Diving into Saw Palmetto

Have you heard of this herb? It’s widely used by men for prostate health. I took it daily for years in the hopes of forestalling the growth of my prostate, a condition faced by more than half of men over 50. Unfortunately, in that battle, the prostate won, and I had to seek other remedies—first, medications to relax the muscles around the prostate and supposedly to shrink it. Again, unfortunately, the prostate won.

Last September, I resorted to surgery, and it was a success. The prostate, which had grown nearly three-times its normal size, was trimmed down and all the annoying symptoms – along with the temporary catheters – vanished. I no longer needed any medications or saw palmetto – though I guess it wouldn’t hurt to continue taking it. But I wasn’t too happy with saw palmetto, and admit that I had bad-mouthed the natural remedy as bogus. Even a scam. I figured I was done with it.

But not so fast. Last week, my friend Don and I went on an early morning off-road bike ride on a trail an hour north of here. I’d only ridden it once and that was years ago. The trail was relatively easy, especially compared to our local technical trail with numerous log piles, criss-crossing root pattern, steep drops and sharp turns along tight trails through heavy woods.

We’d been riding nearly an hour when we crossed a narrow wooden bridge over a creek. Don was ahead of me and had disappeared around a bend as I came off the bridge. I swerved to avoid a mud puddle and paid for the move. I was slammed down into something sharp and prickly. As I slowly got to my feet, I looked back and saw that I’d crashed into a patch of saw palmetto.

I didn’t see the irony, though, until a few days later when a friend, upon hearing the story, replied, “I thought saw palmetto was good for men.” Maybe for some, but not for me. A broken stem about the size of six toothpicks had pierced through the top of my ear. Don, a retired paramedic/fire fighter, pulled it out and I stopped the bleeding with a kerchief. We continued on, but I knew I’d bruised a rib or two and that I would feel it more after we finished.

Back at home, I cleaned the ear and found another splinter, shaped like an arrowhead, wedged into the top of the ear. I couldn’t get it out, neither could Trish, so I ended up at a walk-in clinic. I’d been there before, back when I was realizing the saw palmetto formula wasn’t working for me.

So much for my encounters with this prickly plant. I don’t know if I’ll take any more of the herb, but I will definitely respect it when I encounter it again along the trail.



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14 Responses to Diving into Saw Palmetto

  1. Darren B says:

    On the subject of prostates and supplements,I saw this news story today –
    “A new study recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that taking high doses of selenium and vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of prostate cancer, depending on a man’s selenium levels prior to taking the supplements.”

  2. Nancy Pickard says:

    Yikes, Rob! My first reaction was to think that if I were you I’d never again get near the stuff again. I mean, sheesh, take a hint, lol. I do like other people’s idea of working with it to possibly make friends with it. There is a possibility, however, that it actually *was* being a friend to you, by warning you away from itself in the strongest terms!

  3. Howie Barte says:

    That’s a pretty cool story. I’ve been taking this stuff for years as well. Still is good shape (and size…so far! :) ) But I did kill some wild palmettos in the back of my back yard when I first moved here. It was them of my shed that they were trying to eat. With my assistance, the shed won.

    Am I in trouble now? :)

    Hope all is well with you guys. When you have time, I need to ask Trish a question about the 2000 election here in Florida….


  4. Darren B says:

    It’s funny because in my new job I pick these pills for orders to fill everyday and I was just thinking to myself how effective are these compared to sugar pills ? I think Rob has answered my question.I’ll stick with the sugar pills.

  5. Jane says:

    Ouch! It’s a bit like when I have bad mouthed nettles in the garden and been removing them,invariably I get stung & always have. I do,realise nettles are a rich source of iron and food for allergies and that some plants actually like being surrounded by them.Sorry to hear about your encounter & hope your ribs are not too,sore.

  6. Momwithwings says:

    Sorry, I had a big smile as I read this.
    All I could “hear” was , “you don’t like us? Well we don’t like you!”

  7. Sheila Joshi says:

    Rob – The harshness of all the saw palmetto events (the medical procedures and the trail accident) have a shamanic initiatory feel to them. I’m thinking of how shamanic initiation often entails some dismantlement (yuck) before a new re-building (yeah!).

    You know what would be interesting? :) If you and / or Trish sat with the saw palmetto (either live plant, piece of plant, or pills) and did one of your very effective shamanic journeying or meditation practices, and asked the plant if it had any message for you.

    • Rob and Trish says:

      Rob is going to try your suggestion during his shamanic meditation class. Thanks for the idea!

  8. I’d heard of saw palmetto, it’s advertised widely in the UK for prostate and urinary problems. I had no idea though what the plant looked like or where it was grown. I’ve just read on Wikipedia that some of the plants in Florida can be several hundred years old (wonder if it therefore prolongs life!)