Can Herbal Therapy Treat Enlarged Prostate (BPH)?
New research has established that Chinese and Western herbal medicines hold the promise for safely and effectively treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
One of these is a recent review of research from medical researchers from Italy’s University of Messina. Here researchers investigated the data on Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens). They found clear evidence illustrating that Saw Palmetto mechanisms support its ability to reduce inflammation and balance androgen hormones, allowing the ability to reduce hyperplasia.
While they (as others have) found the human clinical evidence proving Saw Palmetto’s single-herb effectiveness unconvincing, the researchers did find significant evidence that Saw Palmetto combined with Selenium and Lycopene has the potential for reducing inflammation related to BPH.
Selenium is an important trace element that provides antioxidant activity, helping to reduce inflammation among the selenoprotein cells. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient found in tomatoes, fruits and other plant foods, and has been found in independent research to help prevent or slow progression of BPH.
This combination of Saw Palmetto combined with Selenium and Lycopene has been strengthened recently by a new multicenter clinical trial by Italian researchers using 168 patients with BPH. This controlled and randomized study tested the effects of a combination of the three (Saw Palmetto, Selenium and Lycopene) against control groups, with and without the addition of pharmaceutical alpha-adrenergic blocker treatment, for three and six months.
The research found reduced inflammation among the Saw Palmetto-combination groups, and significantly reduced levels of T-cells associated with the inflammation mechanisms of BPH. The researchers concluded:
“Serenoa repens plus Selenium plus Lycopene may have an anti-inflammatory activity that could be of interest in the treatment of chronic prostate inflammation in BPH and/or prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia.”
Other Herbs show efficacy for BPH
Several other herbs have shown promise in clinical research. These include Pygeum africanum (African plum tree), Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin seed), and Epilobium parviflorum (Smallflower herb).
A formula of these three herbs plus lycopene and Saw Palmetto was clinically tested (a phase II trial) at the University of Queensland’s School of Medicine in Australia. In this randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial using 57 men with benign prostate hypertrophy, the herbal formulation resulted in a significant improvements compared to the placebo group.
The group receiving the herbal formula saw a 36% reduction in IPSS (International Prostate Symptom Score) results. The herbal formula group also experienced a 15% reduction in daytime urination frequency and nearly a 40% reduction of nighttime urination frequency. The researchers concluded:
“The herbal preparation was shown to be well tolerated and have a significant positive effect on physical symptoms of BPH when taken over 3 months, a clinically significant outcome in otherwise healthy men.”
Chinese Herbal medicine shows even greater promise
While research on the use of herbs and nutrients for BPH is progressing, there is another entirely different angle on natural prostate treatment, one that has been overlooked by Western medicine and even Western herbalism. That is, the treatment of enlarged prostate in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
And needless to say, the research on Chinese herbs has been more rigorous and extensive, likely because there is more financial support for the funding of herbal medicine research among Chinese universities and hospitals.
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Chinese Medicine reviewed 13,922 citations and found 31 clinical studies that tested 2,493 patients with enlarged prostates (volumes ranging from 22.8 to 52.4 ml). While over 80% of the studies were carried out in China, the rest were conducted in India, Peru and Japan.
These studies ranged in design, which included placebo-control, comparison to pharmaceutical treatment, and comparison to known Western herbal therapy treatment including Saw Palmetto and Pygeum africanum. The researchers then focused upon eleven of these 31 studies, as they satisfied their most rigorous protocols to quality and peer-review. These included studies that compared Chinese herbal medicine to tamsulosin and finasteride, either independently or both.
After their metadata calculations and various comparisons were completed, the research found that Chinese herbal therapies outperformed conventional Western pharmaceutical therapy in terms of reducing prostate inflammation and improvement quality of life among the patients.
Among the 31 studies, the herbs that were most tested – in order of frequency – included Cassia Cinnamon (called Rou Gui in TCM and studied in 17 of the 31 studies), Astragalus propinquus (called Huang Qi in TCM), Rehmannia sp. (Shu Di Huang in TCM), Cornus officinalis (Shan Zhu Yu in TCM), Fructus Corni and Poria mushroom/fungus (Fu Ling in TCM), Turmeric (E Shu), Phellodendron amurense (Huang Bo), Alisma plantago-aquatica (Ze Xie) and Vaccaria segetalis (Liu Xing).
Treatment periods in the studies ranged from one month to a year. The metadata results found that Chinese herbal medicine – using both single herbs and combination therapy – was only slightly more effective than the pharmaceutical therapy (about 6% better).
However, the study found that Chinese herbal medicine was significantly more effective at reducing prostate volume and significantly more effective at increasing the quality of life among the prostate patients than both the pharmaceutical therapy and the western herb therapy.
This said, the researchers did note that further studies are suggested to confirm the evidence. But more importantly, they found that adverse side effects among those treated with Chinese herbal therapy was similar to side effects of the placebo patients studied.
In other words, there were little or no adverse side effects among those taking the Chinese herbal medicine.
Traditional Chinese medicine focuses upon the movement of the Chi (or Qi) through the body and blockages of this Qi is considered as producing disease. In Chinese medicine BPH is often considered “Long Bi” or blocked urination, along with “Zheng Jia” which indicates an abscess or swelling. As a result, tonification of the Ying among the kidneys is one of the goals for therapy in traditional Chinese medicine.
While conventional medicine continues to look upon herbal medicine with suspicion and mistrust regarding its ability to treat BPH, the research is continuing to provide ample evidence of the efficacy of herbal therapy, assuming close attention by trained and experienced providers.
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