health of the prostate gland
is a concern for every man over the age of 50. With passing years the prostate tends to become enlarged (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy, or BPH), leading to serious discomfort and inconvenience. About 75% of men over the age of 60 experience distressing functional prostate problems, and a surprising number of younger men are developing BPH, as well.
BPH symptoms include
weak urine stream
difficulty in starting urination
and being forced to rise several times at night to urinate
BPH appears to be caused by the action of testosterone derivatives, particularly dihydrotestosterone (DHT), on the prostate. Young men who are heavy steroid users are at increased risk of BPH, because of higher levels of dihydrotestosterone caused by the steroids.
DHT is produced from testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. This reductase is, like most enzymes, subject to inhibition, and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors haVE been a subject of great interest in andrology research. One of the most popular inhibitors is finasteride, commonly known as Proscar. Proscar, however, requires a prescription from a physician, it is expensive, and it often causes sexual side effects (impotence).
Fortunately, the reductase can also be inhibited with a safe, inexpensive, natural herbal extract that rarely if ever causes side effects.
Saw Palmetto Extract
Extracts of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, dwarf palm) contain a unique mix of fatty acids, phytosterols and alcohols that inhibit the critical reductase, reduce DHT accumulation in the prostate, and thus reduce the risk (or actually halt and reverse) BPH. Also,
saw palmetto extract
inhibits the binding of DHT to nuclear receptors in the prostate. Thus it reduces both the supply of DHT to the prostate, and the sensitivity of the prostate to it once it is there. As a result, saw palmetto markedly improves all the symptoms of BPH, and often causes measurable prostate shrinkage.
Many large and well-controlled clinical trials have shown
saw palmetto extract
to be effective in the treatment of BPH. And the extract is now medically accepted for BPH treatment in Germany, France, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and other countries. It is regarded so highly in some countries that it is the standard against which pharmaceutical prostate drugs are measured!
An advantage of saw palmetto, in contrast to the pharmaceutical product Proscar, is that it leaves PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels unchanged. This is very important, as PSA is the indicator of prostate cancer -- also a concern for older men (though unrelated to BPH).
Science, Science, Science!
Saw Palmetto is one of the better-documented herbal remedies. There is no serious doubt that it is effective. Here is a sampling of some of the human clinical trials:
In a double-blind study of over 1,000 men, given either Proscar or saw palmetto for 6 months, the herb was as effective as Proscar -- but without the side effects of Proscar (sexual impotence)! Both treatments shrank the prostate.
What is there to add to that? This stuff works!
Another double-blind study of over 800 men, over one year, found that saw palmetto extract was as effective as the drug tamsulosin (an alpha-blocker used for BPH). Again, saw palmetto was effective without side effects, unlike the drug, plus it cause prostate shrinkage, which the drug did not.
Yet another double-blind trial, of over 500 men over a year's time, found that saw palmetto combined with nettle root was as effective as Proscar? in reducing BPH symptoms.
Finally, another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 44 men, over 6 months, showed that a blend of saw palmetto with nettle and pumpkin seed oil caused significant prostate shrinkage, though few changes in BPH symptoms. (The dosage of saw palmetto might have been too low.)
In practice, use 320 mgs daily of a good saw palmetto extract
, standardized to contain at least 85% fatty acids and sterols. Taking more does not seem to improve results.
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8. Carraro JC, Raynaud JP, Koch G, et al. Comparison of phytotherapy (PermixonW) with finasteride in the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia: a randomized international study of 1,098 patients. Prostate. 1996;29:231-240.
9. Debruyne F, Koch G, Boyle P, et al. Comparison of a phytotherapeutic agent (Permixon) with an alpha-blocker (Tamsulosin) in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a one-year randomized international study. Eur Urol. 2002;41:497-507.
10. Sokeland J. Combined sabal and urtica extract compared with finasteride in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia: analysis of prostate volume and therapeutic outcome. BJU Int. 2000;86:439-442.
11. Marks LS, Partin AW, Epstein JI, et al. Effects of a saw palmetto herbal blend in men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia. J Urol. 2000;163:1451-1456.