A recent study published in International Immunopharmacology, reveals why Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, is effective for reducing inflammation and soothing pain associated with various health problems. Dr. Raffaella Canali of the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition in Rome, Italy, found that Pycnogenol inhibits the generation of COX-2 and 5-LOX, two naturally occurring enzymes associated with a host of inflammatory conditions.
“This study reveals that Pycnogenol can actually decrease pain and reduce inflammatory conditions, as has been previously reported, by shutting down the production of specific enzymes involved with inflammation,” said Dr. Canali.
Inflammation is a tightly controlled, concerted action of immune cells fighting infections, irritations and injuries. When inflammation goes out of control it may target the body’s own tissue such as in arthritis or asthma. The worst known cases are the auto-immune diseases.
The study investigated healthy volunteers ranging from ages 35-50, who consumed Pycnogenol tablets (150 mg) for five consecutive days in the morning before breakfast. Blood was drawn before and after supplementation to investigate how immune cells respond towards pro-inflammatory stimuli. The behavior of specific white blood cells (leukocytes) for generating a repertoire of enzymes in inflammatory condition was tested by real-time PCR. The gene expression of enzymes COX-2, 5-LOX, FLAP and COX-1 were monitored and the products these enzymes generate, prostaglandins and leukotrienes, were quantified.
A baseline study revealed that the volunteers’ immune cells rapidly initiated production of COX-2, 5-LOX and FLAP enzymes upon pro-inflammatory stimulation. Taking Pycnogenol almost entirely subdued COX-2, 5-LOX and FLAP induction in the immune cells of volunteers. Control studies showed that Pycnogenol did not have an effect on generation of the COX-1 enzyme, thus the potential for typical NSAID side effects is defied. While Pycnogenol is not a COX-2-specific inhibitor; it blocks the COX-2 enzyme production during inflammation only. There are COX-2 enzymes not involved in inflammation in other organs such as the kidneys, where it has important physiologic functions.
“Standard NSAID medications reduce the production of prostaglandins by COX enzymes for lowering the pain,” explains Dr. Canali. “In contrast, Pycnogenol turns to the root of the problem, completely stopping the production of COX-2 in inflammation. Thus far, Pycnogenol seems to be a unique tool for modulating inflammatory processes.”
These pharmacologic findings are consistent with past clinical trials of Pycnogenol that showed significantly lowered leukotriene levels in asthmatic patients, a condition originating from 5-LOX. Three recent clinical trials also showed pain relief and a reduced need for pain medication in arthritis patients after taking Pycnogenol, results that are linked to COX-2 inhibition. One arthritis study showed a significant reduction of inflammatory marker C-reactive protein. Pycnogenol has been shown to inhibit inflammation in several dysmenorrhoea studies and also a reduction in skin inflammation related to sunburn and acne.
[Megan Armand @ MWW Group]