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Saw palmetto and the prostate

Saw Palmetto is a herbal extract widely used as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia. More than 2 million American men are said to take it and, according to Kathy Sykes in her recent BBC TV programme on herbal medicine, it has been shown to be effective in controlled trials in Germany. I certainly prescribed it quite frequently at The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital when I was there and patients reported it was effective.

However, a new trial reported in The New England Journal of Medicine (2006;354:557-66) finds it to be no more effective than placebo. In an editorial, the journal advises caution about accepting the long-term effectiveness and safety of herbal preparations until good-quality clinical trials become available.

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