness in the uterus.

How are we to understand the effectiveness of saw palmetto? Let us look at the plant and try to understand its beingness. To find "active ingredients" is interesting, but for a deeper understanding we must strive to gain an all-encompassing picture of the plant. When this picture is living in us, then we know why this plant works in the human being in a healing way.

The palm trees are a subgroup of the monocotyledons. In contrast to the dicotyledons, they have only one germination leaf. The monocotyledons connect only superficially with the earth. They don't have deep tap roots; they strive away from the earth towards the sun, taking in the light-ether. In the palm trees, the stem is the main organ. Rudolph Steiner called it aufgestiilpte erde or "uplifted earth" - growing in the tropics where the earth forces are welling mightily upwards and the sun forces are sucked in by the plants. Palm trees are "sun" trees, connecting with the forces of the periphery. This intense interaction between cosmic and earth forces comes to a culmination in the tropics. The vegetative gesture of palm leaf development is the gesture of life itself, which is know in eurythmy as "L". We could also call them carbon plants because of their stiffness and firmness. Indeed, they provide building materials for houses and hundreds of tools.

The astral impulse does not go deep into these plants so we don't find any poisonous substances in the palm trees. This is not a family of healing plants at all - with one exception: sabal serrulata. It deviates from this characteristic. It grows more northerly as a dwarf form out of its creeping roots. The plant appears compressed. Also, the burning effect on the mucous membrane in the mouth is unusual, and so are the saw-toothed petioles. This sun plant is pulled into the earth sphere (compressed) and can intermediate with the light-ether; hence its effect on the lungs and its generally upbuilding effect on the whole organism as a result of this stimulated lung function. (The lungs are the carrier of the life-ether.) The metabolic processes are stimulated and strengthened at the right place, namely in the metabolic-limb system. Digestion is strengthened, any cough becomes looser, and mucous is excreted.

According to Rudolf Steiner, the male sexual organs represent a kind of accessory digestion, just as the uterus represents a kind of heart in the lower pole. Berries work on the metabolic-limb system. Then, we can begin to understand that sabal serrulata berry extract works in a healing way in the hypertrophied prostate gland and the inflamed bladder, as well as the heavy feeling of the uterus. It strengthens the etheric body in this area.

Is it surprising, then, that some animals eat the berries of sabal serrulata prior to their mating time?
WemerA. Fabian, MD
5 Robert St.
Thomton, Ontario LOL 2NO
1 Hamaud J. Prostate Problems. Harper Collins Publishers, London, 1991.
2 Simonis W C. Die einkeimblaltgrigen Heilpflanzen.
3 Pelikan W. HeilpflanzenKunde.
4 Lust J. The Herb Book.
5 Materia Medica (Boericke).