Manage episode 290364565 series 1863886
Have you heard that black cohosh is “for menopause”? Or that red clover is a “natural estrogen replacement”? Or that saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is “for men” or “for BPH”?
Herbs are not gendered, and they’re not “for” conditions. They have qualities and actions, and they act in context – the context of each individual body. Herbs act on particular types of tissue, and it turns out that in the reproductive system, the various forms and functions mask a deeper similarity, a more fundamental identity. Saw palmetto doesn’t check your chromosomes or your estrogen/testosterone ratio before it goes to work in your system: it acts on the pelvic floor organs, regardless of their shape.
In this episode we deconstruct saw palmetto’s famous ability to help out with BPH, widening our scope to consider other patterns of pelvic stagnation and atrophy this herb can help us correct. We even look outside the reproductive system entirely, noting historical precedent for this herb as a digestive tonic and respiratory expectorant. Historical traditions, contemporary science, and our own direct experiences with the herb all provide helpful points of contact which help us draw a much fuller picture of the herb than “good for BPH”.
Saw palmetto is a complex herb, with actions that can seem – at first glance – contradictory. Taking this in-the-round view of the herb helps us see it more clearly and resolve some confusion. This lesson goes beyond this one herb, though – we always need to be aware of our culture’s tendency for reductionism and putting herbs in neat boxes.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Sabal in The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P. by John Uri Lloyd (1911)
- Serenoa – Saw Palmetto in King’s American Dispensatory by Harvey Wickes Felter & John Uri Lloyd (1898)
- Serenoa in The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics by Harvey Wickes Felter (1922)
- Serenoa: Eclectic materia medica for Saw Palmetto – this includes text from Willam Bloyer (writing in the Eclectic Medical Journal, 1896), with commentary from Paul Bergner at the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism (1997)
- Saw Palmetto in A Modern Herbal by M. Grieve (1931)
- Use of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) extract for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Kwon, Y. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2019 Apr 17;28(6):1599-1606. doi: 10.1007/s10068-019-00605-9.
- Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) by the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine
- Competent Care for Transgender, GenderQueer and non-Binary Folks by Larken Bunce & Vilde Chaya Fenster-Ehrlich
- The Energetics of Western Herbs by Peter Holmes
- The Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd ed. – editors Zoe Gardner, Michael McGuffin
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This episode was sponsored by Mountain Rose Herbs. We thank them for their support!
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