Pycnogenol relieves restless leg symptoms in study

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Andrey Popov
©Getty Images - Andrey Popov

Related tags Pine bark extract Pycnogenol Antioxidant Antioxidant activity Oxidative stress Blood flow

A new study suggests that Pycnogenol, the branded French maritime pine bark extract, can ameliorate symptoms associated with Restless Leg Syndrome.

The new research was published in the journal Panminerva Medica​.  it is the work of a team of researchers from a university and research institutes in Pescara, Italy.

RLS affects surprisingly large numbers of people

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a condition in which uncomfortable sensations in the legs can lead to an urge to movement, which temporarily relieves the symptoms.  It can lead to significant sleep disruptions.  Standard pharmaceutical interventions include drugs that boost dopamine in the brain, those that affect calcium channels, muscle relaxers and opiods.

A 2011 study pegged the prevalence of this condition at between 4% and 29% of the populations of industrialized countries.  The authors of the present study quoted the prevalence at 10% of the US population.

No root cause for RLS has been identified.  But insufficient blood flow has been thought to be one of the associated factors.

Anti inflammatory, blood flow boosting properties

Pycnogenol, which is manufactured by Swiss company Horphag Research, has been studied for a host of conditions over the past four decades. Its anti inflammatory and blood flow boosting properties seemed to make it a candidate for a natural intervention for RLS. 

To test that hypothesis the researchers recruited 45 patients suffering from RLS who were otherwise healthy. All subjects were at a health weight (BMI of 26 or less), averaged about 44 years old, with slightly more men than women included in the observational study.

The subjects were divided into two groups, with the control group being slightly larger (24, versus 21 in the Pycnogenol group).  The study was not blinded or placebo controlled.  The Pycnogenol group received 150 mg of Pycnogenol a day in capsule form for the duration of the 4-week study.  The experiment group also participated in the so-called ‘standard management’ plan which included, regular rest (8 hours of sleep/day) and mild exercise (20 min, 4 times/week), a vitamin C, niacin and B vitamins supplement(600 mg/day, produced by rda Vit, italy).  Limited intake of caffeine, salt and spicy food was also suggested. 

Subjective symptom measures

The study’s endpoints included a number of potentially subjective measures, such as sensations of ‘creeping,’ ‘crawling’ and ‘pulling.’  The researchers also assessed the subjects’ quality of sleep.

The results showed improvement on all measures of RLS symptoms in the Pycnogenol group. In addition, the Pycnogenol group showed improved blood flow as measured in a vein in the foot.  Venous insufficiency is reported in as many as 22% of RLS sufferers, the researchers said.

“In conclusion, Pycnogenol® prevents or relieves most symptoms associated with restless leg syndrome and significantly improves the venoarteriolar response,”​ they  concluded.

Source​: Panminerva Medica
DOI: 10.23736/S0031-0808.20.04046-X
Restless legs syndrome: prevention with Pycnogenol and improvement of the venoarteriolar response
Authors: Belcaro G, et al.

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