The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    The STEP report on saw palmetto safety

    STEP stands for “Saw palmetto for Treatment of Enlarged Prostates.”

    Saw palmetto is among the top 10 herbal/supplements. Men with lower-urinary tract symptoms commonly use it.

    First, the details.

    • 225 men with moderate-to-severe symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia were studied.
    • Standardized extract of the saw palmetto berry (160 mg twice daily) was compared to placebo over 1 year.
    • Adverse events, sexual function, and laboratory tests of blood and urine were monitored.

    And, the results.

    • There were no significant differences between the saw palmetto and placebo in the risk of having at least one serious side effect (5% vs 10%, respectively).
    • Non-serious symptomatic side effects were 35% vs 30% with saw palmetto and placebo, respectively.
    • There were few significant differences between groups in sexual functioning or in most laboratory values.
    • There were statistically significant but small differences in total bilirubin, potassium, and the incidence of sugar in the urine (0% with saw palmetto vs 3.7% with placebo).

    The bottom line?
    The authors concluded there was “no evidence for serious toxicity of saw palmetto…; however, these data do not rule out potential rare adverse effects.”

    Aside from the importance of defining the safety of supplements, the results have political implications. Almost 2 years ago, the Danish Ministry for Family and Consumer Affairs prohibited food supplements containing saw palmetto because, in part, of concerns about a lack of safety information during long-term use. has reviewed the uses and safety of saw palmetto.

    4/23/08 19:45 JR

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