Nine out of ten men over the age of 60 experience problems with their prostate, the small walnut-shaped gland that manufactures seminal fluid. The most common condition that men develop is an enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in medical terms. While it doesn't cause prostate cancer, an enlarged prostate presses on the urethra, which can affect urine flow. Doctors prescribe medications to treat an enlarged prostate and sometimes recommend removal, but many men take advantage of natural intervention with three herbs for prostate health.
Saw palmetto is one of the most well-known herbs for prostate health. Part of the palm family, saw palmetto gets its medicinal qualities from its berries. Many cultures have used the dark brown berries for centuries to treat various urinary and reproductive health problems.
Several clinical trials have compared the effectiveness of saw palmetto for BPH against a commonly prescribed drug, Proscar. A review of these trials featuring nearly 3,000 male participants showed that men using saw palmetto experienced an improvement in urinary tract symptoms of 28 percent, an improvement in peak urine flow of 24 percent, and an improvement in general urine flow of 43 percent. Men who took Proscar experienced similar outcomes, and both treatments proved more beneficial than placebo.
As yet, scientists don't know how saw palmetto works to reduce BPH symptoms. Some believe it inhibits the enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a hormone associated with the development of BPH.
This medicinal herb comes from the bark of the Prunus africana tree native to mountainous regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Traditionally South African tribal communities powdered the bark and made it into a tea for treatment of genital and urinary problems. In modern times, people use pygeum bark to treat various health issues including BPH. A review study analyzing 18 trials with over 1,500 participants looked at the effect of pygeum bark on general BPH symptoms. Participants taking pygeum experienced a significant improvement of symptoms overall as compared to participants who took placebo.
Part of the nettle family of plants, stinging nettle can be found in Asia, Europe, North Africa, and North America. The medicinal properties in its leaves provide relief for a variety of health problems from joint pain to allergies. Many studies have shown that stinging nettle in combination with other herbs like saw palmetto may relieve general BPH symptoms. Scientists aren't sure how stinging nettle works to relieve symptoms, but active ingredients might influence hormones present in the male body or work directly on prostate cells.
Many people prefer a natural route when it comes to managing or preventing illness. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of herbs for prostate health. Because herbs can interact with medications and cause side effects in some people, it is wise to always check with a health care provider before engaging in a supplementary regimen.