The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that produces semen, the fluid that transports sperm. After a man turns 50, or in those with urinary symptoms, the prostate may begin to need support. And men who have CFS/FMS can be particularly vulnerable to a form of prostate irritation called prostadynia.

The prostate rings the urethra, the tube that transports ejaculate and drains urine from the bladder. As the prostate expands in size, the urethra may be squeezed and narrowed, causing urinary symptoms such as frequent urination (particularly during the night), urgency, difficulty starting the stream, a weaker stream, dribbling at the end, and incomplete emptying.

These are the symptoms of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that in mild, moderate or severe form afflicts four out of five men aged 40 and older. (It’s THE most common health problem among older men.) And as I mentioned earlier, many men with CFS/FMS have prostate irritation called prostadynia, with similar symptoms and sometimes pelvic pain. The prostadynia symptoms often improve with long-term antifungals, antibiotics in select cases, and the nutrient quercitin.

There are several medications that doctors often use to treat BPH. Flomax (a so-called alpha-blocker) works by relaxing the muscles where the bladder and urethra intersect, allowing for easier flow. Proscar and Avodart work by decreasing production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the compound that pumps up prostate cells. But like most medications, they have downsides. For one thing, they’re expensive. And they’re not without side effects, from decreased semen volume to painful orgasms (from Flomax).

Natural approaches to optimize the health of your prostate are often effective alternatives to prescription medications. In this article, I’ll discuss five herbals that can help keep your plumbing in tip-top shape.

Herbals That Can Help Optimize Your Prostate Health

1. Saw Palmetto Extract
Also known as Serenoa repens, saw palmetto blocks DHT effects and balances hormones. Give it six weeks to work. Over the years, there have been dozens of studies on saw palmetto involving thousands of men with varying results. Many have shown that the herb works to optimize prostate health. Other studies have produced negative results.

My bottom line is that I've found the herb effective in helping to promote healthy prostate function in older men. I also think it's a lot safer than drugs, and research agrees that it's very safe. In fact, in the most recent analysis (conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and published in the Journal of Urology in April, 2013) doses of saw palmetto three times higher than typical, taken for 18 months, produced "no evidence of toxicity" of any kind. (Take 160 mg, 2x day).

Other herbs can also help prostate health by balancing inflammation and hormone function. These include:

2. Boswellia
Boswellia (Boswellia serrata), also known as frankincense, is one of my favorite herbs. It balances several key immunemodulating enzymes, which can leave your prostate feeling a lot less twitchy!

3. Nettle
Given its name, Nettle (Urtica dioica) might be the last plant you would think of using to settle down your prostate. But this is another must for anyone who wants to help their prostate through herbal approaches.

Nettle is rich in beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol that has hormone-balancing effects. So, like saw palmetto, it helps optimize prostate health. It does this by:
  • Blocking the binding of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) to the prostate.
  • Inhibiting aromatase, an enzyme that affects the body's testosterone metabolism.
  • Inhibiting adenosine deaminase (ADA) activity of prostate tissue.

Nettle is a very powerful ingredient and one that is key for an optimized prostate health formula. (Use a strong 10:1 extract.)

4. Beta-Sitosterol
Double-blind clinical studies have found that betasitosterol improves urinary flow in men, and that is big news for any man who feels like he must constantly go to the restroom, or who feels like his bladder doesn't fully empty after each trip.

5. Sesamin
This comes from the sesame plant, and has been shown to block the activity of a protein complex called NF-KB, which promotes the growth of tumor cells.

All five of these herbals can be found in combination in a product called "Healthy Prostate" by EuroPharma.

Other Helpful Prostate Tips?

Add zinc and selenium.
Adding daily doses of these two minerals can help maintain prostate health (both should be present at these amounts in a good multivitamin)—and may boost the effectiveness of saw palmetto. In one study, German researchers measured blood selenium levels in 21 men with prostate problems and found their blood levels "significantly lower than the recommended normal range." They recommend selenium supplementation to help optimize prostate health. (Take 15 mg zinc, 1x day. 50 mcg selenium, 1x day.)

Regular exercise: protection against prostate cancer.
Research shows that regular exercise can contribute to optimal health of the prostate gland, and may help lower the risk of developing prostate cancer. I recommend a 30-60 minute daily walk outdoors. Not only do you get a workout, you also get a nice dose of healthy vitamin D—a vitamin that in one recent study was associated with lower levels of prostate cancer (July 2012 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism).