Vitamin C, zinc and pine bark extract show common cold benefits: Study


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Vitamin C, zinc and pine bark extract show common cold benefits: Study

Related tags Common cold

A combination supplement containing zinc, vitamin C and Pycnogenol, an extract from French Maritime Pine bark, may be effective in shortening duration of the common cold and lessening the seven ‘pillar’ symptoms, including runny nose, nasal obstruction, sore throat, sneezing, high temperature, cough and general discomfort.

Taking the combination supplement was associated with 3.1 days with perceived cold and a runny nose, compared with an average of 4.12 days in the control groups, report Italian researchers in the journal Otorinolaringologia​.

“The results of the study demonstrate the effects of a supplement plan using Pycnogenol alone or in association with other supplements to reduce the symptoms and severity of the common cold,” ​said Dr Gianni Belcaro, lead researcher of the study.


Pycnogenol – a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids extracted from the bark of the maritime pine – is included in more than 700 dietary supplements, cosmetic products and functional foods and beverages worldwide.

The ingredient has been the subject of scores of clinical studies suggesting benefits covering everything from cardiovascular, joint, cognitive and eye health to the relief of hay fever, PMS, tinnitus, hemorrhoidal pain and menopause symptoms.

The potential benefits from zinc toward the common cold are supported by numerous studies, and a review from the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration​ concurred that after seven days, more patients taking zinc had cleared their symptoms compared to placebo.

A Cochrane Review of vitamin C​, however, was less supportive of the vitamin’s ability to influence the symptoms or duration of the common cold for the general population. On the other hand, data from five trials with 598 marathon runners, skiers and soldiers on subarctic exercises indicated that the risk of common cold was reduced by 52% for vitamin C supplements of 0.2 g per day or more.

By combining the three ingredients, consumers may benefit in terms of fewer days with perceived common cold symptoms and fewer lost working days, report the Italian researchers.

Study details

Dr Belcaro and his co-workers conducted a two phase study: The first phase followed 73 healthy volunteers with no history of serious illness. At the first sign of a cold, 40 subjects in this group supplemented with 50 mg of Pycnogenol two times daily while 33 patients only used OTC treatment.

Results of this phase indicated that Pycnogenol alone produced statistically significant effects, particularly for the duration of the cold, which resulted in a decrease of lost working days and a decrease of the need to use OTC treatment.

The second phase followed 196 patients with colds, which were divided into three groups and given the three separate variations of supplementation for 5 days or more: The first group received 100 mg per day of Pycnogenol plus 200 mg of vitamin C; the second group received Pycnogenol plus 30 mg per day of gluconate zinc; and the third group received a combination of all three.

Results from this study indicated that the pine bark extract and vitamin C combination performed better, and had synergistic effect, to aid in faster recovery from the common cold, said the researchers.

The trio supplement showed the most success in significantly shortening the duration of symptoms to four days, they added, as compared to the average of seven days. The other three variations also out-performed the control group in daily regression of the pillar cold symptoms.

“Even if an improvement in signs and symptoms of just 1 day were achieved for millions of people, the reduction in cost would be very important,” ​wrote Dr Belcaro and his co-workers. “Pycnogenol may be an important option in these patients, alone or in combination.”

Commenting on the studies, New York-based practitioner in health and nutritional medicine Dr Fred Pescatore said: “The common cold affects the average adult two to five times each year, which can have a major effect on work and home life.

“This research shows that Pycnogenol, taken in conjunction with Vitamin C and Zinc, can help to shorten the duration of a cold and reduce some of its main symptoms, which makes this natural supplement valuable for the recovery process and for controlling cold-related costs and missed work days.”

Source: Otorinolaringologia
Volume 63, Number 3, Pages 151-161, doi:
“The common cold winter study: effects of Pycnogenol on signs, symptoms, complications and costs”
Authors: G. Belcaro, R. Luzzi, U. Cornelli, et al.

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