HERBS FOR HEALTH
It is now official. "Baby-boomers"
are approaching or have already reached their 50's. Although both men and
women have to deal with their respective health issues associated with getting
older, one condition continues to appear in men, more frequently, and earlier
on. BPH or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, affects only males, and is a non-cancerous
enlargement of the prostate gland. The prostate gland produces a fluid associated
with a man's sexual functioning, providing a nutrient liquid for sperm.
It sits at the base of the bladder and envelops the urethra. If the prostate
gland enlarges, it can put so much pressure on the urethra that it blocks
the passage of urine, a potential life threatening situation if the urine
backs up into the kidneys, and can make ejaculation painful or reversed.
HERBAL HELP FOR BPH / ENLARGED PROSTATE
by Eva Urbaniak, N.D.
BPH is found in 50% of men aged 60, increasing to 90% at age 85. BPH
can be present to any degree and may or may not cause any symptoms at
all. In fact, in men who have cellular changes identified microscopically,
only 50% will show any detectable enlargement, and of these, only 50%
will develop any symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms don't necessarily
worsen over time, and interestingly, symptom severity does not correlate
well with prostate size or urinary outlet obstruction. Some men are simply
more sensitive to any irritation or swelling.
Common symptoms associated with BPH are a sensation of incomplete voiding
of the bladder after urinating, urinating too often, weak stream, pushing
and straining to start the urine stream, and waking often at night to
urinate. (Lift suggestion) Although BPH is a common problem, it is poorly
understood. The general consensus among conventional doctors is that BPH
is an inevitable and irreversible condition caused by aging, changing
levels of sex hormones, insulin, prolactin, and growth factors. I don't
agree. And apparently, I am not alone. The following true story illustrates
Recently, I went to a club to watch a friend perform with his musical
group. I sat at a table with a very pleasant "young" man. I
thought he might be 35-40 years old. I was shocked to find out he was
a very young-looking 54. When he heard I was a naturopath, he cheerfully
volunteered that he takes "Saw Palmet-to," every day, carefully
pronouncing the herb correctly. I was impressed. When I asked if he had
prostate trouble, he replied, "No," but that he was taking it
as a preventative measure to guarantee he doesn't get prostate problems
in the future. Here was a man who had educated himself about herbs, vitamins
and minerals, and was taking them to be healthier, along with some dietary
and lifestyle changes.
BPH can be called a 20th century ailment. Its appearance and incidence
has increased with the advent of "xenobiotics" such as pesticides
and inorganic fertilizers contaminated with industrial pollutants, not
to mention hormones in the food supply. Human glandular tissue is particularly
vulnerable to such substances. Testing for heavy metals through the use
of hair analysis is fairly inexpensive, and can be very revealing. (Although
herbs are nutrient rich substances, sometimes it is necessary to do a
bit of "chelation" and eliminate heavy metals by taking antioxidants
like reduced L-Glutathione or N-Acetyl Cysteine.) Other substances that
are very destructive to the genito-urinary system are alcohol and coffee.
Herbs can be our allies in creating a healthier future. It is never too
late to learn about herbal medicines and apply them in our lives. Living
more naturally and implementing herbal healing BEFORE problems appear
is a conscious choice, not something that happens by accident. As a greater
portion of the population seeks alternative methods of healing, men can
take some very important steps towards health with the use of some simple
Unfortunately, conventional medicine
has fallen short of providing any working solutions for men with BPH. Pharmaceutical
intervention, or as one patient called it, "chemical castration,"
is not a workable situation for most men. The ultimate cause of BPH is an
excess of 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone, converted in the prostate and other
target tissues by the enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, from free circulating testosterone.
The problem with many of the drugs used to treat BPH, is that the enzyme
and hormone-blocking activity is so far-reaching and so profound, that men
are impaired, physically and emotionally if their sexual functioning comes
to a screeching halt. There is also a "re-bound effect" if a man
stops taking the drug. The condition usually returns and often becomes worse.
Finasteride, or Proscar, a 5-alpha-reductase enzyme and hormone blocking
drug originally used for BPH and prostate cancer, appears to have another
side effect, (hair re-growth in men with male pattern baldness) so the
same drug which was shown to be ineffective for BPH has found a new market.
Proscar and Propecia are the same drug with different names! Do drug companies
really just assume the consumer is so ignorant as to not notice? Surgical
intervention is also invasive and has many risks. Balloon dilation of
the urethra is a little less invasive in cases of severe impedance of
urine flow. Although these treatments are sometimes necessary to allow
the passage of urine from the body, they are only mechanical solutions,
and do not address the underlying problem.
Herbs to the rescue! Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is an example
of an herb which is ideally suited for a specific condition like BPH.
Named after the sharp-edged leaves of this scrubby palm commonly found
in the southern part of North America (literally, small saw-like palm),
the berry-like fruit of the saw palmetto plant is rich in flavonoids,
fatty acids, beta-sitosterol, enzymes and polysaccharides. It is the fatty
acids in saw palmetto that give it its unique aroma, and can cause mild
stomach upset in some men. Taking it with food can alleviate this. The
actions of saw palmetto are primarily anti-inflammatory, as an endocrine
support, an anti-spasmodic, and anti-androgenic (meaning anti-"male"
hormone). It reduces the pain and swelling of an enlarged prostate. The
anti-spasmodic properties of saw palmetto are twofold; it helps the bladder
muscles contract for more complete voiding of the bladder, but soothes
the pain and spasms sometimes associated with it.
Saw palmetto inhibits 5-alpha-reductase and binds to androgens, making it
a very effective treatment for BPH. It also contains other compounds, some
of them still unknown, which heal and nourish the prostate gland making
it possible to halt and even reverse BPH, with none of the side effects
experienced with the drug therapies. (1)
And why take a drug, with all its negative side effects, when this incredible herb can not only treat a specific condition like BPH, but also strengthen, tonify, and nourish a gland, organ
or system? Saw palmetto is being extensively used as a preventive. It contains
selenium, iron, chromium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium,
zinc, silicon, and vitamins A and C.(2)
Buchu Leaf (Barosma betulina) is often found
in combination formulas, and may not be as well known as other herbs,
but is indicated for every single symptom associated with BPH. It is an
effective treatment for painful urination, irritation, pelvic congestion,
urethritis, cystitis, kidney and bladder inflammations and infections,
and "irritable bladder," something that plagues some men even
after successful treatment for BPH. Buchu has a pungent aroma, due to
its high volatile oil content, and its actions are mostly anti-inflammatory,
diuretic, and antiseptic. Another reason buchu should be used in treating
prostate dysfunction is that is very soothing to the pelvic nerves. (3)
Couch Grass Root (Agropyron repens or Triticum repens) is another
often overlooked herbal medicine that specifically treats enlarged prostate.
It also helps reduce uncontrollable urination, and burning and painful
urination. It is loaded with nutrients, carotene, inulin, glycoside, inositol,
mucilage, potassium, polysaccharides, and vitamin C. It also has blood-purifying
properties. One word of caution with couchgrass: it should not be used
if there is blood present in the urine. Horsetail extract would be a better
All three of these herbs can most probably be found in combination formulas
in your health food store, or local herbalist shop. A tincture dissolved
in water is a good way to take any of these, especially because it is
very important to drink water. For example, into a glass of room temperature
water, 10 to 15 drops of couchgrass root tincture, 8 to10 drops of saw
palmetto tincture, and 10 to 15 drops of buchu leaf tincture, drunk three
to four times a day. Tea is also a good way to take these herbs, thereby
insuring adequate water drinking.
- Professional Review (Not for Public Distribution). Saw Palmetto--- A Critical Review MediHerb Series Nos. 60 and 61. 1998 Publisher: MediHerb Pty Ltd. A.
C. N. 006 454 717 P. O. Box 713, Warwick, Queensland, Australia Editor:
Kerry Bone BACK
(Sending a copy with hard copy, fax or U.S. Mail)
- Williams, Jude C., M.H., N. D. Nature's Gentle Cures---Safe and Effective
Healing Therapies 1997 Sterling Publishing Company New York, New York.
pp. 94 through 99.
- Tilgner, Sharol, N. D. Herbal Medicine From The Heart Of The Earth 1999 Wise Acres Press, Inc. Creswell, Oregon p. 42 BACK
- Williams, Jude C., N. D. Nature's Gentle Cures---Safe and Effective
Healing Therapies 1997 Sterling Publishing Company New York, New York
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