Prostate problems are among the top complaints experienced by older men. The most common prostate issue that develops in men over 50 is an enlarged prostate, called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It affects approximately 50% of men between 51–60 years of age, and up to 90% of men over 80.
One of the most effective natural treatments for BPH is saw palmetto. It has been shown to produce most (if not all) of the same positive effects as prescription medication but without any of the side effects.
Ashwagandha, which is mostly known as a natural therapy for stress and anxiety reduction, has also emerged as a surprisingly effective tool for prostate issues.
But those aren’t the only nutrients you can take for your prostate. Three other supplements—cranberry, nettle root, and beta-sitosterol—are proving to be excellent for prostate health and minimizing the effects of BPH.
Cranberry Powder for Urinary Tract Health
Cranberries have been around for a long time. They were an important food source for many Native American tribes—particularly those living in the New England area, where cranberries were found in cold-water bogs and marshes. By September and October each year, they were ready to pick. The ripening time of these berries was perfect since their high vitamin C content helped boost the immune system and ward off illness during the winter season.
Today, cranberries are mostly touted as a way to prevent and treat urinary tract infections, especially in women—but they provide urinary benefits for men too.
Cranberries work through several mechanisms. First, they contain proanthocyanidins, compounds that prevent the adherence of harmful bacterial strains like E. coli, Proteus spp. and Pseudomonas spp. to the walls of the urinary tract. This includes 19 of the 24 strains that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics like sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim.
Cranberries also contain hippuric acid, which further inhibits the growth of E. coli bacteria. Additionally, cranberry juice slightly acidifies the urine, which can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
Most people aren’t aware that cranberry has prostate health benefits as well. Specifically, it can be an effective tool for treating the lower urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH.
One six-month study evaluated the effects of a cranberry powder called Flowens in 124 men with symptoms of BPH. The results showed that 500 mg of Flowens daily significantly improved both urinary flow and volume. The supplement also decreased the amount of urine left over in the bladder after going to the bathroom.
In simple terms, the cranberry powder was able to:
- Increase urinary flow and stream;
- Reduce urinary frequency;
- Improve urinary control at night;
- Lessen urinary irritation; and
- Allow for more complete bladder emptying.
Overall, cranberry powder helped support both prostate and urinary tract health while relieving many of the symptoms and frustrations experienced by men suffering from BPH—all without any of the side effects commonly associated with drug therapy.
Made from 100% cranberry, Flowens is a fractionated combination of juice, skins, flesh, and seeds that has been processed to enhance the active components. It appears to work through a couple of different mechanisms.
First, it modulates and improves the contraction and relaxation of the bladder’s detrusor muscle, which can affect urinary stream, flow, and emptying. Flowens also appears to have a positive influence on parts of the prostate that can affect urination.
Of note, cranberries also contain resveratrol, an antioxidant often referred to as the “fountain of youth”—potentially helping to reverse several aspects of the aging process. We also know that resveratrol has been found to inhibit the proliferation of a variety of human cancer cell lines, one of those being prostate cancer cells.
Nettle for Prostate
Nettle (or stinging nettle) is another plant remedy that was used not only by Native Americans but by native cultures throughout the world. In my personal research library, I have found various texts illustrating its use everywhere from Australia to Russia, India, and Pakistan, to treat arthritic pain, bleeding, diarrhea, kidney problems, and urinary tract issues.
Newer research has found great benefits in using nettle for prostate issues like BPH. Double-blind studies have found that nettle root extract can increase urinary flow rate and decrease the residual amount of urine left in the bladder. These are two primary issues for men dealing with BPH: Weak urine flow and incomplete emptying of the bladder. These issues result in repeatedly starting and stopping, taking a long time to urinate, and the almost constant feeling of needing to go to the bathroom.
In one study, 219 men with BPH were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or 240 mg of nettle root extract in combination with 320 mg of saw palmetto. Those given the herbal therapy showed significant improvement in their symptoms; the men taking placebo experienced no improvements.
After six months, both groups were placed on the herbal therapy for another 18 months. Not only were there no side effects noted, but at the end of the study, average urine flow increased by 19%, and the amount of urine left in the bladder after going decreased by 44%. Other symptoms associated with BPH were reduced by 53%.
Not only that, there was a modest decrease in prostate size in the herbal therapy group (and no change in the placebo group). The prostate is unusual in that, unlike most glands that decrease in size with age, it actually gets bigger. Because the prostate surrounds the urethra, its growth tends to encroach and cut off the flow of urine, resulting in the symptoms associated with BPH.
As is the case with most plants, the extract from nettle root contains a very complex mixture of both water- and fat-soluble compounds. Unlike synthetic drugs, which are often manufactured to contain one specific active component, plant extracts contain a wide variety of compounds that work synergistically, while helping to offset any toxicity that might cause side effects. This synergistic effect is even stronger when saw palmetto is taken with nettle for prostate issues—as was demonstrated in the study above, and other studies.
Beta-Sitosterol for Prostate Health
Beta-sitosterol is one of a group of naturally occurring plant compounds called phytosterols.
Whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes are the food sources of these compounds. These days, though, the typical Western diet has low levels of beneficial phytosterols. To make matters worse, phytosterols are poorly absorbed. They have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol, so they interfere with the absorption of dietary cholesterol and reduce the blood levels of LDL cholesterol. An average intake of 2 grams a day of phytosterols can lower LDL by up to 10%.
Fortunately, researchers have learned how to extract beta-sitosterol in larger amounts from trunks of specific pine trees found in the Landes forest of Southwestern France. This extract is sold under the name Phytopin.
Research has confirmed the benefits of this particular beta-sitosterol for prostate health as well as treatment of BPH. One study of 200 men found that 60 mg of Phytopin improved urinary flow rates and reduced residual bladder volume, while also improving quality of life.
Another benefit of Phytopin is its ability to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is associated with the continued growth of the prostate gland. By reducing 5-alpha reductase, you help shrink the prostate, which improves urinary symptoms of BPH.
You’ve probably heard of the BPH drugs finasteride (Proscar or Propecia) and dutasteride (Avodart). Both are 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. Like all drugs, they come with side effects, including gynecomastia (male breast enlargement), breast tenderness, ejaculation issues, decreased libido, impotence, and rash. Phytopin does not have these side effects.
Choose Natural Over Drugs
The bad news is that BPH seems to be an almost universal issue with men as they age. But the good news: There are viable and proven natural treatment options that can be used effectively and for the long term. Along with ashwagandha and saw palmetto, nettle extract, cranberry powder, and beta-sitosterol can be very safe and efficacious alternatives to drugs and surgery for BPH.