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Men's Health

Men’s Health

by James A. Duke, PhD

Frequent questions posed by males relate to arthritis, backache, energy, exercise and physical fitness, infertility, male menopause, mental alertness, and prostatitis. Most are questions pertinent for females, too, except for the so-called male menopause and prostatitis. If male menopause is real, I missed it or sailed right though it without knowing it. Kathi Keville (1996), a West Coast herbalist I admire, lists the herbs most likely to get a male through his menopause - eleuthero, ginseng, licorice, and schizandra - the same herbs suggested to increase male stamina. Under our discussion of prostate problems, Steven Holt (1996) speaks of the male "andropause" (a term not in my sexist Dorland’s 25th Medical Dictionary, 1974) as the male equivalent of the female menopause, there defined as "cessation of menstruation in the human female, occurring usually between the age of 48 and 50." I’m more inclined to believe in a male period; a period of the month during which the male is more depressed, edgy and upset. But I’m even agnostic on that, too.

Many males and females ask me about stamina (including libido), strength, and stress, but I’ll only dwell on stamina in this issue. As to strength, the so-called anabolic and ergogenic herbs are frequently recommended. Conversely, for stress the herbal tranquilizers, like chamomile, kava kava, lavender, melissa, passionflower, valerian, are often suggested, for male and female alike.


Alphabetically first, but probably behind impotence as question numero uno in the minds of aging baby boomers, herbal remedies for BPH are the most talked about male topics, within my experience. And I’ve been following the prostate story since I attained 60, an age at which 60% of American males are experiencing prostate problems. In October of 1997, my HMO physician congratulated me on my prostate health. I think I’ll recount the long story to put things in historical (not hysterical) perspective.

Oct. 11, 1989, I was called by a physicist here in the greater Washington DC area. He had been amazed at the effects saw palmetto extract was having on him and some friends who were also trying it. He had called to asked what I knew about it. (I always have to be suspicious of such calls; too often they are promoters pretending they aren’t promoters). As we chatted, he mentioned that coincidentally, he had learned of a new drug being tried at Johns Hopkins for BPH, which was working effectively by preventing the conversion of T in the prostate to DHT, the latter probably causing the excess cell proliferation. Then he saw an abstract suggesting that saw palmetto blocked the conversion of T in the prostate to DHT. This so excited him that he wanted somehow to get in the business. I referred him to a Florida grower, one of the major exporters to Europe. In Europe the saw palmetto berries are extracted, and in turn the extracts are shipped back to the US and other markets. This rather parallels what happens with evening primrose, of which we once grew more than 1,000 acres in the US, mostly exporting the seed to Europe where the oil is extracted, encapsulated, and shipped back to the US. If the FDA doesn’t interfere, it would seem logical to extract here in the US (saw palmetto is native to Florida). My physicist friend was using a mail-order herbal combo with a name like "PROST-AID". Merck’s Proscar (finasteride) may be a billion-dollar annual baby (Graedons, 1991) blocking t