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Mens Health

Dear DW,

The herbs your physician talked about (list follows) are indeed useful for prostate function. I am happy to hear a doctor discussing this because I believe, as many, that these can work as well as any drug available, and are likely much safer, as well.

There are many scientific trials currently testing the use of several herbs in controlling prostate enlargement, a condition most men will suffer as we age.

I also believe the answers to this puzzling and painful problem lie in nutrition. Men eating a good diet, high in vitamins and minerals (particularly vitamin E and zinc) can maintain better prostate function and protect their bodies against prostate cancer, a major killer of men in the United States.

The prostate is the one of the body's major reservoirs for zinc, and the important antioxidant mineral is essential for the proper functioning of the gland and, indeed, the entire process of reproductive health.

Vitamin C is also an important nutrient for men and should be considered in supplemental form for most men over the age of 40. I also suggest the over-40 crowd have their prostate checked at least once a year. It is good preventive maintenance of the body, guys!

I think to consider the merits of these herbs, we must also consider the merit of the drugs used for prostate enlargement. Two major prescriptions are Proscar® and Hytrin®. These drugs work by preventing the gland from converting testosterone to a related compound that grows more prostate cells. There are drawbacks to the use of the drugs, however. Side effects can include loss or sexual interest and erection control. The drugs can take up to six months to work, and they don't work on everyone. Further, they are expensive.

The herbs have fewer known side effects and most nutritionally educated physicians believe they work better than the medicine. So do a lot of researchers, and the studies conducted attest to their success. Herbs are not always the answer to health problems, but in this case, I have seen the benefits many times. I believe these herbs, now prescribed in Europe, will soon be approved in the United States for use in maintaining prostate function.

The herbs most widely recognized for prostate support are Saw palmetto, Pumpkin seed, Pygeum, and Stinging Nettle. I will try to give a brief picture of each.

Saw palmetto, a small tree native to Florida, has been used by the Seminole tribe as food and as treatment of urinary disorders. White settlers also used the plant to reduce water in the body. Over time, it has been widely used to reduce an enlarged prostate. They also thought the herb cured baldness (and there is science that suggests they may be…well, kinda right!)

It works in a similar manner as the drugs do, by halting the conversion process of testosterone to dyhydrotestosterone or DHT. When the hormone conversion is blocked, follicles in the hair are stimulated again, to enhance growth. When the prostate has this conversion blocked, the results are a diminished blockage or swelling and a more normal sexual function. None of the side effects mentioned with the drugs are noticed with Saw palmetto, and its effectiveness has been proven in over a dozen major studies.

Pumpkins and pumpkin seeds are both touted for prostate support. The fatty oil in pumpkins is a strong diuretic and helps to block the same conversion process as well. Pumpkin seeds contain cucurbitacins, chemical compounds that prevent the conversion process from occurring. This means there is more testosterone circulation, less swelling and perhaps greater sexual function. These seeds also contain a high quantity of zinc, the key mineral for prostate function and a principal constituent of semen.

Men should take at least 30 mgs. of zinc (in supplemental form) a day to support their prostate. Zinc can be helpful in reducing prostate size, and pumpkin seeds are about the best food source for zinc. In many cultures, men use pumpkin seeds as snacks, throughout their manhood. The seeds also contain important amino acids, such as alanine and glycine, which support the prostate. Many people feel that the pumpkin plant was created with men in mind! The combination of the nutrients and oils in the seeds of pumpkins are just what the doctor ordered for men.

African Pygeum has been used on the African continent for centuries to prevent and treat urinary disorders. I also suggest using the herb known as Stinging Nettles. This herb is a major wonder of the plant world and is used in many herbal remedies. In relation to the prostate, nettles have been used to help prevent the "nightly yearning," getting up at night for urination frustration.

In several clinical trials, nettle roots showed consistent results in reducing urinary flow and reducing prostate size. It is widely used prescription in Europe for prostate function, as well as inflammatory conditions.

DW, I am excited to hear your physician discussing herbal treatments for the prostate. Many of our natural industry experts feel these herbs are indeed a safe alternative to the medicines we traditional see in prostate treatment.

One last tip for the men. Make sure your digestive system and elimination processes are in good shape. If the intestinal tract is healthy and you are getting plenty of fiber, the chances of your nutrients being absorbed are much greater. We seem to absorb fewer vitamins and minerals as we age, and attention to this important function can help keep us remain healthy and potentially allow us a few more of those "golden" years.

I once heard a physician remark that problems with the prostate are not a matter of "if", but "when". I intend to fight that supposition and use these products myself, as a preventive product. I don't wish to find out how an enlargement feels, so I am taking a course of these at least four times annually (I am in my forties.) Studies also recommend that the herbs may be very useful in maintaining a healthy prostate in healthy individuals.

The herbs mentioned are available in a comprehensive formula or in individual herbal capsules and tinctures. Men, (and those that care for them!) take good care of the prostate and don't hesitate to contact me for more information, including diet plans that are effective for male health. I am also happy to discuss your overall family health programs. Contact me today for more information. And tell your husband…best of luck and health.

Mike Casso, R.Ph.