The pygeum tree (pronounced pie-jee-um) is a tall evergreen native to central and southern Africa. Its bark has been used since ancient times to treat problems with urination.

Today, pygeum is primarily used as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or prostate enlargement. The evidence in support of this use is no more convincing than the evidence in support the more famous, natural BPH remedy, saw palmetto. However, the pygeum tree has been so devastated by collection for use in medicine that some regard it as a threatened species. Saw palmetto is cultivated rather than collected in the wild.

At least 17 double blind, placebo-controlled trials of pygeum for BPH have been performed, involving a total of almost 1,000 people and ranging in length from 45-90 days.3-7,17 Many of these studies were poorly reported and/or designed, making it difficult to draw reliable conclusions from their results. Acknowledging these limitations, pygeum may reduce symptoms, such as nighttime urination, urinary frequency, and residual urine volume.

Besides BPH, pygeum is also sometimes proposed for prostatitis, as well as impotence and male infertility;1,2 however, there is little real evidence that it works for these conditions.