Pine Bark Naturally Reduces Osteoarthritis
More than 20 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, with half a million Americans having a total joint replacement each year. A new study to be published in the April 2008 edition (Volume 22, issue No 4) of the journal of Phytotherapy Research shows Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, was shown to reduce all osteoarthritis symptoms by 56 percent. The study revealed a particularly high efficacy of Pycnogenol for lowering joint pain by 55 percent. Moreover, patients required dramatically less standard pain medication (-58 percent), which greatly improved the gastrointestinal complications resulting from the pain medication by 63 percent.
"Pycnogenol seemed a natural fit for this study," said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, a lead researcher of the study. "There are a few main components contributing to the clinical picture of treatment management in osteoarthritis: inflammation causing a progression in the disease, alteration of fatigue resistance and muscular performance -- reversing and blocking the vascular problems associated to altered mobility. Theoretically, a treatment with a compound specifically active on all those aspects could be highly effective, which is why we chose Pycnogenol."
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, held at Italy's Chieti-Pescara University, sampled 156 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee (OA). Patients were administered 100 mg Pycnogenol or placebo, daily for three months. Symptoms were evaluated by WOMAC index scores and mobility by recording their walking performance on a treadmill. Patients were permitted to continue taking their choice of pain medication provided they recorded every tablet in a diary for later evaluation.
To describe and rate osteoarthritis symptoms (joint pain, stiffness and physical function), WOMAC questionnaires were evaluated by the investigator and patient at the start and after three months of treatment. Patients were trained on a treadmill test and performance evaluation was recorded on total distance that could be covered without pain. Measuring foot volume by the water-displacement method was used to evaluate ankle/foot edema in a randomly selected subgroup of subjects within the two treatment groups.
After three months, scores for pain dropped significantly for the Pycnogenol treatment group and no significant effects were recorded for the placebo group. Scores for stiffness were reduced by 53 percent. The scores for physical function were reduced by 57 percent in the Pycnogenol group and improvement under placebo was not significant. The global WOMAC score decreased following Pycnogenol treatment and very little in the placebo group, from 56 percent vs. 9.6 percent for Pycnogenol and placebo, respectively. Overall well-being of patients (emotional function) was significantly enhanced with the Pycnogenol group, by 64 percent and 15 percent for the placebo group.
Results of exercise tests on the treadmill demonstrated an increased performance after three months of Pycnogenol treatment. At the start of the study, patients could only walk a mean of 74 yards without feeling pain and after three months, they could walk 216 yards, compared to the placebo group that noted 71 yards at the beginning of the study and 96 yards at the end.
In addition to the osteoarthritis results, 76 percent of the patients in the Pycnogenol group and 79 percent in the placebo group showed visible ankle and foot edema at inclusion of the study. After the three months, edema decreased in 79 percent of the Pycnogenol patients and only one percent in placebo-treated patients.
Patients were allowed to use their regular dosage of NSAIDS. Usage dropped by 58 percent during treatment with Pycnogenol and one percent with the placebo. Evaluation of data demonstrated a decrease of gastrointestinal complications of 64 percent in the Pycnogenol group versus three percent in placebo.
"The results of this study are significant as they clearly demonstrate the clinical action of Pycnogenol on OA and management of symptoms. The use of Pycnogenol many reduce costs and side effects of anti-inflammatory agents and offer a natural alternative solution to people suffering from OA," said Dr. Belcaro.
A previous study on osteoarthritis which was carried out at the University of Arizona Tucson (published in Nutrition Research) had discovered that Pycnogenol was effective for improving pain and joint function. After three months in the Pycnogenol group, there was a reduction of 43 percent in pain, 35 percent in stiffness, 52 percent in physical function subscales, respectively. The placebo group showed no significant scores throughout the entire study. Dr. Belcaro confirms this earlier study with a much larger number of patients and with a more detailed investigation procedure.
The benefits of Pycnogenol for arthritic joints are suggested to result predominantly from the anti-inflammatory potency of Pycnogenol which was demonstrated in a series of clinical investigations in the past. There are more breakthrough studies on Pycnogenol and osteoarthritis expected to be published next year allowing for development of innovative, natural formulas for joint health. Additionally, Horphag Research, the exclusive worldwide distributor of Pycnogenol has filed for several patents for Pycnogenol's application for COX-1, COX-2 and treating osteoarthritis.
"The new research in the field of osteoarthritis has been a paradigm shift for Pycnogenol. We were able to demonstrate Pycnogenol's impact on all inflammatory parameters and have succeeded in providing strong clinical evidence of Pycnogenol efficacy in this field. It is obvious that Pycnogenol will have to be considered as an innovative ingredient of choice for the joint health market," said Victor Ferrari, CEO of Horphag Research, the exclusive worldwide supplier of Pycnogenol.