Category Archives: pycnogenol

allergies

Defending against allergies, hay fever, and much more!

Our immune system is supposed to protect us from harm, but sometimes it can be a little bit…overprotective. Nothing demonstrates this better than an allergy, when our immune system causes a response to defend us from something we know isn’t going to hurt us. Common allergies include pollen (hay fever), dust mites, pet fur, detergents and certain food groups. Whatever the cause, few things are as uncomfortable or as irritating as an allergy.

One product however, is standing out as the go to supplement for fighting allergies. With documented benefits, more than 200 published trials and contented users around the world, many sufferers are turning to Pycnogenol for reliable relief from allergies.

So what is Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol is a unique plant extract from the bark of the maritime pine trees (grown in sustainable French forests). Key to many of its benefits, Pycnogenol is a source of antioxidant plant compounds known as proanthrocyanadins which have been shown to help protect cells from free radical damage amongst other benefits.

What happens during allergies?

To understand how Pycnogenol can benefit, it helps to understand what happens during hay fever first. All allergies occur when the body’s immune system has an exaggerated response to foreign particles which it perceives as dangerous. Let’s take hay fever as an example. Simply put, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen counts are on the rise and specifically, the pollen season separates into three smaller seasons:

  1. Tree pollen: late March to mid-May.
  2. Grass pollen: mid-May to July.
  3. Weed pollen: end of June to September.

This is important, as individuals typically react more to a specific type of pollen. In Britain, hay fever is caused by grass pollen in around 95% of sufferers for instance.

Once in contact with the allergen (such as pollen), our mast cells (a type of white blood cell) release the hormone histamine throughout the body, triggering allergic responses involving inflammation of delicate tissues (such as the nose, mouth, airways and skin). This inflammation can make breathing difficult through constricting the airways. Histamines also encourage the membranes of the nose to produce mucus, leading to the iconic runny nose and irritated throat.

Free radical exposure (reactive molecules produced by pollution and intense exercise) can further increase the amount of histamine produced by the mast cells, so this should be addressed also.

How can Pycnogenol help?

Pycnogenol has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects that may counter many allergy symptoms such as blocked sinuses, red irritated nostrils and constricted breathing, common to most sufferers.

In one study, a significant reduction in inflammation was found in subjects consuming Pycnogenol. The proposed mechanism is that Pycnogenol controls NF-Kappa B, which is a protein complex found in our cells that sends out compounds (such as cytokines) into the body that trigger inflammation (1). The benefits of these anti-inflammatory effects can be wide reaching, and Pycnogenol has been indicated in improving rheumatoid symptoms! Pycnogenol also supports the production of nitric oxide, a compound that widens the diameter of the blood vessels, supporting a range of circulatory conditions. Just this year, a study showed that Pycnogenol may even normalise cardiovascular risk factors in perimenopausal women (4).

Various trials have shown Pycnogenol to have an anti-histamine effect, also combating the allergic response. The antioxidant compounds in Pycnogenol are able to neutralise free radicals, reducing the amount of histamine that’s initially released from the mast cells when an allergic ‘attack’ happens. Pycnogenol also increases the uptake of histamine into the storage component of the mast cells, rather than releasing them throughout the body where they would trigger inflammation (3).

In a particular lab study, this antihistamine effect was demonstrated to be more favourable than sodium cromoglycate, an antihistamine normally found in pharmaceutical hay fever medications, demonstrating Pycnogenol’s efficacy (2).

Trying it out

Pycnogenol is a well researched and unique plant extract that is proving to be a successful solution for allergy sufferers all over the world. Not only have studies shown its anti-histamine actions, but other mechanisms such as anti-inflammation associate Pycnogenol with many other health benefits. There is a range of Pycnogenol products on the market, one of which is Bio-Pycnogenol from Pharma Nord. Produced to pharmaceutical standards, Bio-Pycnogenol was developed with efficacy, absorption and scientific evidence in mind.

References
1. Grimm T, Chovanová Z, Muchová J, Sumegová K, Liptáková A, Duracková Z, Högger P. Inhibition of NF-kappaB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). Journal of inflammation (London, England). 2006 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];3. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16441890.
2. Choi Y, Yan G. Pycnogenol inhibits immunoglobulin e-mediated allergic response in mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2009 May 15 [cited 2017 Feb 8];23(12):1691–5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19441014.
3. Sharma S, Sharma S, Gulati O. Pycnogenol inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2003 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];17(1):66–9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12557250.
4. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol® – Minerva Ginecologica 2017 February;69(1):29-34 – Minerva Medica – Journals [Internet]. Minervamedica.it. 2017. Available from: http://www.minervamedica.it/en/journals/minerva-ginecologica/article.php?cod=R09Y2017N01A0029

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Pycnogenol, a pine bark extract, appears to be useful to those suffering with metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome: is a group of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.  An individual is considered to have metabolic syndrome if they have three or more of the following:

*Excess abdominal obesity (carrying weight around the stomach, as measured by waist circumference)

*High triglyceride levels (blood fats)

*Low levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)

*High blood pressure

*High blood sugar levels or type 2 diabetes

Pharma Nord Bio-PycnogenolA recent study (1) has found that a supplement made from a specific pine bark, Pycnogenol® (pronounced pic-noj-en-all), may be helpful to those suffering from metabolic syndrome.  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 bioflavonoids (bioactive plant compounds) which seem to offer natural health benefits.   The supplement has been studied intensively over the last 40 years and various health benefits are now being attributed to the pine bark extract.

In individuals with metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and high blood glucose tend to gradually impair kidney function, which can in turn affect the kidney’s ability to filter waste from the body effectively.  The study (1) found that Pycnogenol® had positive effects on the kidney in people suffering with metabolic syndrome and also had other health benefits such as effective blood pressure control, reduced blood sugar levels, and lowered Body Mass Index (BMI) due to weight loss.

The study (1) included 58 people with metabolic syndrome who had high blood pressure, all the individuals in the study also showed early signs of having kidney problems – hey all had elevated amounts of protein (albumin) in their urine.  The individuals were split into two groups.  Both groups were being treated with a medication called Ramipril to treat their high blood pressure (5mg twice daily).  Both groups were also instructed to follow a healthier lifestyle.  One group was given Pycnogenol® to take in addition to the medication.  In the group taking Pycnogenol®, 50 mg Pycnogenol® tablets were taken three times a day.  Urine, blood analysis and blood pressure were measured.

The study(1) found that taking Pycnogenol® in conjunction with Ramipril significantly further lowered blood pressure when compared to the group taking Ramipril alone. While average blood pressure in the Ramipril group was lowered to borderline-high 128.2/90.2 mmHg, the values in the group taking Pycnogenol® with Ramipril reached essentially normal values (122.2/85.3 mmHg) after six months of treatment.  Kidney function improved in both groups as judged by a significant reduction of protein detected in collected urine. With Ramipril alone, urinary protein decreased by 22% but with the addition of Pycnogenol® it decreased by 52.7%.  The group taking Pycnogenol® also had a lowered fasting blood glucose level, which was reduced from high average values to essentially healthy reference values after six months of treatment.  Only the group taking Pycnogenol® was found to have significantly lost weight after six months from average BMI 26.5 to 25.0

In a press release (2) Dr. Peter Rohdewald, a lead researcher of the study said “Kidney damage is a common problem for people with metabolic syndrome due to the large number of cardiovascular risk factors involved. Similar to hypertension [high blood pressure], there are no warning signs for suffering kidneys. Poor kidney function may further increase blood pressure, which in turn deteriorates the situation of the kidneys in a vicious circle” “The results of this study demonstrate Pycnogenol®’s ability not only to control hypertension, but also to restore kidney function in those impacted by metabolic syndrome. Surprisingly, people taking Pycnogenol® not only demonstrated lower blood glucose levels, but also significant weight loss during the six months, yielding optimistic results for managing this condition.

Dr Rohdewald also said (2)”The number of people affected by metabolic syndrome is ever increasing and kidney disease is a growing concern. Pycnogenol® cannot compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle, but certainly offers some urgently needed help. Our study suggests that essentially all major characteristics of metabolic syndrome are improved with Pycnogenol as part of a healthier lifestyle.”

This is just a preliminary, relatively small, study and further supplemental studies with Pycnogenol® for metabolic syndrome are certainly needed but it certainly shows that Pycnogenol® may offer a natural solution for individuals with metabolic syndrome, particularly for kidney protection.  There has been previous work to show that Pycnogenol®may help to reduce blood pressure, improve kidney flow and function and lower blood glucose in diebetics.  If you have any of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome it is important to talk to your doctor prior to taking any supplement, this is particularly important is you are on medication.  The flavonoids in Pycnogenol® may be responsible for the perceived health benefits but again, further work is necessary before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

(1)Stuard S et al.  2010.  Kidney function in metabolic syndrome may be improved with Pycnogenol®. Panminerva Med. 52(2 Suppl 1):27-32.

(2)Press release.  2 March 2011.  Katherine Davis.  MWW Group.  Study shows pine bark naturally improves kidney function in patients with metabolic syndrome.  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-03/mg-ssp030111.php

Written by Ani Richardson

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