Botanical names: Prunus africanum, Pygeum
© Martin Wall
Parts used and where grown
Pygeum is an evergreen tree found in the higher elevations of central and southern Africa.
The bark is used medicinally. Wild pygeum is environmentally threatened and efforts are being
made to grow pygeum on plantations and control harvesting in the wild.
Pygeum has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
The powdered bark was used as a tea for relief of urinary disorders in African herbal
medicine. European scientists were so impressed with reports of pygeum’s actions, they
began laboratory investigations into the active constituents in the bark. This led to the
development of the modern lipophilic (fat-soluble) extract used today.
Chemical analysis and pharmacological studies indicate the lipophilic extract of pygeum
bark has three categories of active constituents: 1) Phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, have anti-inflammatory effects by
interfering with the formation of hormone-like substances in the body (prostaglandins) that
tend to accumulate in the prostate of men with
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH); 2) pentacyclic terpenes have an anti-edema, or decongesting, effect; 3) ferulic esters
indirectly control testosterone activity in the prostate, which may reduce the risk of
BPH.1 While these effects have been shown in test tube studies, human studies are
still needed to confirm these effects in the body. Pygeum alone has been shown in some
double-blind trials to help men with BPH by improving urinary flow and other symptoms of
BPH.2 3 It has also been used successfully in combination with nettle root to treat BPH.4 Long-term BPH
studies (six months or greater) on pygeum are lacking, however.
How much is usually taken?
The accepted form of pygeum used in Europe for treatment of BPH is a lipophilic extract standardized to 13% total
sterols (typically calculated as beta-sitosterol).5 Men with mild to moderate BPH
sometimes take 50–100 mg two times per day. A double-blind trial found that 100 mg once
daily was as effective as 50 mg twice per day.6 Pygeum should be monitored over at
least a six-month period to determine efficacy. Men with BPH who are using pygeum should be
supervised by a doctor.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Side effects from the lipophilic extract of pygeum are rare. In clinical trials, there were
reports of mild gastrointestinal upset in some men.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima
Publishing, 1995, 286–93.
2. Barlet A, Albrecht J, Aubert A, et al. Efficacy of Pygeum
africanum extract in the treatment of micturational disorders due to benign prostatic
hyperplasia. Evaluation of objective and subjective parameters. A multicenter, randomized,
double-blind trial. Wein Klin Wochenschr 1990;102:667–73.
3. Andro M-C, Riffaud J-P. Pygeum africanum extract for the
treatment of patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia: A review of 25 years of published
experience. Curr Ther Res 1995;56:796 [review].
4. Krzeski T, Kazón M, Borkowski A, et al. Combined extracts of
Urtica dioica and Pygeum africanum in the treatment of benign prostatic
hyperplasia: Double-blind comparison of two doses. Clin Ther
5. Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima
Publishing, 1995, 286–93.
6. Chatelain C, Autet W, Brackman F. Comparison of once and twice daily
dosage forms of Pygeum africanum extract in patients with benign prostatic
hyperplasia: a randomized, double-blind study, with long-term open label extension.