Saw palmetto and pygeum are supplements made from natural plant materials (berries and tree bark) and have been used increasingly by men looking to improve their overall health and maintain active lives. Used commonly to help with problems associated with an enlarged prostate gland, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP), the supplements continue to grow in popularity among active men, particularly those over 50 years old.
Saw palmetto and pygeum extracts can be helpful to athletes specifically by assisting the body in maintaining adequate levels of testosterone, which allows for optimal physical performance. There is a natural decline in testosterone as the body ages, and as more men stay active later in life, research has uncovered ways to keep levels higher. Greater physical strength and increased ability to focus and concentrate are both reported effects of maintaining strong testosterone levels. These plant extracts are thought to keep testosterone levels high by preventing the body from converting testosterone to dihydroxytestosterone (DHT), which is a contributor to BHP and male-pattern baldness.
As with many natural supplements, take care that the dosage selected is reasonable. Studies show the fatty acid content of the supplement is important. A daily dose of 320 mg with between 85 and 95% fatty acid content or 640 mg with 45% fatty acid is recommended for optimal effectiveness. Pygeum is sometimes taken in combination with saw palmetto, but can be supplemented separately. Between 50 and 200 mg of pygeum extract daily has been shown to be effective and safe.
There are no significant side effects noted with the used of saw palmetto and pygeum. Some men report an increase in libido and an improvement in maintaining an erection as positive side effects. There have not been major studies regarding this specifically, but as testosterone is maintained at high levels, sexual drives should also remain at optimal levels.
Men in traditional African cultures have used the bark from the pygeum tree for centuries to relieve a large number of genital and urinary complaints and the benefits of saw palmetto have also been known for many years. It is only relatively recently, however, that athletes have begun to understand the connection between the maintenance of testosterone through the use of saw palmetto and pygeum and optimal performance. The strength, mental clarity and overall health, which these supplements have been shown to provide, are encouraging more physically active men to investigate the benefits. Of course, these supplements are not suitable for females.
Wilt T, Ishani A, Mac Donald R, Rutks I, Stark G. Pygeum africanum for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002;(1):CD001044.
Zlotta AR, et al. “Evaluation of male sexual function in patients with Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) associated with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) treated with aphytotherapeutic agent (Permixon), Tamsulosin or Finasteride,” Eur Urol, , 2005: 48(2):269-276.