Waking up several times at night to use the bathroom, an urge to run to the toilet all the time or a feeling of not being able to hold it in for long are all common experiences for the millions of men affected by lower urinary tract symptoms.
Lower urinary tract symptoms can affect and reduce the quality of life and are associated with various health conditions, including depression. It refers to the symptoms of problems in the lower urinary tract, including the bladder, prostate and urethra.
Urinary frequency, which is a well-known symptom of lower urinary tract problems, becomes more common with age, during the day and over the night, with nearly a half of the people over the age of 60 waking up more than once during the night to urinate due to conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis.
BPH is an age-related condition in men in which the prostate gland is enlarged. According to the Urology Care Foundation, BPH is the most common prostate problem in men over the age of 50, affecting every second man between the ages of 51 and 60 and up to 90 per cent of those over the age of 80.
Medicinal plants have traditionally been used to support urinary tract symptoms. Clinical researchers demonstrate an increasing benefit from the use of phytomedicine therapies, without the side effects associated with medical therapy.
A new study from the University of Graz, Austria showed supplementation with pumpkin seed extract could help relieve the symptoms of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).
The study found that 500 mg daily supplementation with the pumpkin seed extract supplement significantly reduced every BPH related symptom after four weeks of intake. They took it before going to bed for three months.
In the study, 58 male subjects between the ages of 50 and 75 suffering from symptoms of BPH for at least six months before screening were given 500 mg of pumpkin seed extract daily for three months. They were monitored every four weeks.
At baseline 76.8 per cent of subjects showed moderate symptoms while 23.2 per cent showed severe symptoms. Results showed that there was a highly significant reduction of symptoms after 12 weeks of intervention with the pumpkin seed extract.
The results showed that 35.7 per cent of men reported an improvement of symptoms from ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ to ‘mild’ and nocturia and post-void residual urine volume was significantly reduced.
The researchers in the Journal of Medicinal Food said the results may have implications for the way mild to moderate cases are treated in the future.
According to them, “pumpkin seed extract seems to be a very well tolerable, appropriate plant extract to support health benefits in collective suffering from BPH related symptoms without the need for medical treatment.”
Before now, there is some evidence and traditional recognition for pumpkin seed extract and other plants like pineapple and bitter kola in improving urinary symptoms.
A survey identified 31 plants, including recipes, used in the treatment of benign prostate enlargement in Ijebu – North Local Government Area, Ogun State.
This survey that involved a total of 150 respondents, including herb sellers, traditional healers, herbalists, patients, and other individuals with deep knowledge about BPH was published in the 2018 edition of PHYTOLOGIA BALCANICA.
List of plant species used for the traditional management of BPH included Abrus precatorius (Oju ologbo); Adenopus breviflorus (Tagiri); alligator Pepper (Atare); pineapple; bamboo leaves; giant milkweed (Bomubomu); chilli pepper; pawpaw; African star apple (Agbalumo); lime; coconut; kola nut; sandpaper leaf (Epin) and bitter kola.
Others are Grewia pubescens (Afoforo); Heliotropium indicum (Ogberi-akuko); Ipomoea involucrate (Alukerese); Jatropha curcas (physic nut, Botuje or lapalapa); Jatropha gossypiifolia (wild cassava or Botuje pupa); Musanga cecreopioides (umbrella tree or Aga); Opuntia dillenii (prickly pear or Oro agogo); leaves of Portulaca oleraceae (Esinsan-Omode) and sugarcane.
It also includes Securidaca longepedunculata (violet tree or Ipeta); Senna alata (candle bush or Asurun oyinbo); Senna podocarpa (Asurun ijebu); Sida acuta (broomweed or Isekotu); leaves of Spondias mombin (hog plum or Iyeye); Uvaria chamae (Eruju); bitter leaf; and Xylopia aethiopica (Ethiopian pepper or Eeru).
The various recipes were also documented. Leaves of bamboo, unripe pineapple, leaves of Spondias mombin and leaves of Portulaca oleraceae are put together in a pot, trona (kaun –Yoruba) is also added and the mixture is then boiled with water for about 35 minutes. Half a glass is to be taken once daily.
The second recipe involved grinding dried seed of bitter kola into powder and mixing it with the latex from Opuntia dillenii. This is moulded into pills and air-dried. One pill is to be taken once in five days.