Origin. Oil of saw palmetto is obtained from the berries of Saba/ serrulata, R. et Sen., which grows in the southern United States, more particularly in Florida. Apparently it was first obtained by C. C. Sherrard1) from the chloroform extract with a yield of 0,54 p.c, and Coblentz2) obtained it by steam distillation in 1895. However, J. U. Lloyd3) had obtained considerable quantities as early as 1890.
Production. The oil is obtained by distillation from the fresh berries with a yield of about 1,2 p.c. Dry berries yield no oil4). It can also be obtained by expression of the fruits. The oil collects on the surface of the juice and is readily separated. (P. L. Sherman and C. H. Briggs)5).
Properties. The odor of the distilled oil is at first pleasant, but later it becomes disagreeable. The oil obtained by Lloyd in 1890 had a specific gravity in 1900 of 0,8682 at 20°. After distillation under reduced pressure it had the following properties: b. p. 60 to 170° (18 mm.); d20/20o,8679; nD20o1,41233; ad + 0o (Schreiner)4).
Two oils (d 0,8651 and 0,8775), separated from the expressed juice, yielded upon distillation with water vapor 4 to 5 p.c. of a brownish colored oil with a density of 0,8650 and 0,8653 respectively.
Composition. Sherman and Briggs0) examined an oil which had been obtained by expression of berries preserved in alcohol.
1) Proceed. Americ. Pharm. Ass. 42 (1894), 312.
2) Proceed. New Jersey Pharm. Ass. 1895, 63.
3) Private communication to Prof. Kremers.
4) O. Schreiner, Pharm. Review 18 (1900), 220. 5) Pharmaceutical Archives 2 (1899), 101.
6) Loc. cit.
It boiled between 70 and 270° (16 mm.) and consisted to the extent of 63 p.c. of free fatty acids (capronic, caprylic, caprinic, lauric, palmitic and oleic acids) and of about 37 p. c. of the ethyl esters of these acids. The oil from the pulp of the berries contained no glycerides. These as well as stearic acid were found in the oil obtained from the seeds. The fruity odor of the oil is due to the esters.
Inasmuch as the saw palmetto oil contains considerable free acids, the assumption seems plausible that the ethyl esters are formed while the berries are stored in alcohol'). This assumption is supported by the observation that dry berries contain no volatile oil.