Daily supplements of the French Maritime Pine bark extract Pycnogenol may improve symptoms of asthma, according to results of a clinical trial.
Italian researchers report that daily supplements of the pine bark extract may help asthma patients reduce inhaler dosage, sleep awakenings and doctor visits.
Writing in the PubMed-listed Panminerva Medica, researchers from the University of Pescara, Italy, report that daily supplements of Pycnogenol allowed for lowering the daily required inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) dosage in 55% of participants.
Only 6% of people in the control were able to control their asthma with a lower steroid dosage, while 19% had to switch to a higher regimen to control their asthma.
"This study gives promising news to asthma patients seeking natural ways to complement their medication in order to better control their asthma symptoms, and confirms that Pycnogenol offers a natural solution that is not only effective but also safe," said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, the study's lead researcher.
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, hermorrhoidal pain and menopause symptoms.
The new study involved 76 people with mild to moderate allergic asthma to dust mites. The participants were randomly divided into one of two groups: The first group recieved 100 mg of Pycnogenol per day in addition to sustaining their use of ICS, while the other group continued their use of ICS without additional supplementation.
After six months of intervention, the researchers observed that the use of a salbutamol rescue inhaler was required, on average, every fifth day in the Pycnogenol group, whereas such inhalers were required, on average, every second day in the control group.
In addition, the pine bark group reported fewer night awakenings caused by asthma symptoms to only half the frequency as before, while no significant change was found for the control group, said the researchers.
The pine bark extract was also associated with a decreased frequency of consultation with a general practitioner or specialist by asthma patients.
"The outcome does indeed point to the possibility to allow asthmatic patients to moderately reduce their daily inhaled fluticasone [corticosteroid] dose," wrote Dr. Belcaro and his co-workers.
"The decrease of typical asthma symptoms with coughing, wheezing, dyspnea and night-time awakenings suggests that Pycnogenol may contribute to improving quality of life of patients suffering from asthma."
"Further studies are warranted to corroborate the benefits in a larger patient population, which may be necessary to create sufficient awareness and confidence in the medical community of the adjuvant virtues of Pycnogenol."
Panminerva Medica 53 (3):57-64