Prostate Health: What Is Pygeum? – Dr. David Samadi Explains Its Benefits And Uses
Pygeum (Prunus africanum) is an evergreen tree native to African forest regions. It can grow to approximately 45 m in height. The thick leaves are oblong in shape; the flowers are small and white. Pygeum fruit is a red berry, resembling a cherry when ripe. The bark (red, brown, or gray) is the part of the plant used for medicinal purposes. Its medicinal use dates to the 1700s, when tribes in southern Africa taught early explorers how to use the tree’s bark to treat bladder discomfort. Pygeum extract has been used in Europe to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia since the 1960s.
How Is It Used Today?
In herbal medicine, pygeum is typically used in treatment of the following conditions:
- benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)
- erectile dysfunction
- kidney disease
- male baldness
- stomach upset
- urinary tract disorders
Pygeum is also purported to act as a natural aphrodisiac, enhance sexual performance, and protect against prostate cancer.
Benefits Of Pygeum
Pygeum may moderately improve urinary symptoms associated with BPH, a condition marked by enlargement of the prostate gland. Several studies have shown that pygeum can significantly reduce urinary frequency (the number of times patients need to wake up at night to urinate) and pain with urination in men who suffer from mild-to-moderate BPH symptoms. However, pygeum does not appear to reverse the process of BPH.
Current Information And Research
Pygeum contains many active constituents including four Phytosterols; not only the well known beta-sitosterol, but beta-sitosterone and campesterol as well. All have anti-inflammatory effects inhibiting inflammation in the prostate. Pygeum also contains ursolic and oleanic acids that have anti swelling properties, and n-docosanol and tetracosanol that block the accumulation of cholesterol in the prostate.
Clinical trials conducted since the 1970s report that pygeum significantly reduces urinary hesitancy, urinary frequency, pain with urination, and the number of times patients need to wake up at night to urinate in men who experience mild-to-moderate symptoms. The herb isn’t commonly used in the United States where prescription drugs or the herb saw palmetto is more commonly used but offers a robust multi-faceted complement for prostate support.
Although studies concerning pygeum, prostate cancer and prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) are limited at this time, a few have suggested the herbal remedy has some potential in the fight against these two prostate conditions. For example, scientists isolated a substance called atraric acid from pygeum bark and discovered that, at least in the lab, it showed potential against prostate cancer cells.
Pygeum use has been reported as safe at the recommended doses. No severe side effects have been reported but mild symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea and constipation. Long term pygeum use for more than 12 months has not been studied. There is also lack of evidence to recommend pygeum for use in pregnant women and children.
If you’re considering the use of pygeum in the treatment of or prevention of any of the above listed health conditions, make sure to consult your physician first before starting your supplement regimen. It’s especially important to talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements. Self-treating, avoiding and/or delaying standard medical care can have potentially serious consequences.