Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Pine-bark extract may ease menopause pains

REUTERS , NEW YORK

Pine-bark extract may offer an alternative to hormone therapy for women who suffer hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, a new study says.

Researchers found that an extract of pine-tree bark -- sold under the brand-name Pycnogenol -- seemed to ease the symptoms of women starting menopause. Fatigue, headache, vaginal dryness and menstrual problems were among the most common symptoms cited by the study.

However, all symptoms tended to improve after six months of Pycnogenol treatment, said the study's authors, led by Yang Han-ming (楊漢銘) of Ham-Ming Hospital.

The complete findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In contrast, women who took placebo capsules generally showed no change, or sometimes worsening symptoms, the researchers said.

Pycnogenol is an extract of the bark of the French maritime pine tree (Pinus pinaster), which contains a high concentration of antioxidant compounds that help prevent cell damage.

Research also suggests that the extract acts as an anti-inflammatory and may improve blood flow by enhancing blood vessel dilation. Yang's team believed that these attributes might be key to easing the common symptoms of menopause.

To prove their thesis, they recruited 155 women between the ages of 45 and 55. Roughly half were randomly assigned to take 100mg of Pycnogenol, twice a day for six months; the rest took placebo capsules.

The Pycnogenol capsules were supplied by the product manufacturer, Switzerland-based Horphag Research.

Participants in the study completed questionnaires on their symptoms at the outset, then again three and six months later. Overall, Yang's team found, women in the Pycnogenol group reported improvements in symptoms ranging from hot flashes and sexual dysfunction to fatigue and depression.

In addition, blood tests showed that the women's antioxidant levels increased while their cholesterol levels improved slightly.

The findings are "encouraging," the researchers said, especially as many women suffering from menopausal symptoms want an alternative to hormone replacement therapy, which is linked with heart risks.

Pycnogenol may offer such an alternative, they said.

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