Herbs and Helpers

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   Jun 12

Herb shows promise in helping with prostate issues

Most men as they age will experience symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland or benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).

Indeed, the symptoms of BPH are among the most common complains of older men to their physicians. In the past the only recourse for the symptoms of BPH was surgery. Now there are three classes of medications: alpha blockers (Tamsulosin and others), 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (Finasteride and others) and the phosphodiesterase-5 Inhibitor Tadalafil.

However, the side effects of these medications are many and some potentially serious. An option may be found in an herb that has been used in oriental medicine for thousands of years, Panax ginseng.

BPH is caused by an increase in size of the prostate gland leading to gradual obstruction of urine flow. Resulting symptoms include trouble starting to urinate with a weak stream and frequent urination.

Eventually there can be loss of bladder control leading to frequent bladder infections and possibly kidney damage.

Testosterone was originally believed to be the root cause of BPH, but as men age the levels of testosterone decrease. It was discovered that in older men testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is the primary mediator for BPH. DHT is synthesized from testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase.

Limiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT can reverse many of the symptoms of BPH and even prevent further growth. BPH also eventually affects the bladder muscle, nerves and parts of the brain controlling urination, resulting is a level of dysfunction contributing to the symptoms of BPH.

Recent medical research has shown that Panax ginseng has 5-alpha reductase inhibitor properties. In animal studies, Panax ginseng reverses BPH by acting directly by limiting DHT but also in the brain to stimulate the nerves going to the bladder to function more efficiently.

One recent study (Saudi Journal of Biological Science, 2017) showed how the combination of Panax ginseng and bee pollen prevented BPH in laboratory rats genetically designed to develop BPH. Other studies have shown that Panax ginseng reduces the DHT receptors on prostate cells further limiting the development of BPH.

Unfortunately, no human trials on BPH and Panax ginseng have been done.

Panax ginseng is native to Asia and North America. It is the root of Panax ginseng that contains many biologically active compounds. In Oriental medicine it is described as a “superior tonic”, especially for patients with chronic illnesses and those recovering from serious illness. It is generally safe, but can have side effects as well as impact a number of medications.

Symptoms of Panax ginseng overdose (rare) include irritability, restlessness, bowel incontinence, fever, increased blood pressure, increased or decreased heart rate, red face and in susceptible individuals, seizures and changes in mentation.

Used properly Panax ginseng is safe. It may be a reasonable alternative for BPH for those who are not ready for traditional medications.

However, because of the potential for supplement-drug interactions, I strongly recommend consulting with a physician who is familiar with the use of both herbal supplements and traditional medications before starting Panax ginseng.

• Dr. Patrick Massey MD, Ph.D., is medical director of complementary and alternative medicine Alexian Brothers Hospital network, president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village

Source: Daily Herald

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