Traditional healers and tribal medicine practitioners in most African countries have long made wide use of the root and bark of the tree in the treatment of inflammation affecting the prostate gland and the kidney.
Pygeum is an evergreen tree found in the higher elevations of central and southern Africa. The over exploitation of this single natural resource has led to attempts to monitor the trade in this tree species by including it in the Appendix II of CITES – expanded as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine identified that atraric acid, a Pygeum phytochemical, inhibits the ligand-activated human androgen receptor (AR), which controls the growth of the prostate gland.
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 the growth of human prostate cancer cells by binding to the androgen receptor and inhibiting its translocation to the cell nucleus.
The anti-cancer potential of Pygeum africana has been tested both in vitro(PC-3 and LNCaP cells) and in vivo (TRAMP mouse model). Results in tissue culture, ethanolic extracts (30%) of Pygeum africana inhibited the growth of PC-3 and LNCaP cells; induced apoptosis and altered cell kinetics; down regulated ERa and PKC-aprotein, and demonstrated good binding ability to both mouse uterine estrogen receptors and LNCaP human androgen receptors. TRAMP mice fed Pygeum africana a significant reduction(P= 0.034) in prostate cancer incidence (35%) compared to casein fed mice (62.05%)
Pygeum contains phytosterols that interfere with the buildup of prostaglandins that accumulate in the prostate of men with BPH. Pygeum’s pentacyclic terpenes have a decongesting, anti-edema effect. The ferulic esters influence testosterone activity in the prostate, also reducing the risk of BPH and its associated urinary disorders.