Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for Benign Prostate Hypertrophy

Benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH) is a non-cancerous swelling of the prostate gland that may interfere with the flow of urine from the bladder in men. The condition is also known as benign prostatic hypertrophy and, more accurately, as benign prostate hyperplasia (the proliferation of cells in the prostate gland). BPH is a very common condition among men; nearly half of all men aged 50 have the condition, and by age 80, the percentage of men with BPH climbs to 75 percent. Benign prostate hypertrophy is treated by allopathic (conventional Western) physicians by changes in lifestyle, medications, and/or surgery. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) rely on methods that avoid the side effects of medication and surgery, such as acupuncture or herbal remedies, for treatment of the disorder.

How Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Used to Treat Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH)?

Acupuncture is one form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that can be used to treat benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH). Very fine needles are inserted beneath the skin to stimulate one or more of the meridians through which qi flows in to and out of the prostate. Qi, pronounced “chee,” is the body’s life energy, and meridians are channels in the body through which qi flows. When channels become blocked, a medical problem like BPH may develop. In most urogential problems, it is the Liver meridian that is affected. The actual acupuncture points to be treated by this method are not necessarily located near the prostate gland itself. They could be in the arms, ears, legs, or some other region distant from the prostate; typical points include Liver 5, Ren 6, and Bladder 2. A practitioner of TCM will be able to locate the most appropriate meridians and acupuncture points that can treat your specific case of benign prostate hypertrophy.

Chinese herbs may also be used to treat benign prostate hypertrophy. Most traditional Chinese medicine herbalists use herbs in combination with each other as formulas, rather than as separate materials. The proper mixture of herbs is usually prepared after the herbalist interviews the patient in order to determine his precise problem. For example, one commercially available product recommended for the treatment of BPH is Qian Lie Xian Yan Wan, which consists of a mixture of more than a dozen natural products, including Vaccaria segetalis seed, Paeonia veitchii root, Astragalus membranaceus root, Paeonia suffruticosa root-bark, Clematis armandi stem, Aucklandia lappa root, Corydalis yanhusuo rhizome, and Glycyrrhiza uralensis root. Another product recommended for the treatment of BPH is a classical formula called Rehmannia Eight Formula (Ba Wei Di Huang Wan), which consists of eight Chinese herbs: Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia), Shan Zhu Yu (Cornus), Shan Yao (Dioscorea), Ze Xie (Alisma), Fu Ling (Poria), Mu Dan Pi (Moutan), Fu Zi (Aconite), and Rou Gui (CinnamonBark).

What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a collection of methods for treating physical and psychological disorders developed well over 3,000 years ago in China. The principles and practices of TCM have changed very little over the millennia, and untold numbers of people around the world today rely on TCM rather than allopathic medicine for the treatment of disease and disorder. Traditional Chinese medicine is based on a theory of the way the human body works that is very different from that of modern allopathic medicine.

One element of TCM theory is that the human body is the site of a constant battle between two forces, yin and yang. Yin is the more feminine principle, representing forces of darkness, coolness, calmness, flexibility, weakness, passivity, and moisture. Yang is the more masculine principles, representing forces of light, warmth, excitability, rigidity, strength, action, and dryness. The flow of yin and yang is controlled by different organs in the body, yin by the heart, kidneys, liver, lung, and spleen, and yang by the bladder, gallbladder, large and small intestines, and stomach. When organs malfunction, the proper balance between yin and yang is disturbed which, in turn disrupts the proper balance of qi. The goal of the TCM practitioner is to find a way of restoring the proper balance of yin and yang in the body and to ensure the proper flow and balance of qi throughout the body. Three procedures for achieving this objective are acupuncture, massage, and the use of herbal medicine.

What Is Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH)?

The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland found only in males located just below the bladder and surrounding the urethra, the tube through which urine flows during expulsion from the body. As males reach middle age, the prostate tends to grow larger, a natural and common occurrence. As it grows, the prostate tends to constrict the urethra, making urination more difficult.

Some symptoms that develop as a consequence of Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH) include:

  • dysuria (pain during urination)
  • difficulty in starting to urinate
  • decreased strength of flow of urine
  • dribbling following urination
  • a feeling that the bladder has not been completely emptied
  • a need to begin urinating soon after urinating.

Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH) is generally an uncomfortable, but not life-threatening, condition. Under some circumstances, however, a man should seek medical advice for the conditions of BPH, especially if they are accompanied by:

  • blood or pus in the urine
  • pain during urination
  • chills or fevers of more than 100 degrees F
  • lower back pain
  • an inability to urinate at all.

Simple cases of Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH) can be treated at home with a variety of lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet and methods of urination. The most serious cases of BPH may also be treated surgically. In addition to allopathic treatments for BPH, there are a number of treatments available from complementary and alternative medicines, including traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Additional Resources

Holland, Alex.  Voices of Qi: An Introductory Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2000.

Lu, Henry C.  Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Authoritative and Comprehensive Guide.  Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, 2005.

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