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Treat your menopausal symptoms with pine bark extract

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
menopause, symptoms, Pycnogenol, pine bark extract,  hot flashes

Menopause is inevitable as a woman ages and the symptoms, such as night sweats, hot flashes, and mood changes, can be extremely distressing. Hormone replacement therapy can relieve them; however, for a variety of reasons, many women shun them. A non-hormonal treatment has been reported to be effective in reducing menopausal symptoms. Japanese researchers published their findings on February 15 edition of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

Takafumi Kohama, MD, and Masako Negami, MD, from Keiju Medical Center and Keiju Health Service Center in Nanao City, conducted a study to evaluate the efficacy of a relatively low daily dosage of Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract for the relief of menopausal symptoms. The randomized, placebo-controlled study comprised 170 perimenopausal women. Half the women were given Pycnogenol and half the women were given a placebo. Neither the patients nor the medication administrators were aware of who received Pycnogenol.

The researchers noted that previous studies have evaluated the effectiveness of Pycnogenol for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. A study of 200 Taiwanese women found the substance to be effective; however, the researchers administered an extremely high 200 mg daily dose of Pycnogenol. It found good relief from all major menopausal symptoms after a treatment period of half a year. In the present study, perimenopausal women were treated with 30 mg Pycnogenol or placebo twice daily over a period of three months. Menopausal symptoms were evaluated by the Women’s Health Questionnaire (WHQ) and by the Kupperman index, accompanied by an investigation of sex hormones and routine blood chemistry.

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The authors reported that seven women dropped out of each group due to noncompliance or personal reasons; however, not as a result of treatment. They found a significant placebo effect, which resulted in an improvement of a majority of the WHQ categories. (A placebo effect is symptom reduction based on the patient’s belief that the medication will benefit them. The investigators found that, compared to baseline, Pycnogenol significantly improved all symptoms with the exception of formication sensation and abnormal perceptions. (Formication sensation is the feeling that something is crawling on one’s skin. Abnormal perceptions are abnormal thought processes.) Pycnogenol was found to be especially effective for improving vasomotor (hot flashes) and insomnia/sleep problem symptoms, which were significantly better after four and 12 weeks than with placebo. Compared to the placebo group, the total Kupperman’s index for perimenopausal symptom severity score decreased significantly by 56% in the treatment group after 12 weeks of treatment. The symptom score was also significantly better already after four weeks of treatment with Pycnogenol as compared to placebo.

The researchers concluded that the ingestion of a relatively low daily dose of Pycnogenol can provide significant relief of menopausal symptoms.

Take home message:
Pycnogenol is a safe product with no known significant adverse effects and is widely available in the United States. Thus, if you suffer from menopausal symptoms, it is well worth a personal trial.

Pycnogenol is used for a variety of conditions including circulation problems, allergies, asthma, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hypertension, muscle, pain, osteoarthritis, diabetes, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), endometriosis, menstrual cramps, erectile dysfunction (ED), retinopathy (an eye disease). Some take Pycnogenol in the belief that it can reduce the risk of a stroke, heart disease, and clots in the veins.

Reference: Journal of Reproductive Medicine