Prostate problems

The prostate, homeopathy & Sabal serrulata by Dr Brian Kaplan

Most men  know very little about the prostate and a survey once showed that 89 per  cent of men didn’t know where the prostate was located. Embarrassingly  studies have also shown that women know more about the prostate and  prostatic problems than men!So what exactly is the prostate? It is an important walnut-shaped  organ about the size of a golf ball, which surrounds the beginning of  the urethra at the base of the bladder. And as everyone knows, only men  have prostates. Its main function is to produce about 25 per cent of the  semen in every ejaculation. This prostatic secretion protects and  nourishes the sperm (produced by the testicles) and helps to prevent the  urethra from becoming infected. It thus plays an important part in the  male reproductive system. The prostate can be examined by the physician  putting an index finger in the rectum – a slightly uncomfortable, but  not painful medical procedure. Examination can reveal if the prostate is  enlarged or hard in places. The prostate gland can be affected by three  major types of problems.

Infection (prostatitis)

Acute prostatitis is caused by a bacterial (and occasionally viral)  infection usually as the result of a sexually transmitted disease such  as gonorrhoea or sometimes as a complication of a urinary tract  infection. Treatment is to identify the offending bacteria and prescribe  the appropriate antibiotic. I see no place for homeopathy in the  treatment of acute prostatitis.Chronic prostatitis is more mysterious and troublesome to treat.  Initial treatment in orthodox medicine is with antibiotics but even  surgery is resorted to on occasion. I believe that homeopathy is well  worth trying before resorting to the rather drastic option of surgery.  Such treatment should only be attempted by an experienced homeopathic  doctor.

Cancer

Prostatic cancer is the most common cancer affecting men. In the UK,  27,000 new cases are diagnosed and over 10,000 men die of this  dangerous cancer. It is much more common in elderly men with 80 per cent  of cases occuring in men over 65 but it is not uncommon in men as young as 40.  If left untreated it can spread to other parts of the body such as the  spine and cause death. Rectal examination may or may not give a clue to  the diagnosis. Fortunately there is a simple blood test that can screen  for the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA). Levels above 10 do not  prove cancer but indicate further investigations to be necessary.  (Initially a repeated blood test and then a biopsy). There are those who  believe all men over 40 should be screened for prostatic cancer but  economic factors make this impossible for most of the world’s  population. Even in prosperous countries, this severe (but often highly  treatable) cancer goes undiagnosed because of ignorance. In his column  in The Times 17 May 2004, Dr Thomas Stuttaford points out that 90 per  cent of British men do not know the function of the PSA test  (fortunately, 70 per cent of British women do) and he informs readers  that a new help-line dedicated to prostate problems has just been set  up, aptly called Ignorance isn’t bliss (020 8582 0248). The management of prostatic cancer should always be in the hands of a  qualified urologist. It may comprise surgery, radiotherapy,  chemotherapy and drugs. Homeopathy can be used in conjunction with these  treatments but never instead of them. This is a serious and potentially  lethal disease and needs to be treated with the utmost respect.

Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy or BPH)

This is the most common problem affecting the prostate as it will  eventually affect every man if he lives long enough! The enlarging  prostate starts to press on the urethra and slowly obstruct it. BPH can  present with any of the following symptoms all of which gradually  increase if nothing is done about it:

a feeling that the bladder never completely empties
a desire to pass urine much more frequently
waking at night to pass urine
difficulty in getting started when urinating
pain when passing urine or blood in the urine
poor flow of urine

Orthodox treatment of this condition is with drugs in milder cases  and surgery in more severe cases. The main drug used is finasteride,  which can sometimes slow down the enlargement of the prostate. There are  two types of surgical operations for BPH: removal of the prostate or  boring a hole in it to ease the flow of urine, an operation known as a  transurethral resection or TUR. The drugs can of course have side  effects and the surgery almost always has a downside. Removal of the  prostate prevents normal ejaculation and can result in impotence,  especially in older men. TUR usually does not affect potency but often  results in retrograde ejaculation (into the bladder instead of out  through the penis), which obviously has an effect on a man’s sex life.  However I believe that homeopathy has a big role to play in the  treatment of prostatic enlargement. The homeopathic medicine Sabal serrulata is an excellent and specific  treatment for BPH. When I first studied homeopathy a quarter of a  century ago, Sabal had been used for many years for this condition. It  was also used by herbalists who knew it by the name saw palmetto or  serenoa repens. Native Americans have been using the berries of this  plant for urinary tract problems for many centuries. It also once had a  good reputation as an aphrodisiac but alas no more! The early American  homeopaths of whom many were “eclectic” physicians had knowledge of the  world of herbs and quickly included Sabal serrulata into the homeopathic  materia medica, where clinical experience made it the most well-known  specific homeopathic remedy for BPH. At the Royal London Homoeopathic  Hospital I was taught to use it in mother tincture rather than in  potency. As results have been rather good with this form of the remedy, I  have never changed although I have heard of homeopaths getting good  results with various potencies.After making a diagnosis of BPH, I take a full homeopathic history in  the usual classical way. My aim is to find a remedy that suits his  constitution and prescribe this remedy in a high potency as well as  Sabal serrulata in mother tincture. So a typical case may receive  Lycopodium 200c three doses in the first 24 hours followed by six drops  of Sabal serrulata mother tincture three times a day. Such an approach  is consistent with the French homeopathic methodology known as  “drainage”. I am a classical homeopath and don’t use this approach  routinely at all; in fact Sabal serrulata is one of the few homeopathic  remedies I prescribe in this way.

Dr Brian Kaplan MBBCh FFHom is the author of 'The Homeopathic Conversation' his website is www.drkaplan.co.uk