Can Herbs for Prostate Cancer Help Your Health? Here's What a Doctor Says

man in doctor's office with prostate problems
man in doctor's office with prostate problemsAdobe Stock
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Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among American men. With 1 in 8 facing this diagnosis over his lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society, curiosity about natural solutions is understandable.

But can herbs or supplements prevent prostate cancer, relieve its symptoms and enhance overall health?

Here’s what to know about herbs for prostate cancer

Drawing on traditional medicine roots from China, herbal medicines exhibit unique advantages, according to an article published by the journal Nutrients. More than half of U.S.-approved anti-cancer drugs stem from terrestrial plants, demonstrating herbal medicines' role in cancer drug development.

Known for low toxicity and potent curative effects, Chinese medicines find acceptance among many experts, doctors and patients. These remedies have inhibited tumor growth, extended life span and enhanced quality of life for some prostate cancer patients.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an authority on integrative and herbal medicines in New Mexico, offered her insights. She outlines the herbs and supplements she advocates for enhancing prostate cancer management.

“There are two approaches when we consider the best herbs for prostate cancer," Low Dog said. "Some botanicals and plants help lessen the risk of getting the disease as well as what can be done when someone is diagnosed.”

Lycopene and tomato-based products

Lycopene, present in tomatoes and tomato products, has been studied for its potential in prostate cancer prevention.

“I believe that lycopene and tomato-based products are incredibly important for men trying to reduce the risk of prostate cancer," Low Dog said.

"Research has shown that men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and were scheduled to have their prostate removed, were given 30 mg of lycopene from a tomato extract," she said. "It reduced both their tumor size and lowered their PSA [prostate-specific antigen]. What it showed us is that these foods can help with reducing the risks of aggressiveness of prostate cancer and can reduce symptoms."

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage contain compounds such as sulforaphane, which show potential anti-cancer properties.

These vegetables are thought to help regulate hormone levels and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

“Cruciferous vegetables are of interest to men and women because of the beneficial effects they have on various cancers," Low Dog said. "In prostate cancer and where men have had their prostate removed via prostatectomy, the PSA doubling time [we want that number to be as long as possible], more than doubled when the men took 60 mg of sulforaphane.” The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer center has more on sulforaphane.

To increase sulforaphane intake, enjoy lightly steamed broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, Low Dog suggested.

Green tea

Green tea is rich in compounds known as catechins, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that these compounds may have a protective effect against prostate cancer by interfering with cancer cell growth.

“There is evidence to suggest a lower risk for developing prostate cancer for men who drink green tea," Low Dog said. "And though we are a coffee-loving nation, men can consider having green tea at lunch or in the afternoon. We have seen a significant reduction in PSA levels in men who consume green tea while awaiting a prostatectomy.”

Saw palmetto, cranberry and pomegranate

Saw palmetto is a popular herbal remedy that has been studied for its potential to alleviate prostate-related symptoms. While not directly targeting cancer, it may help manage symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.

“While saw palmetto can be effective," Low Dog said, "I think many patients may be better off with cranberry or pomegranate as there is better evidence. Cranberry is good for the urinary tract and may help to lower PSA concentrations.”

Vitamin D

While vitamin D is not an herb or botanical extract, it is important to consider as part of prostate cancer treatment, Low Dog said.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health cited similar observations from recent research. Men exhibiting the lowest levels of vitamin D appear to face an increased risk of prostate cancer, it reported in 2021. Prostate cancer patients often present with reduced vitamin D levels, suggesting a potential connection between this vitamin and cancer development.

In addition, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels seems to be associated with less aggressive cancers and lower prostate cancer death rates, author Dr. Randall Oyer, a medical oncologist, wrote.

Of note: Regions in the United States with limited sun exposure, a primary source of vitamin D synthesis, report higher rates of prostate cancer.

Advice from the doctor

While various herbs and plant-based extracts may help lessen prostate cancer risk and lower PSA levels, Low Dog recommended a combined approach to health care.

“Integrative medicine is how I have spent my career," she said. "The best advice for any man is for him to work with his physician, his pharmacist and his dietitian.

“All of these professionals can be very beneficial and can help integrate these herbs and foods into your diet," Low Dog explained. "Your physician can guide you on the best option for you. If you are concerned with any interactions with supplements or medications, your pharmacist can be an amazing partner as well.”

Keep in mind: Sourcing herbal supplements and extracts from reputable sellers is important, Low Dog said. The best way to avoid counterfeit or adulterated products, she said, is to buy direct and not from online resellers.

Collaborating with health care professionals, including physicians, pharmacists and dietitians can provide a well-rounded anti-prostate cancer strategy.

SOURCE: Tieraona Low Dog, MD, Integrative Medicine Concepts, Pecos, N.M.


American Cancer Society: Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer

Nutrients: Chinese Medicines in the Treatment of Prostate Cancer: From Formulas to Extracts and Compounds

MD Anderson Cancer Center: Sulforaphane Benefits: How Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts May Help Reduce Your Cancer Risk

National Cancer Institute: Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

HealthDay: What Is an Enlarged Prostate, and How Do You Treat It?

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health: Can Vitamin D Help Prevent Prostate Cancer?

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