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Health News Archive 190 - Arthritis Pain
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Pine Tree Bark Reduces Arthritis Pain by Inhibiting COX-II

Geneva, Switzerland 02/03/2006 -- A study published last month demonstrates the natural pain reduction properties of pine bark extract for COX inhibition. Patients who supplemented with pine tree bark extract known as Pycnogenol® demonstrated a decrease in pain and inflammation by lowering cyclooxygenase activity, also known as COX-1 and COX-2. The study was published in the January 2006 issue of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

The clinical study conducted at the University of Würzburg in Germany investigated the inhibitory effects of pine tree bark involved in the development of pain associated with arthritis. Two groups of patients were supplemented with Pycnogenol after an initial basal blood sample. The first group consisting of five patients supplemented with 200 mg of pine tree bark for five days where another blood sample was taken. The patients' blood samples revealed direct inhibitory effect on cyclooxygenase activity. Inhibition of COX-1 was apparent in three of five study participants. A second group of 10 patients supplemented with a one-time dose of 300 mg Pycnogenol to determine how quickly the effect was measurable. Only 30 minutes after ingestion of the pine tree bark, blood samples indicated a statistically significant increase in the inhibitory effects of both COX-1 and COX-2.

"This study suggests that Pycnogenol supplementation inhibits the enzymes involved in the development of pain associated with arthritis," said Petra Högger Ph.D., the lead author of the study. "When we established the study protocol, we did not expect to see any COX inhibition with pine tree bark extract. We were excited by these initial results and believe the next challenge is to identify the active principles responsible for the rapid bioavailability."

COX enzymes generate the hormone like substance prostaglandins, which are necessary for proper function of numerous physiologic processes in the body. In contrast, they also are involved in many pathological processes including inflammation and pain disorders, as well as heart and kidney problems. COX-1 is present in almost all body tissues in varying quantities. COX-2 can be produced in significantly higher quantities by certain cell types, particularly during inflammation.

It may be tempting to assign all "bad" functions exclusively to COX-2 due to its involvement in inflammation and the "good" role to COX-1. However, COX-1 also plays a role in inflammation and COX-2 is important for the regulation of various cardiovascular functions. Over simplification of these facts is what led to the recent withdrawal of popular prescription COX-2 inhibitors like Vioxx (rofecoxib) due to their serious cardiovascular side effects.

"These study results support earlier study data on how Pycnogenol helps reduce pain associated with inflammation," said Dr. Högger. "Pycnogenol nonselectively lowers the activities of both COX enzymes to alleviate the inflammatory process. Pycnogenol does not selectively block one of the COX enzymes thereby disabling their respective physiologic functions in the body like other prescription and over-the-counter pain medications including aspirin and Vioxx."

According to Dr. Högger, the single-dose patient group demonstrated how quickly Pycnogenol induced measurable effects of COX inhibition. These results indicate the strikingly rapid bioavailability and bioeffectiveness of Pycnogenol.

According to a separate study to be released later this year, results showed Pycnogenol reduced symptoms of knee osteoarthritis (OA). The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 35 OA patients who supplemented for 60-90 days with Pycnogenol demonstrated significantly reduced self-reported pain, stiffness and increased physical function compared to placebo treated patients. Placebo group patients increased non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use and used them on more days during the treatment period than patients who supplemented with Pycnogenol. The anti-inflammatory and tissue protective activity of Pycnogenol could explain reduced symptoms of OA despite less NSAID and other drug use. Study results showed supplementation with Pycnogenol offers a promising alternative therapy for relieving OA symptoms of pain and stiffness.

Pycnogenol® is a natural plant extract originating from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France and is found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, which offer extensive natural health benefits. The extract has been widely studied for the past 35 years and has more than 220 published studies and review articles ensuring safety and efficacy as an ingredient.


Schafer A, Chovanova Z, Muchova J, Sumegova K, Liptakova A, Durachova Z, Hogger P. "Inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2 activity by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol)." Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy.

Farid R, Mirteizi A, Mirheidari M, et al. "Pycnogenol Reduces Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis." Publication pending.

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