Pygeum and Prostate Health

The last few posts have been dedicated to prostate health.  The news a couple of weeks ago  that DHA may increase risk of prostate cancer has  prompted other newsworthy issues around prostate health – and if you’ve been following this blog along then you know a tincture for prostate health came my way and I made the formula available on the blog.  That formula included Kava and being the research hound that I am, I found that Kava inclusion in that particular formula was not suitable.  It’s not really needed in a prostate specific formula anyway – its main uses are nothing to do with urinary health. It has lots of other great things going for it and I’ll blog about it eventually but nothing to do with the prostate. The reason I took it out of the formula  is to do with safety.  Kava should not be used in an ethanol extract because you can get serious liver damage and death has occurred. It is safe when extracted in the manner that traditional societies extract it and when the appropriate parts of the herb are used and also should be aged somewhat.  Since I don’t want to recommend Kava in the formula for the prostate tincture it was necessary to find a replacement herb.

Pygeum  has a  long history for the use of prostate health and itseems clear  from the  research that no good prostate formula should be without it. Pygeum is native to Africa, it’s botanical name is pygeum africanum or prunus africanum.  It’s not actually a herb, it’s a tree, and the bark is the part which is used. Unfortunately harvesting of the bark has caused the tree to become threatened in the wild and if you want to use Pygeum you really need to ethical about it. Try to buy from a company that has entered into agreements to harvest the bark in a sustainable manner, where the tree won’t die from overharvesting – and from trees grown for the purpose.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that wild grown is somehow better.  Wildcrafted herbs don’t possess magical qualities that cultivated herbs don’t.  If the cultivated herb is grown in a pesticide free or organic environment it will be every bit as good.  Gingsing suffers from this syndrome with prices for wild harvested Ginsing far greater than for cultivated Ginsing.  This is utter nonsense.  It’s not the same thing as  farmed fish for example, where you really would want to avoid that unless the waters are clean clean clean and the fish fed a natural diet.  Anyway…back to Pygeum…

Fortunately such companies that do offer ethically collected herbs do exist. I wanted to locate a source of Pygeum that I could recommend in all good consciousness.  Its pretty hard to find Pygeum at the moment.  Most places are out of stock However Mountainrose does supply it and supports sustainable harvesting and ‘good trade practices”.  I like this.  Good trade goes beyond ‘fair trade’ because it allows the growers full negotiating rights and the growers set the prices for the herbs, not the company.   If you are in the market for herbs I recommend them.  I wanted some advice about the prostate tincture so I contacted them and they replied within several hours giving me information on how much Pygeum to use in the formula and some general ‘tincturing’ advice.   I’d way rather give my money to people who love and care about the earth.   And if you are interested -  they don’t even know I write this blog – I just wanted to tell you about them because they are really good to deal with.

Pygeum has a wealth of data supporting its effective use in benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancers. Traditional societies used Pygeum for this condition and for fever, madness and even as anaphrodisiac.  It is used extensively in Europe for prostate health as well as in the United States.   The Natural Standards Data Base reports that it can reduce night time pee-ing by 19% and that it increases urine flow by 23% and that residual urine is decreased by 24%.  This is pretty good praise from the data base.  It rates it asn ‘likely effective’ and ‘likely safe’ when used orally and appropriately.  Pygeum is thought to prevent cell prostate cell growth and also to it improves the ability of the bladder to contract.  There is some research to suggest it has anti-inflammatory effects and also has action on the androgen hormones.  Some recent research in 2011 reports that Pygeum has specific androgen receptor antagonists.  Androgen hormones  that become out of whack are intimately involved in prostate problems and an antagonist – in biological terms – helps to prevent the stimulation of the androgen receptor, thus calming everything down. The androgen receptor agonists in Pygeum are ataric acid and N-butylenzene-sulfornamide.  Now that’s a mouthful – but now you know what they are called and they are the “first known natural complete and specific androgen antagonists”  to directly quote the words of the researchers statement in their paper.

Using Pygeum and nettle root together is has a synergistic effect making our tincture look even better according to a Swiss study in 1996.  Together they prevent the production of dihydrotestosterone or DHT and estrogen, helping to prevent hormonal imbalance.   The study found that even though they did a good job individually together the effects were far more powerful.  Saw palmetto also exhibits a synergistic effect from the addition of Pygeum too. There is speculation that since Pygeum is able to block the effects of DHA which is involved in hair loss and that using it will cause regrowth of hair.  I briefly looked into this and so far have not found any evidence at all. There are plenty of sites claiming that it does.  One site claims a 17 day cure.  Like I said…..no evidence at all, just theories based on the ability to block DHA.  For my money – I wouldn’t waste it on something unproven in anyway at all -  and more than that the Pygeum bark is too scarce and valuable a resource to be carelessly used.   Very soon, I’ll look at Kava and report back on how best to use this amazing herb in a safe manner.

Resources:
The Natural Standard Data Base

The natural compounds atraric acid and N-butylbenzene-sulfonamide as antagonists of the human androgen receptor and inhibitors of prostatecancer cell growth. Roell D, Baniahmad A. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011 Jan 30;332(1-2):1-8. Epub 2010 Oct 19.

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