Pycnogenol® Effective for Vein Disorder
October 24, 2002—An extract of pine bark (Pycnogenol®) is at least as effective as horse chestnut seed extract for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), according to a clinical trial published in Phytotherapy Research (2002;16:S1–S5).
CVI is a common condition, particularly in women, in which the large veins in the legs function poorly, allowing backflow of blood, which in turn increases pressure and fluid retention in the lower leg. CVI can lead to more serious problems, such as infection or blood clots. Conventional management of CVI includes compression stockings, elevation of the legs, and often surgery.
In this new study, 40 people with CVI were randomly assigned to be treated for four weeks with either 600 mg per day of a standardized extract of horse chestnut seed (Venostasin®) or 360 mg per day of Pycnogenol®. Each participant rated their symptoms and underwent a medical examination before and after receiving the treatment.
The people taking Venostasin® experienced no significant reduction in symptoms (such as pain, cramps, or heaviness in the legs) and no significant improvement in leg swelling. Those taking Pycnogenol®, however, experienced both symptomatic relief and a reduction in leg swelling.
Pycnogenol® is a patented extract from the bark of a French maritime pine tree. This extract is rich in compounds known as proanthocyanidins. These constituents are potent antioxidants, and are thought to protect the lining of blood vessels from damage. Many other commonly used herbs are high in proanthocyanidins, including grape seed extract, green tea, and cranberry. However, these herbs have not been studied as a treatment for CVI.
At least four preliminary clinical trials have shown this pine bark extract to be superior to placebo for the treatment of CVI. The results of the new study suggest that Pycnogenol® is also more effective than horse chestnut seed extract, an established herbal remedy for this condition. However, it may be premature to conclude that Pycnogenol® is the preferred treatment for CVI. The superiority of Pycnogenol® in this study was attributable to the fact that participants taking horse chestnut seen extract did not experience much improvement. It is difficult to explain why the results with horse chestnut seed extract were negative in this study, since it has been found to be effective in several other clinical trials. There was some evidence that the disease severity of the two treatment groups was not well matched.
While it is still not clear which of these two treatments is more effective, there is a dramatic difference in the costs. The amount of Pycnogenol® used in this study would retail for roughly $135 per month, whereas a one-month supply the horse chestnut standardized extract would cost less than $25.
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Matt Brignall, ND is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Bastyr University. He works at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, where he specializes in complementary medicine approaches to cancer. He has been published in several journals, including Alternative Medicine Review, Coping With Cancer, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Brignall also teaches clinical nutrition at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. He is a regular contributor to Healthnotes, Healthnotes Newswire, and the Healthnotes Quick!Reference series.
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