Herbal Remedies for Prostate Cancer

What are herbal remedies?

Over the centuries, man has gone from a simple diet consisting of meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains, to a diet that often consists of foods rich in fats, oils, and complex carbohydrates. Nutritional excess and nutritional deficiency have become problems in today's society--both contributing to several chronic diseases. Many dietary and herbal approaches attempt to balance the body's nutritional well-being. Dietary and herbal approaches may include dietary supplements and herbal medicine.

Most herbal medicines or "herbal remedies" for treatment of prostate cancer have not been studied scientifically in men with prostate cancer (in a randomized clinical trial, a highly regarded approach). Combination herbal remedies currently on the market should be approached with caution, since reported side effects in some older preparations have included venous thrombosis (blood clots in veins), breast tenderness, and loss of libido (desire for sex). For example, a popular supplement sometimes used by men with prostate cancer, called PC-SPES, was taken off the market after a warning by the FDA in 2002. PC-SPES was found to contain other prescription drugs that could cause serious health problems, according to the American Cancer Society.

Some newer combination herbal remedies have been shown to slow or stop prostate cancer cell growth in early lab studies. But these types of studies do not always mean that they will have an effect on people. These remedies have not been studied rigorously in men with prostate cancer, so it's not clear if they are helpful or not. 

Are herbal remedies considered to be a form of complementary and alternative medicine?

Yes. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) encompasses unconventional approaches to healing, beyond standard medicine:

  • Standard or conventional medicine refers to medical treatments that have been scientifically tested, found to be safe and effective, and approved by the FDA.

  • Complementary medicine is any form of therapy used along with standard treatments. Complementary therapy usually serves to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.

  • Alternative medicine is used alone, without recommended standard treatment.

Some people use complementary treatments to relieve symptoms or side effects while undergoing standard or conventional treatment (such as pain relief during cancer treatment).

Consult with your doctor prior to using any type of dietary or herbal supplements in the treatment or prevention of prostate cancer. He or she can help you understand what is known and what is not known about them, and if they might be safe for you to use. If you do decide to use them, be sure your doctor is aware of your decision. Even though they are not considered "drugs," some supplements and preparations might interact with other treatments you are getting, so it is important that your doctor knows about them.