Pygeum africanum is an extract from the bark of the African plum tree Prunus africana. It’s a popular natural remedy used to alleviate the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer – two conditions linked to DHT. Pygeum africanum is believed to reduce DHT levels and there are even studies that appear to confirm this. So does this make it an effective hair loss treatment?
DHT and hair loss
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) has come to be known as the hair loss hormone.
However, many hair loss sufferers are reluctant to resort to these pharmaceutical options due to potential side effects such as:
- Reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Abnormal ejaculation
For these people, natural DHT blockers may be a viable alternative for maintaining their hair. The negative side effects of Propecia and dutasteride may be reduced due to a different mechanism of action or a lower overall reduction in DHT.
Pygeum africanum DHT studies
There are many natural compounds that are said to reduce DHT, including:
- Saw palmetto
- Pumpkin seed
- Beta sitosterol
- Nettle root
- and Pygeum africanum
After saw palmetto, Pygeum africanum is probably the most popular of these natural DHT blockers.
Pygeum africanum is commonly recommended to alleviate the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). And there have even been trials that show its effectiveness:
“Compared to men receiving placebo, Pygeum africanum provided a moderately large improvement in the combined outcome of urologic symptoms and flow measures […] Men using Pygeum africanum were more than twice as likely to report an improvement in overall [BPH] symptoms […] Adverse effects due to Pygeum Africanum were mild and comparable to placebo.”
This is relevant to hair loss sufferers as both BPH and androgenetic alopecia are linked to DHT. A reduction in DHT almost always means a reduction in BPH symptoms, suggesting Pygeum africanum may work by reducing levels of this hormone.
It’s a similar story with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is strongly linked with DHT – so much so that men who are deficient in it never develop prostate cancer. And again, pygeum africanum appears to alleviate this condition:
“Pygeum africanum, which is widely used in Europe and USA for treatment of BPH, has a significant role in regulation of prostate cancer both in vitro and in vivo and therefore may be a useful supplement for people at high risk for developing prostate cancer.”
What’s more, various studies have observed that Pygeum africanum has anti androgenic effects.
This trial, for example, tested it against saw palmetto and pumpkin extracts. Amazingly, researchers report that “Pygeum africanum revealed the highest antiandrogenic effect.”
This all suggests that Pygeum africanum may potentially be an effective hair loss treatment.
Pygeum africanum for hair loss
Despite this promising evidence, it’s far from a closed case as to whether Pygeum africanum stops hair loss.
For example, this review of the evidence for Pygeum africanum notes that many of the trials for BPH were too small and inconsistent to draw firm conclusions from:
“A standardized preparation of Pygeum africanum may be a useful treatment option for men with lower urinary symptoms consistent with benign prostatic hyperplasia. However, the reviewed studies were small in size, were of short duration, used varied doses and preparations and rarely reported outcomes using standardized validated measures of efficacy.”
Further, it should be noted that even if Pygeum africanum does reduce DHT levels, there are no trials that have looked at its effects on hair loss specifically.
But in theory, anything that reduces DHT should help stop hair loss. However, without specifically testing for this effect it’s impossible to say for certain whether Pygeum africanum does or doesn’t improve hair quality.
Pygeum africanum dosage and side effects
Generally speaking, Pygeum africanum is well tolerated with few side effects.
The literature reports little or no adverse effects at dosages up to 200mg per day. In the few cases where adverse effects from Pygeum africanum were observed, these were typically mild: nausea, stomach ache, abdominal pain, etc. and went away upon cessation of treatment.
Although there have been no trials that have specifically looked at its effects on hair loss, the scientific literature makes a strong case for the DHT blocking abilities of Pygeum africanum.
But hair loss is a complicated and multi-factorial condition. And while DHT plays a vital role, it’s not the only factor that contributes towards baldness. Inflammation, fibrosis, scalp laxity; they’re all pieces of the hair loss puzzle.
Reducing DHT will almost certainly help prevent hair loss though. This is why the prescription drug Propecia (finasteride) is so effective.
And of the many natural DHT blockers out there, Pygeum africanum is among the most promising. It follows from this that Pygeum africanum should help stop hair loss from progressing. As an added bonus, Pygeum africanum has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Combine this with a very low risk of side effects and it seems Pygeum africanum is an obvious additional tool in the fight against hair loss.