5 Tips: What You Should Know About Complementary Health Approaches for BPH

Benign prostatic hyperplasia—also called BPH—is a condition in men in which the prostate gland is enlarged but not cancerous. BPH is the most common prostate problem for men over 50. As the prostate enlarges, it presses against and pinches the urethra (the tube that takes urine away from the bladder). Eventually, the bladder may weaken and lose the ability to empty completely, leaving some urine in the bladder. The narrowing of the urethra and urinary retention (the inability to empty the bladder completely) cause many of the problems associated with BPH.

Treatment options for BPH generally include lifestyle changes, medications, minimally invasive procedures, or surgery. The use of some complementary health approaches such as phytotherapy (natural products) for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH is common. Although there is limited evidence that some natural products may help improve symptoms related to BPH over the short term, most of the trials conducted have been small in size, of short duration, and used varied doses and preparations. If you are considering a complementary health approach for treating BPH symptoms, here are 5 things you should know:

  1. Although several small studies have suggested modest benefit of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) for urinary symptoms associated with BPH, a larger study and a review of the scientific literature found that saw palmetto was not more effective than placebo for these symptoms.

  2. There is some limited evidence that Pygeum africanum (African plum tree) and Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) may improve some lower urinary tract symptoms of BPH over the short term. There is also some limited evidence that Urtica dioica and saw palmetto as a combined treatment may improve these symptoms.

  3. There isn’t sufficient evidence to support the use of lycopene for the prevention or treatment of BPH.

  4. There is not enough evidence to determine whether acupuncture is beneficial for symptoms of BPH.

  5. Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.