In order to appreciate how saw palmetto exerts its effect, you need to know a little bit about the anatomy of the urinary tract and, in particular, the prostate gland. So that is where I head here in part two of my look at the best herb for your prostate.
As shown in the diagram, the prostate gland is closely associated with the urinary system and the male reproductive system. It is a pea-sized gland that produces the liquid part of semen. The prostate gland is located just beneath the bladder where your urine is stored and in front of the rectum. Like a donut, it encircles a section of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from your bladder through the penis.
It’s made up of three lobes enclosed in a capsule or outer covering. On both sides, there are the seminal vesicles, a pair of pouch-like glands, which contribute secretions to the semen. Next to these seminal vesicles there are two vas deferens, which are tubes that carry sperm from the testicles. The male testicles, in addition to producing sperms, also produce testosterone, which has an important role in controlling the growth and function of the prostate gland.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is one of the most common medical disorders in aging males. It is estimated that, in men aged 40-60 years old, the incidence of BPH is between 50%-60%. In those over 80 years old, it’s as high as 90%. In the U.S., treatment of BPH accounts for over two million physician office visits and more than 300,000 surgical procedures were performed each year before the drug industry discovered pill possibilities.
(Plus: A herb you might take before prostate surgery)
As mentioned above, testosterone, controls the growth of the prostate gland. Testosterone is converted in prostatic cells to “dihydrotestosterone” (DHT) by an enzyme called “5-alpha reductatse” (5-AR). It is known that DHT binds to androgen receptors in the nucleus of prostate cells to stimulate growth and cell division. BPH is most likely due to a hormonal imbalance within the prostatic cells leading to abnormal growth. On account of the capsule surrounding the prostate gland, most of the growth is inward, thus compressing the urethra, causing symptoms of BPH.
Those symptoms include:
— Urgency and frequency
— Post-void dribbling
— Incomplete emptying of the bladder
— Pain with urination
— Waking up several times at night to go to the bathroom
— Decreased force and caliber of the urine stream
— Urinary hesitancy
Frustrating-sounding, huh? Now, as for the herb saw palmetto — how does it work? There is convincing evidence that it inhibits that 5-AR enzyme and interferes with the binding of testosterone and DHT to androgen receptors in the prostatic cells. Saw palmetto has also been shown to shut down inflammation that contributes to the nagging prostate condition.
Read the previous article in this series here:A Miraculous Herb for the Prostate