Herbal Remedies Can Aid Prostate Health
A Review of Supplements Finds Pros and Cons
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 4, 2003 -- There's a third inevitability to
"death" and "taxes" for most American men -- an enlarged
Medically known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), this
condition eventually affects at least 80% of men and is most common after age
50. As the usually walnut-sized prostate grows, sometimes as big as a
grapefruit, it presses on the urethra (the outflow tract from the bladder),
causing incomplete emptying of the bladder, a weakened urine stream, the need
to urinate frequently and urgently, and most notably, frequent bathroom breaks
-- especially at night. While BPH is often more bothersome than dangerous, it
can result in bladder and urinary tract infections or even kidney damage.
One in three men are treated for BPH with surgery or, more
commonly, prescription drugs such as Flomax or Proscar. But growing research
suggests that some symptoms may be treated as effectively with over-the-counter
herbal remedies -- sometimes less expensively and thus far, with no reported
side effects. What's more, some of these treatments claim they may help prevent
prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men.
"I don't want to give the impression that herbal solutions
are better than traditional medications, but they definitely do have
their place," says Aaron Katz, MD, director of The Center for Holistic
Urology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. "In the past, the role of
these herbal remedies has been overlooked by many. But there is now enough
laboratory and clinical evidence to recommend their use in many patients with
BPH and to maintain good overall prostate health."
Katz recently reviewed dozens of recent studies on various
herbs used to treat BPH for a report in the December 2002 issue of The
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. "While I would
generally recommend pharmaceuticals to patients with more severe symptoms,
these herbs can definitely improve mild to moderate BPH symptoms in many
men," he tells WebMD.
Saw palmetto is the leading herbal treatment for BPH and
among the best selling of all herbal products, with annual U.S. sales of more
than $25 million, according to the American Botanical Council.