Pine bark extract may ease menstrual pains: study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pine bark Menstrual cycle Menstruation

An extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree may
reduce the pain associated with menstruation, suggests a new study
from Japan.

Over 100 women with dysmenorrhea, which causes extremely painful menstrual periods affecting millions of women each year, took part in the study, published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine .

According to study, performed at four Japanese hospitals, the benefits were attributed to the analgesic effects of the pine bark extract, and persisted even after supplementation was stopped.

"Dysmenorrheal pain is thought to be caused by elevated levels of inflammation and characterized by menstrual cramping pain, which may reach incapacitating severity," said lead author, Nobutaka Suzuki "Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like aspirin or ibuprofen provide temporary help against menstrual pain.

Unfortunately, they are generally ineffective for resolving spasmodic events and commonly cause side effects, particularly gastric problems."

Moeover, there are concerns over the potential adverse effects of NSAID use, with some being linked to gastrointestinal toxicity, increased blood pressure, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Suzuki and colleagues recruited 116 women aged between 18 and 48 and studied them over the course of five menstrual cycles - the first two cycles served as the control period, while for the second two cycles the women were randomly assigned to receive either a daily supplement of pine bark extract (Pycnogenol, 60 mg per day) or placebo in capsule form.

The final cycle was used to evaluate any potential prolongation of the supplementation.

Both women with low menstrual pain and women with dysmenorrhea took part in the study and both were assigned to Pycnogenol and placebo groups.

No limitation on the use of NSAID was made by the researchers, but women were required to note their use.

At the end of the study, Suzuki and co-workers found that, while women in the low pain group showed no benefits from pine bark supplementation, women with dysmenorrhea did significantly benefit.

In addition to a reduction in the use of NSAIDs, a reduction in the number of painful days due to dysmenorrhea from 2.1 days before supplementation to 1.3 days during the third and fourth menstrual cycle.

Furthermore, when the supplementation was stopped the pain did not return immediately for women with dysmenorrhea.

"The analgesic-sparing effect of Pycnogenol increases with duration of supplementation and benefits persist even after discontinuation," concluded the researchers.

Building science Horphag Research, manufacturers of Pycnogenol, has been very active in sponsoring and supporting studies into the potential health benefits of the pine bark extract.

The first research was conducted on the ingredient 35 years ago.

Victor Ferrari, research chief operating officer and executive vice president of Horphag Research, told NutraIngredients in October 2006 that the company ploughs $1.5m - "most of its profits" - into research each year.

Source: Journal of Reproductive Medicine May 2008, Volume 53, Pages 338-346 "French Maritime Pine Bark Extract Significantly Lowers the Requirement for Analgesic Medication in Dysmenorrhea: A Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study" Authors: N. Suzuki, K. Uebaba, T. Kohama, N. Moniwa, N. Kanayama, K. Koike

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