Daily supplements of extracts from the bark of French Maritime Pine may help reduce the symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats, says a new study.
Twelve weeks of supplementation with Pycnogenol® were associated with significant reductions in scores of menopause symptoms, as measured by the Women’s Health Questionnaire (WHQ) and the Kupperman index, according to findings published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine.
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.
“These findings leave little doubt about the benefit of Pycnogenol for women interested in controlling climacteric symptoms with a more natural approach. Our study is the first to provide evidence for the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol in perimenopausal women,” said Takafumi Kohama, lead researcher from Keiju Medical Center in Japan.
Perimenopause, the transition that women experience leading into menopause, lasts an average of four years and is marked by a number of uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, insomnia, night-time sweating, palpitations, depression, anxiety, and memory problems.
The researchers—Takafumi Kohama, MD, and Masako Negami, MD—recruited 170 perimenopausal women to participate in their randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel-group clinical trial. The women were randomly assigned to receive either daily Pycnogenol supplements (60 mg per day) or placebo for 12 weeks.
Results showed that there were no statistically significant differences between the groups for estradiol, follicle stimulating hormone, insulin-like growth factor, IGF binding protein 3, and dehydroepiandrosterone, which meant there were no hormonal effects of Pycnogenol, said the researchers.
A significant placebo effect was observed, said the researchers. Compared to baseline values, the Pycnogenol group exhibited significant improvements in all symptoms with the exception of formication [crawling skin] sensation and abnormal perceptions. The pine bark extract was also found to be especially effective for improving vasomotor and sleep problems/insomnia symptoms.
According to the study, the total symptom improvement using the Kupperman index, which is said to represent the most commonly utilized questionnaire in Japan, was statistically significant versus the placebo group.
“This study, applying a relatively low daily dose, allows identification of those climacteric symptoms which respond particularly well to supplementation with Pycnogenol,” concluded the researchers.
The study was run independently and was not affiliated with Horphag, the company behind Pycnogenol.
The Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2013 (58): 39-46