Information about Phytotherapy, Supplements and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Treatment

Some men elect to use saw palmetto or other plant-derived substances to manage symptoms of BPH. Saw palmetto is the most well-known remedy, but other plants that may be used include

  • African plum
  • trinovin
  • South African star grass
  • flower pollen extract
  • soy
  • stinging nettle
  • rye pollen
  • purple cone flower
  • pumpkin seeds

Supplements of the minerals zinc and selenium also may be used to reduce BPH symptoms. A dietary supplement called beta-sitosterol has shown some benefits in benign prostatic hyperplasia, including improvements in urinary symptoms and urine flow rates. However, well-conducted studies of beta-sitosterol are limited.

In contrast, an analysis of 21 well-conducted studies of saw palmetto (including more than 3,000 men with BPH) found that supplement users were 76 percent more likely to have experienced symptom improvement than men taking a placebo. However, a randomized trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine found no significant differences in symptoms between men taking saw palmetto and those taking a placebo.

The adverse effects related to saw palmetto are usually mild and infrequent. They include headache, dizziness, nausea and mild abdominal pain. If saw palmetto is going to work, it usually does so within the first month. Therefore, supplements should be stopped if symptoms do not improve after a month of use.

If the supplements do relieve symptoms, you may want to continue taking them, but inform your doctor that you are doing so. The typical dose is 160 mg taken twice a day. Supplements that contain at least 85 percent free fatty acids and at least 0.2 percent sterols are the most likely to be effective.

Publication Review By: H. Ballentine Carter, M.D.

Published: 10 Apr 2011

Last Modified: 31 Aug 2015