A daily supplement of the pine bark extract, Pycnogenol, for seven days reduced pain around the anus from an initial average of 3.2 points on a four-point pain scale to about 0.8 at the end of the study, according to findings published in Phytotherapy Research.
Considering that over 50 per cent of the population will suffer from haemorrhoids at some point in their lives, the potential of the French maritime pine bark extract to ease the condition would indicate a major market opportunity.
“This study clearly indicates that Pycnogenol is an effective, natural solution in controlling this common, disabling problem and may contribute to relieve haemorrhoidal attacks and offer pain relief,” said lead researcher Professor Peter Rohdewald from the University of Munster in Germany.
"Individuals never affected by haemorrhoids cannot imagine what people go through. Haemorrhoids can affect every aspect of your daily routine; it represents a tragedy most people don't realize. Our study suggests that Pycnogenol may help with all major symptoms,” he added.
Prof Rohdewald said that further studies are in progress with the focus on preventing new attacks and the general management of haemorrhoids.
In collaboration with Italian scientists from G D’Annunzio University, the researchers recruited 84 people suffering from external hemorrhoids to participate in their randomized, controlled, comparative study.
Subjects were divided into three groups: Group 1 received a daily oral dose of 300 mg of the pine bark extract for four days, followed by 150 mg a day another three days; Group 2 received the same oral doses as Group 1, plus a topical cream containing 0.5 per cent Pycnogenol; and Group 3 received a placebo.
Improvements in both groups 1 and 2 were observed at the end of the study. No haemorrhoidal bleedings was observed in the two Pycnogenol groups after seven days, said the researchers. Bleeding was still observed in the placebo group, they added.
In addition to the decreases in peri-anal pain in group 1, group 2 participants reported a decrease from an initial score of 3.3 out of four to 0.3 at the end of the study. The placebo group reported a decrease from 3.4 to 1.2.
Finally, a decrease in the number of lost working days was recorded by the subjects, while there was also a reduction in the recurrence of complications and overall costs in both groups receiving the pine bark extract.
Commenting on the possible mechanism, the researchers noted that the flavonoid profile of the pine bark extract may be behind the effects. “Unlike other flavonoid species, Pycnogenol significantly improves endothelial function which could contribute to the decreased ischemia (inadequate blood supply) and intravascular thrombus (clotting) found in our study,” they stated.
The study was funded by Horphag Research, manufacturers of Pycnogenol. The company 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.
Source: Phytotherapy Research
Published online ahead of print, Early View article, doi:
“Pycnogenol treatment of acute hemorrhoidal episodes”
Authors: G. Belcaro, M.R. Cesarone, B. Errichi, A. Di Renzo, M.G. Grossi, A. Ricci, M. Dugall, U. Cornelli, M. Cacchio, P. Rohdewald