What is Pygeum africanum?
Pygeum is an evergreen tree native to African forest regions. It can grow to 150 feet in height. The thick leaves are oblong in shape; the flowers are small and white. Pygeum fruit is a red berry, resembling a cherry when ripe. The bark (red, brown or gray) is the part of the plant used for medicinal purposes. It has a hydrocyanic acid-like odor.
The hard wood of pygeum is valued in Africa and is often used to make wagons. 1 Powdered pygeum bark is used by African natives to treat urinary problems.
Chemical constituents of Pygeum africanum Extract
The major bark components are fat soluble compounds. Triterpenes are present (14%), including ursolic, oleanolic and crataegolic acids. The lipid fraction contains fatty acids, which are 12 to 24 carbons in length. The ferulic acid esters are those bound to n-tetracosanol and n-docosanol. N-docosanol has been used in some patent medicines. Phytosterols present in pygeum include beta-sitosterol, beta-sitosterone and campesterol. Tannins have also been found in the plant.
Benefits of taking Pygeum africanum Extract supplements:
Studies have shown that pygeum supplements contain three food compounds that target the prostate and urinary tract:
(1) phytosterols, which have an anti-inflammatory effect;
(2) pentacyclic terpens, which have an anti-edema or decongestic effect;
(3) ferulic esters, which indirectly control testosterone activity in the prostate and also help to rid the body of cholesterol end-products associated with the condition. The prescribed dosage of pygeum supplementation (standardized to contain 13% total sterols) is 50 to 100 mg twice per day.
- prostatic hypertrophy
In France, Pygeum africanum extract (PAE) has become the primary course of treatment for enlarged prostate. In contrast, surgery is the main option in other Western countries. Drugs used to alleviate symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) include anticholinergics, muscle relaxants, calcium antagonists, prostaglandin inhibitors, beta-agonists, tricyclic antidepressants and alpha blockers. Usual dosage of PAE is 100 mg/day in 6- to 8-week cycles. The highest activity is found in the lipophilic extracts of the plant. These extracts are standardized to contain 14% triterpenes and 0.5% n-docosanol.
Pygeum is also therapeutic as an anti-inflammatory, to increase prostatic secretions and to decrease certain hormones in the glandular area, which reduces the hypertrophy. Other actions of pygeum include increase in bladder elasticity and histological modifications of glandular cells.
The ferulic acid ester components are responsible for pygeum’s endocrine system activity. N-docosanol reduces LH, testosterone and prolactin levels. This is important because accumulation of testosterone within the prostate and subsequent conversion to the more potent form is believed to be a major factor in prostatic hyperplasia. PAE’s “phyto-estrogenic” action markedly reduces volume of prostatic hypertrophy. Fat soluble components reduce cholesterol content within the prostate as well, decreasing accumulation of cholesterol metabolites.
Pygeum may help reverse sterility, which can be caused by insufficient prostatic secretions. PAE has increased prostate secretions in both rats and humans. It has also been shown to improve seminal fluid composition. By improving an underlying problem, PAE may improve sexual function.
Side effects and safety of Pygeum africanum Extract
Not enough is known about the possible adverse effects of pygeum. Because of this research vacuum, pregnant and breastfeeding women must err on the side of caution and not ingest this herb. Generally, pygeum seems to be well tolerated, if occasionally causing bearable digestive disturbances such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain or nausea. As for interactions with other drugs, herbs, supplements, food and lab tests, none are known, which means proceed with caution under the supervision of a reliable health-care practitioner.
Dosage of Pygeum africanum Extract supplement:
Pygeum has been used to improve symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy and to improve sexual function. Usual dosage is 100 mg/day in 6- to 8-week cycles.