These three botanical remedies, used alone or in combination, have been found beneficial in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, a condition present in 50 percent of men by age 60. Men should have a prostatic exam and prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test to rule out cancer prior to using any of the herbs mentioned below.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)
This North American plant, native to sand dunes along the southern Atlantic coast, inhibits the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is thought to enlarge the prostate. Several studies have reported saw palmetto to be comparable to pharmaceuticals in treating BPH.
Use with caution if you are receiving alpha-adrenergic blockers or finasteride for BPH treatment. Contrary to earlier belief, studies now show that consuming saw palmetto does not effect one's PSA test results.
Take 160 mg twice daily, standardized to 80-90 percent fatty acids and sterols per dose.
Pygeum (Pygeum africanum)
Commonly called the African plum tree, pygeum is an evergreen tree native to northern Africa. Studies indicate that pygeum bark extract reduces the hormone prolactin, thus reducing cholesterol and testosterone uptake and accumulation in the prostate, which can lead to cell mutation. Studies have also shown pygeum to significantly increase urine flow, decrease residual urine, and even improve sexual performance.
Use with caution if you are receiving alpha-adrenergic blockers or finasteride for BPH treatment.
Take 50-100 mg twice daily, standardized to 12-13 percent phytosterols per dose.
Stinging nettle root
Found in temperate climates around the world, stinging nettle in root extract form is believed to inhibit cytosolic androgen receptors within prostatic tissues, which could otherwise lead to cell mutation when those receptors are activated.
Consult with your doctor before use to determine the effect stinging nettles can have on any medications you are taking.
Take 250 mg 1-3 times daily, standardized to contain 1-2 percent plant silica per dose.
Sources: Natural Therapeutics Pocket Guide, by James LaValle (Lexi-Comp 2000); UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, www.berkeleywellness.com.