Considering all the potential complications men face in prostatic and urological health, there’s money to be made in marketing natural formulas that can help. Luckily, the pursuit of plant-based ingredient solutions is an active one.
A sizable market exists for African cherry (Prunus africana) in the men’s health space. Its bark is sold in extracts intended to help with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate. But concerns about over-harvesting1 the African cherry tree to meet global extract demand is motivating one ingredient supplier to explore a more sustainable alternative.
After carefully reviewing the contents of numerous other Prunus species, Cepham Inc. (Piscataway, NJ) and other parties discovered that the common plum (Prunus domestica) most closely resembles African cherry in its bark contents2, including key constituents such as beta-sitosterol and docosyl ferulate. Considering the strong similarities of the two barks, Cepham believes plum bark should act on the human prostate in much the same way African cherry bark does—by blocking the action of androgens and stimulating the death of benign prostate cells, among numerous other proposed factors.
So far, preliminary results are encouraging. Cepham funded an animal study that found plum bark as effective as African cherry bark in stopping the proliferation of BPH in rats3, and the company expects results of a human study to be published this November.
Unlike African cherry bark, which is typically wild-harvested, Cepham’s plum bark comes from privately managed plum tree farms at the foothills of the Himalayas. After farmers harvest their sweet fruits, the trees are pruned to stimulate more fruit production, and the byproduct of stems and branches becomes a bark extract.
Cepham is selling its plum bark extract (brand name Prosprune) to finished-product manufacturers in India and Thailand. The extract is available in paste form for soft gels and in powder form for hard gelatin capsules.
The tiny cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) has made a name for itself in the urological field thanks to years of cultural use for treating urinary tract infections (UTIs). A large number of studies have since explored, and sometimes validated, the use of cranberry extracts for this condition. Although women are most prone to UTIs, men are also at risk of UTIs and, more commonly, lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), which can be caused by infections or prostate problems. Fortunately, cranberry may provide relief for LUTS.
In a “landmark study”4 published earlier this year, Naturex (South Hackensack, NJ) says its cranberry extract reduced LUTS in men over age 45. It appeared to improve urinary flow, international prostate symptom scores (IPSS), and other relevant health markers also used in pharma-level studies. According to Naturex, this is the first and only gold-standard study (randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical) on cranberry and LUTS.
A lot of cranberry research has focused in narrowly on proanthocyanidins (PACs), chemical compounds present in these berries that experts say are highly responsible for positive results. Naturex, however, remains intent on marketing a full-spectrum cranberry extract that it says is biologically and clinically superior for urological health. The extract is sold as Flowens.
Although green tea (Camellia sinensis) and its fermented black variety are often the subject of prostate cancer studies, results have historically been inconsistent. Kemin (Des Moines, IA) is one supplier taking a different approach to tea and prostate health.
With the help of two clinical trials, Kemin is promoting AssuriTEA, a blend of green and black tea extracts already associated with improvement in LUTS, bladder emptying, and other sexual and non-sexual health factors in men. Though no additional trials are currently under way, Kemin says it is still seeing a gradual increase in global sales of its ingredient, thanks in part to its AssuriTEA science and the white space Kemin says still exists in this health category.
Aside from green and black tea’s nutrient profiles, AssuriTEA is further distinguished by its proprietary blend of antioxidants and other phytonutrients. Kemin says the formula provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that benefit men.
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- Bodeker G et al., “Prunus africana (Hook.f.) Kalkman: the overexploitation of a medicinal plant species and its legal context,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 20, no. 11 (November 2014): 810-822
- Jena AK et al., “Amelioration of testosterone induced benign prostatic hyperplasia by Prunus species,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Published online May 24, 2016.
- Swaroop A et al., “Safety and efficacy of a novel Prunus domestica extract (Sitoprin, CR002) on testosterone-induced benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in male Wistar rats,” Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, vol. 25, no. 9 (November 2015): 653-664
- Vidlar A et al., “Cranberry fruit powder (FlowensTM) improves lower urinary tract symptoms in men: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study,” World Journal of Urology, vol. 34, no. 3 (March 2016): 419-424
- Tommaso C et al., “Pollen extract in association with vitamins provides early pain relief in patients affected by chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome,” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, vol. 8, no. 4 (October 2014): 1032-1038
- ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00919893
- Schwarz S et al., “Lycopene inhibits disease progression in patients with benign prostate hyperplasia,” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 138, no. 1 (January 2008): 49-53