National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health

Información en Español

Health Topics A-Z

National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and Complementary and Integrative Approaches:
What the Science Says

Share:
email
Twitter
Facebook
AddThis
June 2016
Three older men sit in discussion

© Thinkstock

Clinical Guidelines, Scientific Literature, Info for Patients: 

Acupuncture

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.

The Evidence Base

The evidence base on efficacy of acupuncture for BPH consists of only a few studies.

Efficacy

  • A 2013 randomized controlled trial in 100 men with moderate to severe BPH examined the effects of electroacupuncture on specific acupoints compared to non-acupoints and found that electroacupuncture at a specific acupoint (BL 33) had better effects on International Prostate Symptoms Score, but there was no difference on post-void residual urine and maximum urinary flow rate as compared with non-acupoint electroacupuncture. The findings suggest that electroacupuncture may be helpful in improving a patient’s quality of life and that electroacupuncture at a specific acupoint may have better therapeutic effects than non-acupoints for BPH.

Safety

  • Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported. Still, complications have resulted from inadequate sterilization of needles and from improper delivery of treatments.
  • Practitioners should use a new set of disposable needles taken from a sealed package for each patient and should swab treatment sites with alcohol or another disinfectant before inserting needles. When not delivered properly, acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections and punctured organs.

Lycopene

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

The Evidence Base

The evidence base on efficacy of lycopene for BPH consists of several randomized controlled trials and a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Efficacy

  • A 2012 systematic review of 8 randomized controlled trials concluded that given the limited number of studies published and their varying quality, it is not possible to support or refute the use of lycopene for the prevention or treatment of BPH or prostate cancer.

Safety

  • There isn’t adequate data on the safety of lycopene supplements. Lycopene may cause several adverse effects including hypotension and gastrointestinal problems and may increase the risk of bleeding.

Pygeum africanum

Pygeum africanum, also known as the African Plum tree, is an evergreen tree native to the Central and South American mountains, the Madagascar and Comoros islands, and the Gulf of Guinea. Extracts from the bark of the tree have traditionally been used for inflammation, kidney diseases, urinary problems, prostate gland inflammation, and other uses. There is some limited evidence that Pygeum africanum may improve some symptoms of BPH, including urinary symptoms, flow parameters, spermogram, and quality of life.

The Evidence Base

The evidence base on efficacy of Pygeum africanum for BPH consists of several randomized controlled trials and a few reviews. However, the randomized trials were small in size, only measured the effects of Pygeum africanum over the short-term, and used varied preparations and evaluation methods.

Efficacy

  • A 2015 review of clinical studies of several phytotherapeutic agents, including Pygeum africanum, found some evidence of improved urinary symptoms, flow parameters, spermogram, and quality of life. However, these studies were of short duration, performed on small groups of patients, and had varied evaluation methods and varied formulations. In spite of these limitations, a 2002 meta-analysis indicated that Pygeum africanum is more effective than placebo in relieving BPH-related symptoms.
  • A 2002 Cochrane review of 18 randomized controlled trials involving 1562 men with BPH concluded that a standardized preparation of Pygeum africanum may be a useful treatment option for men with lower urinary symptoms consistent with BPH. However, the studies included in the review were small in size, were of short duration, and used varied doses and preparations of the extract.

Safety

  • Clinical studies have concluded that Pygeum africanum is generally well-tolerated with mild adverse effects such as diarrhea, nausea, constipation, and headache.

Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens)

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.

The Evidence Base

The evidence base on efficacy of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) for benign prostatic hyperplasia consists of several randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews.

Efficacy

  • A 2012 Cochrane review of 32 randomized controlled trials involving 5,666 men with BPH found that Serenoa repens, at two and three times the usual dose, provides no improvement in urinary flow measures or prostate size in men with lower urinary tract symptoms consistent with BPH.
  • A 2011 double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial in 369 older men demonstrated that saw palmetto extract administered at up to three times the standard daily dose (320 mg) did not reduce the urinary symptoms associated with BPH more than placebo. In addition, a 2009 Cochrane review of nine trials concluded that saw palmetto has not been shown to be more effective than placebo for this use.
  • A 2014 randomized trial of 225 men with lower urinary tract symptoms and BPH examined the efficacy and tolerability of combination therapy between saw palmetto, lycopene, and selenium plus tamsulosin versus single therapies. The findings suggest that a combination therapy of saw palmetto, lycopene, selenium, and tamsulosin is more effective than single therapies in improving International Prostate Symptom Score and increasing maximum urinary flow rate. It was noted that after 6 months of treatment, the combination therapy significantly improved symptom scores compared with single therapy, and from 6 to 12 months, combination therapy demonstrated significant improvement in urine flow rate compared to tamsulosin alone. There were no reported treatment-related adverse events associated with combination therapy.

Safety

  • Saw palmetto appears to be well-tolerated by most users. It may cause mild side effects, including stomach discomfort.

Urtica dioica

Urtica dioica, also known as stinging nettle, is a plant that grows in humid and temperate climates all over the world. The roots of Urtica dioica have been used for urination disorders associated with BPH, as well as for joint problems, as a diuretic, and as an astringent. 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 Urtica dioica and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) may be efficacious for lower urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH.

The Evidence Base

The evidence base on efficacy of Urtica dioica for BPH consists of only a few randomized controlled trials and reviews.

Efficacy

  • A 2005 double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of Urtica dioica for treatment of BPH in 620 patients found significant improvement in International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS), maximum urinary flow rate, and relief of lower urinary tract symptoms compared with placebo, over 6 months of treatment. These improvements were also maintained after 18 months of treatment.
  • Other studies have examined the effects of a combination of Serenoa repens and Urtica dioica. A 2007 randomized controlled trial in 257 patients with moderate and severe symptoms of BPH found that the combination treatment over the course of 6 months was superior to placebo for attenuation of inflammatory and obstructive symptoms. Another study in Germany compared the effects of the same combination to tamsulosin in 140 men for 15 months and found both treatments to be efficacious for lower urinary tract symptoms caused by BPH.

Safety

  • Urtica dioica seems to be generally well-tolerated in clinical trials and may produce mild gastrointestinal effects.
  • A 2015 review noted that Urtica dioica contains tannins, which can interact with a concomitant intake of iron, causing a reduction of the effects in patients who need iron supplements.

References

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

Copyright

Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

This page last modified July 18, 2016