Saw Palmetto vs Flomax for Prostate Problems

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate is a common problem for many men as they get older. 

Men with enlarged prostate experience a wide range of lower urinary tract symptoms that impact their lifestyle. 

The good news is that prostate problems are largely manageable with medications and plants, and herbs. 

You’ve probably come across men who use saw palmetto or Flomax for this purpose. 

What’s better for you? How do saw palmetto and Flomax compare? Read on to learn more.

What is saw palmetto?

Serenoa repens, also known as saw palmetto, is a shrub-like palm native to the southeastern United States. The tree has fruits, i.e., dark berries with large seeds that are used as dietary supplements due to their significant health potential. 

In fact, these berries have been used in American folk medicine for centuries as an aphrodisiac and medicine for prostate problems. Saw palmetto was also used as a diuretic, cough-reducing medicine, and sedative.

Records show Native Americans used saw palmetto to treat urinary problems. Also, animals that ate saw palmetto were healthier than livestock that didn’t eat it.

In 1879, Dr. J. B. Read from Savannah, Georgia, documented for the first time the medicinal uses of saw palmetto in the United States.

The use of saw palmetto continues today. Men primarily use saw palmetto to manage prostate problems. The berries are used primarily as a natural BPH treatment.

The berries are consumed whole or dried to make tea. It’s also possible to buy dried and ground saw palmetto in tablet or capsule form or as an oily extract.

prostate supplement

What is Flomax?

Tamsulosin, available under the brand name Flomax, is prescribed to treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. 

The medicine, which comes in a capsule, belongs to a class of medications called an alpha-blocker. Sometimes doctors prescribe Flomax to treat kidney stones.

Alpha-blockers like Flomax and Cardura are agents that bind to type 1 alpha-adrenergic receptors and inhibit smooth muscle contractions.

The FDA approved Flomax in April 1997, and today it is one of the most frequently prescribed medications in older men.

Saw palmetto vs Flomax 

Both saw palmetto and Flomax are used for the management of BPH. For that reason, it’s impossible not to wonder how they compare. Scroll down to learn more about their safety profile, effectiveness, similarities and differences, and dosages.

Effectiveness of Flomax for prostate problems

Flomax is one of the most frequently prescribed medications for patients with an enlarged prostate. Does Flomax work, though? 

Studies show it can improve symptoms of BPH. For example, one review found Flomax provided small to moderate improvement in urinary flow through the urethra and other symptoms compared to the placebo group. However, the effectiveness of the medication tamsulosin for BPH was similar to that of other alpha-blockers.

One study confirmed that 12-week treatment with Flomax improved symptoms of BPH. This medication led to a reduction of lower urinary tract symptoms with rare and insignificant side effects.

Effectiveness of saw palmetto for prostate problems

Saw palmetto is also effective for the treatment of prostate problems. Evidence confirms saw palmetto has therapeutic potential. 

Free fatty acids such as lauric acid, the primary constituents of saw palmetto extract, are effective for the inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase, which is involved in BPH. Also, saw palmetto contains phytosterols that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties.

saw-palmetto-bph

Comparing the effectiveness of saw palmetto vs flomax

Although both agents are effective for managing enlarged prostate, not many studies focused on comparing the two. 

This systematic review and meta-analysis from the American Journal of Men’s Health is so important. It compared the effectiveness of saw palmetto and Flomax in the treatment of BPH during the six-month treatment cycle. 

Results showed saw palmetto had the same effect as Flomax on the treatment of BPH in terms of quality of life, maximum flow rate levels, postvoid residual volume, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, and other aspects and symptoms of BPH except for prostate volume or size. 

Additionally, compared to Flomax, the saw palmetto was well-tolerated, particularly in ejaculation disorders and decreased libido.

Scientists concluded the study by confirming that saw palmetto is equally effective as Flomax in BPH treatment. That said, the latter had better effects on prostate volume. Saw palmetto also had a more favorable safety profile and didn’t increase the risk of low libido and ejaculation problems.

Similarities and differences between saw palmetto and Flomax

Similarities between saw palmetto and Flomax revolve around their potential to treat the enlarged prostate condition, the most common problem affecting the prostate gland. 

Both saw palmetto and Flomax have the potential to alleviate inflammation in the tissue of this small gland. Additionally, they reduce the intensity and severity of lower urinary tract symptoms in men with BPH. 

The abovementioned study showed Flomax was more effective in reducing prostate volume. But it is also believed that saw palmetto can do the same. 

It’s important to mention that neither of these agents is intended for this purpose primarily but to aid the management of urinary symptoms of prostate enlargement. 

The main difference between Flomax and saw palmetto is their mechanism of action and safety profile. Saw palmetto is often referred to as one of the best Flomax alternatives.

Benefits of saw palmetto vs flomax

The main benefits of Flomax include relaxing the muscles in the prostate and bladder in order to reduce urinary symptoms of BPH.

Saw palmetto is more versatile in terms of benefits. This over-the-counter Flomax alternative can improve urinary function and prostate health, aid the management of night-time urination and other BPH symptoms, and exhibit other health effects. Other benefits of saw palmetto include reducing male pattern baldness, improved testosterone levels, and protecting libido.

Many people wonder if saw palmetto can lower blood pressure. The use of saw palmetto for blood pressure could be helpful for persons with hypertension. The best thing is that there is no interaction between saw palmetto and blood pressure medications.

More studies are necessary on saw palmetto and prostate health, especially in terms of managing problems such as prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome.

flomax side effects after stopping

Side effects/risks of saw palmetto and flomax

Flomax can cause various adverse reactions. The most common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness and loss of energy or muscle strength
  • Runny nose, sore throat, and cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced semen
  • Chest or back pain

So, is Flomax safe? Do Flomax side effects go away? 

These adverse reactions usually go away within a few days or weeks as the body adapts to the medicine. Consult your doctor if the side effects are persistent.

Serious adverse reactions are rare but possible. Seek emergency medical assistance if you experience blurred vision, abnormal ejaculation, allergic reaction, low blood pressure, priapism (long, painful erection), and flu-like symptoms. 

To avoid an allergic reaction, read Flomax ingredients or inform the doctor about any allergy you may have, and they will know whether it’s safe to prescribe it or not. Stop taking medications if you experience these adverse reactions.

Stopping Flomax can cause Flomax withdrawal symptoms such as reduced urination. So, if you’re wondering, can I just stop taking Flomax? The answer is simple – you need to consult your doctor first.

Additionally, Flomax can interact with other medications such as antidepressants, erectile dysfunction drugs, antifungal medicines, antibiotics, acid-blocking drugs, and other medicines for BPH. 

That’s why many men prefer natural alternatives to Flomax. Saw palmetto fits perfectly into that box as natural alpha-blockers you can easily obtain.

While saw palmetto’s safety profile requires further research, it is considered safe for regular consumption. Some side effects may occur, though. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Decreased libido
  • Vertigo

The abovementioned side effects tend to be mild and reversible. Saw palmetto is highly unlikely to cause serious adverse reactions. 

Even though the dietary supplement is a natural product, you still need to adhere to dosage instructions and avoid taking it in excess. 

How saw palmetto and flomax compare

Saw palmetto is a natural remedy for prostate problems, whereas Flomax is not. In order to get the latter, you need a prescription, whereas saw palmetto is available in over-the-counter form. 

While the effectiveness of both agents is comparable, saw palmetto could be safer due to its natural form. Also, Flomax may interact with other medications and agents, whereas saw palmetto can be combined with different compounds. 

In fact, many dietary supplements nowadays contain saw palmetto in combination with other plants, herbs, vitamins, and minerals. 

How they work

Flomax for prostate issues works by relaxing muscles in the bladder and prostate. As a result, it improves urine flow. 

On the flip side, saw palmetto works by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase and the binding between DHT (dihydrotestosterone) and the androgen receptor. 

In other words, saw palmetto inhibits the production of an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT in the prostate. While DHT is crucial for prostate development, it does play a role in the progression of BPH.

When combined with selenium and lycopene, saw palmetto acts through selenoproteins to promote optimal balance between antioxidants and oxidants, thus exhibiting beneficial effects on enlarged prostate.

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Best time of day to take them

The best time of day to take Flomax is in the morning after breakfast or the first snack or meal of the day. That way, the highest levels of medicine remain in the body throughout the day. 

As a result, they exhibit their effects precisely when you’re most likely to urinate. Ideally, you should take Flomax at the same time every day. 

If you miss a dose and remember it within six hours, you should take it as soon as possible. On the other hand, if it’s been longer than six hours, you should skip it and take the next dose in the morning at the same time as you normally do. 

Avoid taking a double dose to compensate for the one you missed out on. If you tend to forget to take medicine frequently, set up an alarm on your phone to remind you.

When it comes to Flomax, many believe taking medicine at night is more effective. However, evidence confirms that night-time dosing isn’t necessary to improve the effectiveness and tolerability of Flomax.

There is no specific time of day considered best for taking saw palmetto. Make sure to adhere to the doctor’s instructions or label on the packaging. 

Ideally, you should take the supplement with food to prevent side effects and avoid potential digestive issues. That means you should take it after big meals such as breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Like with Flomax, you should take saw palmetto at the same time every day. 

Dosage for both

The standard dose of Flomax for BPH is 0.4mg once a day, about one-half hour after a meal. Patients need to take it every day after the same meal, e.g., breakfast. 

A healthcare professional may increase the dosage to 0.8mg once a day if a patient fails to respond to the 0.4mg dosage within the first two weeks of dosing.

How many mg of saw palmetto should I take, you probably wonder.

Since saw palmetto is a dietary supplement, there is no specific dosage information for everyone with prostate problems. When consumed as a supplement or liquid extraction, saw palmetto is most effective in dosages ranging from 160mg twice a day to 320mg once a day.

It’s useful to remember that saw palmetto is taken in different forms, so doses may vary from one form to another.

Can you take saw palmetto and Flomax together?

There are no known interactions between Flomax use and saw palmetto. In other words, it’s safe to take them together. 

A study from the Urologia Internationalis confirmed that a combination of saw palmetto and Flomax is more effective in treating BPH symptoms than Flomax monotherapy.

That said, both saw palmetto and Flomax might cause dizziness at the beginning of the treatment until the body adapts. 

While it’s safe to take saw palmetto and Flomax together, you should check with your healthcare provider.

Conclusion

Saw palmetto and Flomax are known for their potential to treat prostate problems. Both exhibit comparable effects on symptoms of an enlarged prostate but saw palmetto tends to have a better safety profile. 

Saw palmetto is also more practical because it’s natural, and you don’t need a prescription to get it. 

Make sure to consult your doctor before you decide to use something to treat lower urinary tract symptoms. 

Besides medications, therapies for BPH may also include yoga, prostate massage of tender points, trigger point release therapy, or other procedures.

A natural approach is always the best. Be proactive to reduce the need for surgical procedures.

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Sources

  1. Wilt TJ, Mac Donald R, Rutks I. Tamsulosin for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12535426/
  2. Milicevic S, Bijelic R. Efficacy and safety of tamsulosin in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Med Arch. 2012. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22822617/
  3. Kwon Y. Use of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) extract for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6859144/
  4. Cai, Tong et al. “Comparison of Serenoa repens With Tamsulosin in the Treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” American journal of men’s health vol. 14,2 (2020). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7153190/
  5. Narayan P, Tunuguntla HS. Long-term efficacy and safety of tamsulosin for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Rev Urol. 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1477608/ 
  6. Agbabiaka TB, Pittler MH, Wider B, Ernst E. Serenoa repens (saw palmetto): a systematic review of adverse events. Drug Saf. 2009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19591529/ 
  7. Michel MC, Neumann HG, Mehlburger L, Schumacher H, Goepel M. Does the time of administration (morning or evening) affect the tolerability or efficacy of tamsulosin? BJU Int. 2001. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11121989/
  8. Ryu YW, Lim SW, Kim JH, Ahn SH, Choi JD. Comparison of tamsulosin plus serenoa repens with tamsulosin in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia in Korean men: 1-year randomized open label study. Urol Int. 2015. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/366521

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