For LOW TESTOSTERONE, the safe and highly effective herb pygeum reduces testicular inflammation, allowing the testes to make testosterone more efficiently. Inflammatory damage is one of the biggest contributing factors to male hormone imbalances. Leydig cells in the testes are responsible for manufacturing testosterone, and they are particularly sensitive to inflammation. In addition, chronic inflammation prevents new Leydig cells from developing, further reducing testosterone output. Pygeum acts by inhibiting the types of prostaglandins which trigger inflammation and injure Leydig cells, dampening testosterone production.
Testosterone deficiency is linked with an increase in systematic inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Therefore, low testosterone levels are associated with obesity, insulin resistance, an adverse lipid profile, and cardiovascular mortality. While male hormone balance does not get as much attention as female hormone topics, optimal hormone levels are vital to men’s well-being, and necessary for keeping inflammation under control. It is important that the root causes underlying male hormone imbalances are addressed.
Most of the testosterone in the bloodstream attaches to two proteins: albumin and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Some testosterone is not attached to proteins, or free. Free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone are also referred to as bioavailable testosterone. This is the testosterone that is easily used by the body.
For men, the normal total testosterone range is about 280 to 1100 ng/dL, with an average level of around 650-700, and a therapeutic target of 500-700 ng/dL. Free testosterone that is not bound to protein carriers is 0.1 to 0.3% of the total testosterone levels. Blood testing for testosterone is best done in the morning, because testosterone levels tend to be highest at that time.
Pygeum africanum is a large evergreen known as the African cherry tree, native to central and southern Africa, which grows to up to 150 feet. For thousands of years, traditional African healers have used the bark for its healing, aphrodisiac qualities and for male health. Historically, the powdered bark was made into a tea. In the 1960s, Europeans began using pygeum bark extract for a variety of men’s disorders. This ancient supplement then caught the attention of healthcare professionals and healers worldwide.
Pygeum bark extract supports healthy testosterone levels in a number of ways:
- Pygeum bark is rich in fatty acids and phytosterols such as beta-sitosterols, which exhibit anti-inflammatory action. Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol that is similar in structure to cholesterol yet does not affect cardiovascular risk. Calming inflammation allows the Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone more efficiently, as inflammation can impede or even destroy Leydig cells.
- Beta-sitosterol helps preserve levels of testosterone by blocking two enzymes that try to convert testosterone into estradiol: aromatase and 5-alpha reductase, which also catalyzes DHT production. This helps to maintain optimal testosterone levels. A variety of other fatty acids found in pygeum bark that can prevent testosterone degradation include saturated fatty acids and unsaturated omega fatty acids.1 Clinical research found that pygeum showed higher efficacy at lower doses compared to nettle root for slowing the enzymes aromatase and 5-alpha-reductase, but the combination of both herbs was significantly more effective than either alone in blocking the aromatase enzyme.2
- Phytosterols in pygeum bark inhibit the body’s production of the androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a potent breakdown product of testosterone. DHT opposes the beneficial effects of testosterone.
- Pygeum extract is a natural DHT blocker and this may be due to the presence of active ingredients like terpenes, N-docasanol and beta-sitosterol in the bark of the pygeum tree. This means that even if DHT is made, the active constituents in pygeum prevent it from interfering with testosterone balance.
- Pygeum reduces the number of receptor sites where DHT can attach to cells. If DHT cannot attach to cell surface receptors while it is circulating in the blood stream, it is ineffective and cannot act to oppose testosterone.
In our clinic, we find that using a blend of complementary herbs provides superior results. In addition to a high-dose of pygeum at 650mg, we see that stinging nettle root, saw palmetto, and pollen concentrate also support healthy male testosterone levels. Stinging nettle, specifically the root, modulates the effect of male sex hormone stimulation, so that androgen receptors are not over-activated. Also nettle root may help normalize testosterone levels by preventing sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) from attaching to cells, and by blocking DHT from binding to SHBG. In addition, nettle root polysaccharides have a good anti-inflammatory effect: they stimulate helpful T-lymphocytes, and impede HLE (human leukocyte elastase) which is one of the most destructive enzymes produced by certain white blood cells, that enters tissues to trigger the inflammatory process.
Saw palmetto encourages healthy testosterone levels. Scientists have found that saw palmetto can slow down 5-alpha reductase, and thus reduce the effects of DHT as men get older. One study found that dosing healthy males ages 37 to 70 with saw palmetto over a two-week period led to higher levels of testosterone for those men than for others in the placebo control group.3,4 As low testosterone reduces libido, it has also been shown that saw palmetto can improve sex drive by maintaining testosterone and reducing its breakdown. One study reported in the journal Urologia Internationalis found that 120 men using saw palmetto experienced improved sexual function, resulting from better testosterone levels. Pollen concentrate is a natural adaptogen that can boost testosterone production. By helping to overcome the negative effects of stress, pollen concentrate exerts an anti-inflammatory and protective effect on the body.
Recommendation: Pygeum Bark Extract 500 to 650mg daily total, standardized to at least 45% total sterols, best absorbed between meals, any time of day, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Paubert-Braquet M, Cave A, Hocquemiller R, et al. Effect of Pygeum africanum extract on A23187-stimulated production of lipoxygenase metabolites from human polymorphonuclear cells. J Lipid Mediat Cell Signal. May 1994;9(3):285-290.
- Canguven, Onder, and Arthur L. Burnett. “The Effect of 5 α‐Reductase Inhibitors on Erectile Function.” Journal of andrology 29.5 (2008): 514-523.
- Pais, Pilar. “Potency of a novel saw palmetto ethanol extract, SPET-085, for inhibition of 5α-reductase II.” Advances in therapy 27.8 (2010): 555-563.
- Angwafor, Fru, M. L. Anderson. “An open label, dose response study to determine the effect of a dietary supplement on dihydrotestosterone, testosterone and estradiol levels in healthy males.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 5.1 (2008): 12.
- Sinescu, Ioanel, et al. “Long-term efficacy of Serenoa repens treatment in patients with mild and moderate symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia.” Urologia internationalis 86.3 (2011): 284-289.
- Hartmann RW, Mark M, Soldati F. Inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase and aromatase by PHL-0081, a combination of PY102 (Pygeum africanum) and UR102 (Urtica dioica) extracts. Phytomedicine. 1996;3(2):121-8.
- Muraleedharan, Vakkat, and T. Hugh Jones. “Testosterone and the metabolic syndrome.” Therapeutic advances in endocrinology and metabolism 1.5 (2010): 207-223.