Seen in more than 50% of men over 60 years of age and 90% of men in their 70s and 80s, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) occurs when the prostate enlarges, putting pressure on the urethra, causing an obstruction of the bladder and urine flow. It is quite common for men’s prostates to enlarge as they age. During puberty, a boy’s prostate will double in size and, when he reaches 25 years of age, the prostate will begin to grow again.
Research continues on the cause of BPH, though some theories suggest it might be caused by the normal decrease in testosterone, resulting in higher levels of estrogen, which might promote the growth. Symptoms can include the need to urinate more often — including getting up more during the night — difficulty starting to urinate, dripping after the flow ends, painful urination, incontinence, or urinary retention.
These symptoms may be signs of other more serious complications, which should be ruled out by your physician. If left untreated, BPH can sometimes cause severe complications, including kidney damage and bladder stones. Herbal supplements, such as saw palmetto, may help relieve symptoms of BPH. Also known as “Serenoa repens,” saw palmetto has been used to treat BPH in Europe for quite some time. Derived from the berries of the saw palmetto tree, found in the Southeastern U.S. and the West Indies, this herb is said to ease the discomfort of BPH. While it won’t cure the illness, research has shown it may stop the prostate from further growth.
One study found that treating BPH for five years with saw palmetto resulted in a decrease of symptoms, and a reduction in prostate size in 60% of participants. The Russian study concluded that using saw palmetto to treat BPH was both safe and effective.
But saw palmetto’s healing ability doesn’t stop there. Italian researchers have found that, in addition to helping with the treatment of BPH itself, saw palmetto improved symptoms before and after surgery for those who underwent a procedure.
A total of 144 patients with BPH were admitted to the study and randomized to receive either a daily pre-treatment with 320 milligrams of saw palmetto for two months prior to surgery or to undergo surgery without any pre-treatment. Preoperative and postoperative symptoms were carefully monitored for each patient.
For those taking saw palmetto, the duration of surgery was significantly shorter. The researchers also found that there were no complications during surgery and transfusion needs were much lower than in the control group. Postoperative results were also significantly improved in the saw palmetto group, including much shorter hospital stays overall. The research team concluded that treatment with saw palmetto before surgery for BPH is effective in reducing complications during and after surgery.