Pygeum Africanum

What is Pygeum Africanum

Pygeum Africanum is an herbal remedy that is made from the bark of the “Prunus africana tree, also known as Pygeum africanum, Pygeum, Iron Wood, (Red) Stinkwood, African Plum, African Prune, African Cherry and Bitter Almond. It is an evergreen tree native to the higher elevations of central and southern Africa.

Pygeum Africanum historical information

Interest in the plant began in the 1700s. The powdered bark was used by African natives as a natural remedy to treat urinary problems. Early European travelers learned from South African tribes how to soothe bladder discomfort and treat what was called old man’s disease with the bark. In North West Africa the bark along with the leaves and roots are steeped in water and used to treat fever. In the Mount Cameroon region, steeped bark is used as a tonic and to treat chest infections.

The name of the remedy, pygeum, comes from the name of the plant, which was discovered to botany by Gustav Mann during his first European exploration of the Cameroon Range, West Africa in 1861. At that time he was chosen by William Jackson Hooker, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and one of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century to be part of the botanical expedition.

Great Britain’s national botanical garden, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew was in the forefront of botanical exploration in the 18th and 19th centuries and is responsible for the world’s largest collection of living plants. Ultimately some 349 species of plants from Cameroon bear Mann’s name.

Pygeum Africanum current information and research

Today we know pygeum contains many active constituents including four Phytosterols; not only the well known beta-sitosterol, but beta-sitosterone and campesterol as well. All have anti-inflammatory effects inhibiting inflammation in the prostate. Pygeum also contains ursolic and oleanic acids that have anti swelling properties, and n-docosanol and tetracosanol that block the accumulation of cholesterol in the prostate.

Extracts from Pygeum Africanum are presently used in the treatment of prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is, in fact, the mostly diagnosed form of cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death.

Clinical trials conducted since the 1970s report that pygeum significantly reduces urinary hesitancy, urinary frequency, pain with urination, and the number of times patients need to wake up at night to urinate in men who experience mild-to-moderate symptoms. This research supports the common use of this agent as a treatment for BPH in Europe. The herb is less commonly used in the United States where prescription drugs or the herb saw palmetto is more commonly used but offers a robust multi-faceted complement for prostate support.

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