If you’re a man who’s middle age or older, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with one of two common prostate issues: benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement), called BPH, or prostatitis.
BPH affects one in four American men by age 55 and half of men by age 75; prostatitis, a painful inflammation of the prostate gland, can also hit younger men. The prostate is an integral part of a guy’s “manhood” because it contributes to production of semen, the fluid that carries sperm. The first signs of prostate problems usually show up as frequent urination, dribbling, or getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. You might be reluctant to talk about your health, but symptoms like these shouldn’t be ignored. Though it’s always best to get a clear diagnosis from a health care practitioner (at the very least to rule out prostate cancer), these natural remedies, listed here in priority order, are safer than prescription drugs and often just as effective for many men.
Lycopene. The prostate stores lycopene—a carotenoid, found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, that increases antioxidant activity—in prostate tissue, where researchers believe it interacts with cells’steroid receptors. In a study of 40 men with BPH, participants took 15 mg lycopene or placebos for six months. Prostate growth stopped in men taking the supplements, but not in those taking placebos. Most of the men taking lycopene also had decreases in prostate specific antigen (PSA), a marker of prostate cancer risk. Opt for nonsynthetic, tomato-source lycopene, which has additional antioxidants. Dose: 5–15 mg daily. Try: Source Naturals Lycopene
Cranberry. Doctors treated 42 men with elevated PSAs and urinary tract symptoms typical of BPH. After taking 1,500 mg dried cranberry fruit daily for six months, the men’s urinary symptoms decreased fourfold. Placebos had no benefits. Dose: 1,000–1,500 mg daily. Try: Gaia Herbs Cranberry Concentrate
Saw palmetto. Study results tend to go back and forth, but there’s enough current evidence to try saw palmetto as a BPH remedy. Some researchers have noted that the herb works as well as drugs, but costs less and poses fewer side effects, such as erectile dysfunction. If saw palmetto works for you, urinary symptoms should diminish within 90 days. Dose: 160 mg twice daily. Try: Solgar Gold Specifics Prostate Support
Pygeum. In a study of 209 men, 100 mg pygeum extract significantly eased BPH symptoms after two months. Another study provided men with two 50-mg supplements of pygeum extract daily for two months. Again, BPH symptoms and nighttime urination decreased significantly. Dose: 100–150 mg daily. Try: Now Foods Pygeum & Saw Palmetto
Stinging nettles. Like saw palmetto and pygeum, stinging nettles extract can help many men with BPH, though it may work best in conjunction with other herbs. In a recent study, doctors asked 320 men to take a combination of stinging nettles, saw palmetto, and maritime pine bark for 30 days to one year. The doctors were able to do full follow-ups on only 80 patients—of whom 85 percent had “significant” improvements in urinary flow. Dose: 200–300 mg stinging nettles and 100 mg pygeum daily. Try: Carlson Nutra-Support Prostate
Quercetin. This anti-inflammatory antioxidant is the standout supplement for resolving prostatitis, which causes pain when urinating and more generalized pain in the groin. In studies, taking 500 mg quercetin twice daily lessened prostatitis symptoms; adding the enzymes bromelain and papain may produce even greater benefits by fighting inflammation. Dose: 1,000–2,000 mg quercetin daily; if desired, add 300–500 mg bromelain and 250 mg papain. Try: NutriCology Quercetin 300