Beta sitosterol and saw palmetto are two popular treatments for men with enlarged prostates. Both treat the symptoms of enlarged prostates and have little, if any, effect on the size of the prostate itself. Beta sitosterol also is used as a method to lower cholesterol. Neither should be taken without first consulting your physician.
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Beta sitosterol is a member of the sterol family that is found in many plants, including pumpkin seeds and saw palmetto berries. It is available as a tablet supplement but is most often added to foods such as yogurt and margarine. It was first widely used for its cholesterol-reducing properties before statins were created and is now seen as an additional method for lowering cholesterol, as opposed to being the primary treatment. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that when it was tested on patients suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia, there was improved urine flow and a reduction in urine remaining in the bladder.
Saw palmetto is the most popular herbal treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia in the United States. Saw palmetto comes from the dwarf palm tree and is typically grown in the southeastern United States. Saw palmetto is available in many forms, with extract tablets being used most often in clinical studies as a treatment for prostate problems. There is strong scientific evidence to support saw palmetto's use as a treatment for enlarged prostates. Saw palmetto is often used for other conditions, such as male pattern hair loss and prostate cancer, but more evidence is needed to determine its effectiveness in those areas.
The typical dose for saw palmetto when treating benign prostatic hyperplasia is 320 milligrams of the extract per day. The preferred extract will contain between 85 percent and 95 percent fatty acids and sterols. The dosage for beta sitosterol will vary greatly depending on its intended use. For benign prostatic hyperplasia, the suggested dose is between 60 milligrams and 130 milligrams per day. When used as a cholesterol-lowering medication, the suggested dose is between 1.5 grams and 3 grams per day. Margarines intended to lower cholesterol intake will typically contain 2 grams per serving.
Saw palmetto is considered a safe supplement, with rare occurrences of headaches, diarrhea or constipation. Bad breath and upset stomachs are among the most frequent side effects. Women should use extreme caution with saw palmetto due its potential to cause changes in hormones. Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should not use saw palmetto. Beta sitosterol is considered safe when taken in margarine at the prescribed doses. Plant sterols have been shown to reduce the absorption of beta carotene, alpha carotene and Vitamin E. Speak to your physician before starting use of either product.