History

Saw palmetto is a dwarf palm tree that grows in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and southern South Carolina (1). The tree grows up to 6 feet tall and has wide leaves divided into fan-shaped lobes that are gray to blue-green in color. The plant produces purple-black berries from September to January (2).

The earliest known use of saw palmetto was in the 15th century bc in Egypt to treat urethral obstruction (2). The Native Americans also used saw palmetto to treat genitourinary conditions (1). In the early 20th century, it was used in conventional medicine as a mild diuretic and as a treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and chronic cystitis (3). Historically, saw palmetto has also been used to increase sperm production, increase breast size, and increase sexual vigor (4). Early settlers in the United States observed that animals that ate the berries grew fat and healthy, and by the 1870s saw palmetto was purported to improve general health, reproductive health, disposition, and body weight, and to stimulate appetite (2).

From Forensic Science and Medicine: Herbal Products: Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology, Second Edition Edited by: T. S. Tracy and R. L. Kingston © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ

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