Pygeum is an extract made from the bark of the Prunus africana tree that is taken primarily for prostate health and other urinary diseases.
Pygeum bark is rich in phytosterols, fatty acids, pentacyclic triterpenes and esters of ferulic acid. Phytosterols are a family of molecules related to cholesterol that play important roles, just like cholesterol in humans; pentacyclic triterpenes have been reported to have a variety of therapeutic qualities, including cardioprotective and anti-cancer activities, while ferulic acid is an antioxidant.
Pygeum also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.
As researchers conduct further extensive studies on Pygeum, more information will become available on its health benefits.
Pygeum helps treat symptoms of an enlarged prostate. An enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), affects about 50 percent of men between the ages of 51 and 60 and up to 90 percent of men older than 80.
Some of the complications of BPH are urinary tract infections, sudden inability to urinate and bladder stones. Symptoms may include frequent or urgent need to urinate, increased frequency of nighttime urination, difficulty starting urination, weak urine stream and inability to completely empty the bladder (1).
Researchers have found that Pygeum supplementation may be a useful treatment option for men with symptoms consistent with BPH. In a meta-analysis analyzing 18 controlled trials involving 1562 men, researchers found that compared to men receiving placebo, Pygeum provided a moderately large improvement in the combined outcome of urologic symptoms and urinary flow measures.
Men using Pygeum were more than twice as likely to report an improvement in overall symptoms, and frequent nighttime urination was reduced by 19 percent and peak urine flow was increased by 23 percent (2,3).
It is important to note that the reviewed studies were small in size, were of short duration and there were no studies comparing Pygeum to standard prescribed drug treatments such as alpha-adrenergic blockers or 5-alpha reductase inhibitors.
Additional larger studies are needed to demonstrate the efficacy of Pygeum compared with standard treatments used for BPH.
Pygeum helps improve sexual disorders in men with BPH or prostate inflammation. Chronic prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate that continues for three months or longer. In addition to being painful, it can affect sexual function.
Researchers of one study found that treating BPH and prostatitis with high doses of supplementation (200mg) improved all the urinary parameters investigated and improved sexual behavior (4).
No side effects were observed during the treatment.
Pygeum may help kill prostate cancer cells. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Pygeum has been used for generations in African traditional medicine to treat prostate cancer.
The anti-cancer potential of Pygeum has been tested in both in vitro cells and in vivo mice models with promising results.
A review published in a 2017 issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, identified some of the phytochemicals present in the tree bark that give it many of its anti-prostate cancer effects. These include ursolic acid, ferulic acid and beta-sitosterol.
Ursolic acid is one of the main anti-prostate cancer phytochemicals found in both root and stem bark extracts of the Prunus africana tree. This acid has been suggested to suppress inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, regulate cell cycle, inhibit cell proliferation and induce apoptosis (cancer cell death).
Studies have shown that ferulic acid helps prevent the growth of new blood vessels as well as the growth and spread of prostate cancer.
Beta-sitosterol is a plant-derived sterol and the major effects of Pygeum on prostate cancer have been reported to be due to the presence of this chemical which is present in high concentrations in this tree (5).
In one study, mice fed Pygeum showed a significant reduction in prostate cancer incidence (35 percent) compared to mice fed casein (62.5 percent). 6
In another study, Pygeum extracts exhibited very strong anti-androgenic and antiangiogenic activities and had the ability to kill tumor cells via apoptotic pathways, prevented the proliferation of prostate cancer cells and altered the signaling pathways required for the maintenance of prostate cancer cells (7).
The isolated compounds atraric acid and N-butylbenzene-sulfonamide were identified as androgen receptor antagonists, which play an important role in the development of prostate diseases.
Researchers have also found that the compound N-butylbenzene-sulfonamide (NBBS) isolated from the Prunus africana tree may serve as a naturally occurring, novel therapeutic agent for treatment of prostatic diseases, including prostate cancer (8).
Researchers are hopeful that supplementation may be a useful for people at high risk for prostate cancer.
Pygeum may help symptoms of kidney disease. Due to this supplement’s ability to treat prostate urinary discomfort, it may help treat troublesome symptoms of some kidney diseases. Several research articles mention this extract (along with other herbal medicines) touting its ability to alleviate pain, inflammation, frequent urination, night urination and more which are also symptoms of certain types of kidney disease.
Beta-sitosterol, which has been identified as a main active component of many renal-effective herbal medicines, is found in Pygeum (9).
Though promising, much more research is needed before it can be considered an accepted treatment for symptoms of kidney disease.
The most common side effects reported with supplementation include gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, stomach pain and stomach upset.
When treating prostate disorders, most supplements and scientific studies suggest a short-term daily dose of 50-200mg.
Additional research is needed to determine the optimal dose of Pygeum.
Pygeum is an extract made from the bark of the Prunus africana tree that is taken primarily for the treatment of an enlarged prostate. Rich in phytochemicals, such as ursolic acid, ferulic acid, beta-sitosterol, atraric acid and N-butylbenzene-sulfonamide, Pygeum is being studied for its ability to treat a range of other conditions.
Early studies show that supplementation may improve sexual disorders in men with BPH and prostate inflammation, effectively kill prostate cancer cells and possibly treat symptoms of kidney disease.
Though the results of in vitro and in vivo studies are promising, much more research is needed before it can be considered an accepted treatment for prostate health and other urinary diseases.
It appears to be well tolerated in studies, except for some reports of gastrointestinal issues.