Pygeum (Prunus africanum) is an evergreen tree native to African forest regions. It is also called the African Plum Tree or the African Cherry. The pygeum bark is used to treat the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer.
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 pygeum 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.
Pygeum bark contains a type of chemicals that help shrink the prostate and relieve the symptoms of BPH, such as poor urine flow and nighttime urination.
What are the 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 the 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.
One medical review from 2002 looked at 18 different studies to conclude how efficient pygeum extract is in reducing BPH symptoms.
The review found that men reported:
- 19% decrease in nighttime urination
- 24% decrease in the amount of urine retained in the bladder after urination
- 23% increase in the urine flow
- overall significant improvement of symptoms
Another important study was conducted in 2015. It found that men who diligently took around 100-200 mg of pygeum extract/day for a period of 1-2 months, experienced improved urinary symptoms.
However, it does not appear to reverse the process of BPH. More studies need to be done in order to fully understand how pygeum works.
If you would like to know what is the recommended dosage, bear in mind that this nutritional supplement has not been FDA approved yet. But all the research that has been done until now indicates a dosage between 50-200 mg/day. The effective daily dose can only be inferred from the studies performed until now.
Current Information And Research
Pygeum contains many active constituents including four Phytosterols; not only the well-known beta-sitosterol but beta-sitosterol and campesterol as well.
All have anti-inflammatory effects inhibiting inflammation in the prostate. Pygeum also contains ursolic and oleanolic acids that have anti-swelling properties, and n-docosanol and octacosanol that block the accumulation of cholesterol in the prostate.
Clinical trials conducted since the 1970s report that it 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.
What are the side effects of pygeum?
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 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 this extract 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.
Does pygeum increase testosterone levels?
Pygeum is known to support optimal levels of testosterone. The consequence of low testosterone is a low sperm count. The pygeum extract enhances the testosterone production and reduces testicular inflammation. How? It inhibits the prostaglandins that trigger the inflammation and, thus, allow the testosterone to be produced more efficiently.
There are also other ways in which the pygeum bark extract support the sperm count:
- It inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha reductase so that less DHT is made. That means better sperm production.
- It reduces the number of receptor sites where DHT can attach to cells. That is why it can be beneficial to patients with low sperm count and sexual problems.
- It can improve semen viscosity and volume. If semen viscosity is improved, the semen can survive longer.
- It improves seminal fluids and the health of the prostate gland.
So, pygeum extract is good for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. It can help achieve and maintain erections and enhances male fertility and sperm longevity.
Is pygeum better than saw palmetto?
Studies have shown that sow palmetto can have better results on the improvement of urine flow and residual urine content. Saw palmetto is also a tree, native to southeastern regions of the US. Its ripe fruits are being used for medical purposes.
Compared with the pygeum extract, saw palmetto produces a greater reduction of symptoms and is better tolerated by the body. But, there are some oral medications that use them both for a better result.
However, there are some situations when pygeum is more efficient than saw palmetto. This is especially regarding the amount of prostate secretions. That is why doctors recommend a combination of these two natural supplements.
If you are suffering from BPH or experience negative urinary symptoms, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Samadi, urologic specialist, who can assist you in finding the best treatment!
Related: Concerned about possible prostate cancer symptoms? Learn more about treatments and SMART Robotic Prostate Surgery.