Pygeum Africanum Reduces Risk of Prostate Cancer and BPH

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a high-fat diet contributes to prostate cancer risk in men younger than 60 years old, which could explain the alarming recent increase in the disease.1

Prostate cancer is proving to be among the most common male cancers according to recent data. Researchers are beginning to see pathologic and genetic links between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), as well as factors such as inflammation and dihydrotestosterone levels.2BPH, commonly referred to as “enlarged prostate,” affects more than half of all men over 50 years old, and causes annoyances like frequent urination, dribbling, as well as discomfort and infections.

Because of the strong link between BPH and prostate cancer, researchers are also finding that the same preventative measures might offer relief for both conditions.23

BPH is being diagnosed more and more because of increasing life expectancy and a general trend to seek medical advice at an earlier stage of the disease. Based on a long tradition, plant extracts are the most commonly recommended initial treatment for men with mild to moderate lower urinary tract symptoms in Germany and France.4

One of the most popular of these is Pygeum africanum (African plum). The extract is from a tall evergreen of the family Rosaceae found in central and southern Africa. Its bark has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Traditional African healers have used the bark to treat bladder and urinary disorders, particularly symptoms associated with BPH.

Inflammation is now recognized as a major pathway in the development and progression of BPH and prostate cancer4 and Pygeum africanum has been found to arrest inflammation in numerous clinical trials.5

How does Pygeum work?

There is some exciting research on Pygeum going on at the Institute of Human Genetics, Jena University Hospital in Jena, Germany. A new study published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicinefound that atraric acid, a Pygeum phytochemical, inhibits the ligand-activated human androgen receptor (AR), which controls the growth of the prostate gland.6

The same research group found that another compound in Pygeum, N-butylbenze-sulfonamide (NBBS), also inhibits the androgen receptor, as well as the progesterone receptor (PR). NBBS inhibits both endogenous PSA (prostate specific antigen) expression and growth of human prostate cancer cells by binding to the androgen receptor and inhibiting its translocation to the cell nucleus.7

With all the progress that has recently been made in the laboratory discovering how Pygeum extracts help control the growth of prostate cells—both benign and malignant8 —it’s only a matter of time before large clinical trials take place.


  1.  Lophatananon A, et. al. Dietary fat and early-onset prostate cancer risk. Br J Nutr. 2010 Jan 19:1-6. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Alcaraz A, Hammerer P, Tubaro A, Schroder F.H., Castro R. Is there evidence of a relationship between benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer? Findings of a literature review.European Urology Volume 55, Issue 4, April 2009, Pages 864-875.
  3. Djavan, B. The Correlation between inflammation, BPH and prostate cancer. European Urology supplements. Vol 8, issue 13, pgs 863-898, Dec. 2009.
  4. Schleich S, Papaioannou M, Baniahmad A, Matusch R. Extracts from Pygeum africanum and other ethnobotanical species with antiandrogenic activity. Planta Med. 2006 Jul;72(9):807-13. Epub 2006 Jun 19.
  5. Ishani A, MacDonald R, Nelson D, Rutks I, Wilt TJ. Am J Med. 2000 Dec 1;109(8):654-64. Pygeum africanum for the treatment of patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia: a systematic review and quantitative meta-analysis.
  6. Papaioannou M, Schleich S, Prade I, Degen S, Roell D, Schubert U, Tanner T, Claessens F, Matusch R, Baniahmad A. The natural compound atraric acid is an antagonist of the human androgen receptor inhibiting cellular invasiveness and prostate cancer cell growth. J Cell Mol Med. 2009 Aug;13(8B):2210-23.
  7. Papaioannou M, Schleich S, Roell D, Schubert U, Tanner T, Claessens F, Matusch R, Baniahmad A. NBBS isolated from Pygeum africanum bark exhibits androgen antagonistic activity, inhibits AR nuclear translocation and prostate cancer cell growth. Invest New Drugs. 2009 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Santa María Margalef A, Paciucci Barzanti R, Reventós Puigjaner J, Morote Robles J, Thomson Okatsu TM. [Antimitogenic effect of Pygeum africanum extracts on human prostatic cancer cell lines and explants from benign prostatic hyperplasia] [Article in Spanish] Arch Esp Urol. 2003 May;56(4):369-78.