Herbal products marketed to relieve common prostate problems, such as frequent urination or a weak urine flow, include:
African plum tree (Pygeum)
South African star grass (Hypoxis rooperi)
Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo)
Rye grass (Secale cereale)
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica and Urtica urens)
Taken in small to moderate amounts, these products appear safe. But they haven't been studied in large, long-term trials to confirm their safety or to prove they work.
An exception is the herb saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Unlike other herbal supplements, it has been widely tested, and the results show promise.
Saw palmetto is thought to work by preventing testosterone from breaking down into another form of the hormone associated with prostate tissue growth. In 1998 researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs reviewed more than a dozen studies involving saw palmetto and concluded that the herb appears to be as effective as the medication finasteride (Proscar) in reducing the size of an enlarged prostate. It also appears to produce fewer side effects. The researchers recommended additional studies to determine the appropriate daily dosage of the supplement and its long-term effectiveness.
Saw palmetto works slowly. Most men begin to see an improvement in their urinary symptoms within 1 to 3 months. If after 3 months you havent noticed any benefit from the product, then it may not work for you. It appears safe to take saw palmetto indefinitely, but possible effects from long-term use are unknown.
One drawback of this herb, and many other such herbal products, is that it may suppress PSA levels in your blood. This action can interfere with the effectiveness of the PSA test. That's why if you take saw palmetto or other herbal medicines, it's important to tell your doctor before having a PSA test.