Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can lead to obstructive and bothersome lower urinary tract symptoms. Prostate gland enlargement can block the flow of urine out of the bladder, which can cause bladder, urinary tract, or kidney problems. The use of some complementary health approaches such as phytotherapy for the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms is common. Although there is limited evidence that some phytotherapeutic agents 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.
This issue of the Digest provides a summary of the current evidence of complementary health approaches that are frequently used for symptoms associated with BPH.
Modality and Summary of Current Evidence
Only a few studies have examined the effects of acupuncture on the symptoms of BPH, so there is insufficient evidence to determine whether acupuncture is beneficial for symptoms associated with this condition.
There is insufficient evidence to support the use of lycopene for the prevention or treatment of BPH.
There is some limited evidence that Pygeum africanum may improve some symptoms of BPH over the short term, including urinary symptoms, flow parameters, spermogram, and quality of life.
Although several small studies have suggested modest benefit of saw palmetto for treating symptoms of BPH, a large study evaluating high doses of saw palmetto and a Cochrane review found that saw palmetto was not more effective than placebo for treatment of urinary symptoms related to BPH. A single randomized controlled trial showed combination therapy of saw palmetto plus lycopene, selenium, and tamsulosin was more effective than single therapies alone.
There is some limited evidence that Urtica dioica may improve some symptoms of BPH, including lower urinary tract symptoms. There is also some limited evidence that a combination of Urtica dioica and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) may be efficacious for lower urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH.