Pine bark extract may ease hayfever symptoms: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Immune system

Daily supplements of an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine may ease symptoms of hay fever, says a new study.

Seven weeks of supplementation with the branded ingredient Pycnogenol also reduced the level of non-prescription antihistamine medication use to only 12.5 per cent. Fifty per cent of participants in the placebo group required the antihistamines.

Hayfever is an allergic reaction to pollen or fungal spores, most commonly grass pollen. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, about 60 million people in the U.S. are affected by allergic rhinitis.

The immune system mistakes the spores for harmful invaders and white blood cells - T-helper type 2 (Th2) lymphocytes - produce protein-like cytokines, such as interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5 and IL-6, which in turn promote the synthesis of the immune chemicals immunoglobulins (Ig) to bind to the pollen and fight them off.

The researchers looked at levels of birch pollen specific IgE in 60 people with birch-related hayfever. Participants were assigned to receive the pine bark extract supplement (100 mg per day of Pychnogenol) or placebo throughout the allergy season.

Results showed that IgE levels increased by 32 per cent in the placebo group, compared with only 19 per cent in the pine bark extract group.

“The present study demonstrated that Pycnogenol decreases nasal and ocular symptoms in allergic rhinitis patients,” ​wrote the researchers, led by KGK Synergize’s Dale Wilson. “It is possible to suggest that Pycnogenol may represent a new and promising therapeutic modality for subjects with allergic rhinitis.”

Study details

Wilson and his colleagues recruited hay fever sufferers between the ages of 18 and 65 in Ontario, Canada. Participants began receiving the pine bark extract or the placebo three to eight weeks before the start of birch allergy season.

Results of the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that a ‘lag-time’ of at least five weeks was required before exposure to pollen for Pycnogenol to impact hay-fever symptoms.

“Our findings suggest that taking Pycnogenol in a timely manner does substantially contribute to better symptom relief,”​ stated the researchers. “Unfortunately, the small cohort of eight best responding subjects, those who took Pycnogenol 7 to 8 weeks prior to birch pollen exposure was too small to provide statistical relevance.

“As a further variable, a higher Pycnogenol dosage, such as applied in previous asthma studies should be expected to contribute to more pronounced rhinitis symptoms relief. Based on the positive results of this study it is likely that a higher sample size would provide significance between the Pycnogenol and the placebo group,”​ they added.

The researchers were affiliated with KGK Synergize and Horphag Research, the company behind the Pycnogenol ingredient.

Source: Phytotherapy Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1002/ptr.3232
“A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled exploratory study to evaluate the potential of Pycnogenol for improving allergic rhinitis symptoms”
Authors: D. Wilson, M. Evans, N. Guthrie, P. Sharma, J. Baisley, F. Schonlau, C. Burki

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