There are a number of nutritional herbs claiming to be effective in the treatment of prostate cancer but there is not an iota of medical evidence that many of these
substances work. Some herbs postulated to have activity against prostate cancer include chaparral, PC SPES and shark cartilage. The majority of these products have not been shown to have any benefit in humans and yet they are sold in all herbal stores. But there are a few exceptions.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) has been widely tested, and the results show promise. However, it is important to know that saw palmetto is recommended to treat the symptoms associated with benign prostate hypertrophy and not actually to cure prostate cancer.
Saw palmetto is thought to work by preventing testosterone from breaking down into another form of the hormone associated with prostate tissue growth. Studies have shown that saw palmetto appears to be as effective as the medication Finasteride (Proscar) in reducing the size of an enlarged prostate. It also appears to produce fewer side effects.
Saw palmetto can work slowly or not at all. Most men begin to see an improvement in their urinary symptoms after 1 - 3 months. It appears safe to take saw palmetto indefinitely, but possible effects from long-term use are unknown.
A few other herbal products have been claimed to cure prostate cancer. There is little scientific data to support these products but many anecdotal reports are available. These products include chaparral (Larrea tridentata), which is derived from a desert shrub found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Research has not conclusively shown that the herb effectively treats prostate cancer, and it has been reported that it can lead to irreversible liver failure. Therefore, it is best to consult a licensed herbal professional before taking chaparral or other herbs.
PC-SPES is an herbal mixture that has been marketed for treatment of prostate cancer. It contains a mixture of eight herbs: da qing ye (Isatis indigotica), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), san qi (Panax pseudoginseng), reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Baikal skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), chrysanthemum (Dendranthema morifolium), dong ling cao (Rabdosia rubescens) and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Studies indicate that the PC SPES can act like a female sex hormone and block the effects of testosterone on the prostate.
However, the product has been reported to cause impotence and breast tenderness as side effects. It can also cause blood clots in the leg veins and, if taken in large amounts, can be toxic. Another concern with this product is that it can mask progression of your cancer. It reduces PSA levels, even when the cancer is advancing.