Pycnogenol reduces need for hypertension drugs

Published in January’s issue of Life Sciences (74(7):855-62), the double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that 58 participants with high blood pressure medication were able to cut their dosage of prescribed medication in half when they supplemented with the French maritime pine tree bark extract Pycnogenol. High blood pressure patients can significantly reduce their prescription medication by taking an antioxidant supplement to improve heart health, show the results of a new clinical study.

About two thirds of strokes and half the incidence of heart disease are attributable to sub-optimal blood pressure (systolic blood pressure greater than 115 mmHg), according to the World Health Organisation. Worldwide, high blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.1 million deaths, about 13 per cent of the total and about 4.4 per cent of the total chronic disease burden. There are, by a conservative estimate, at least 600 million hypertension sufferers.

Research has previously suggested that antioxidants can both reduce inflammation and fight free radicals that may damage heart health. Studies on Pycnogenol, the brand name of a natural plant extract from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France, have associated its combination of procyanidins and bioflavonoids, with numerous heart health benefits, including lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, a reduction in platelet activity, relaxed artery constriction and improvements in circulation.

The new research at the Chinese Medical Science Research Institute in Beijing found that supplementation with 100mg Pycnogenol over a period of 12 weeks helped to reduce patients’ dose of the calcium antagonist nifedipine in a statistically significant manner, said the researchers.

Both groups experienced mild gastrointestinal problems, vertigo, headache and nausea but these were not greater in the Pycnogenol group.

“Taking into account its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation and its diverse anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory actions, we suggest that French maritime pine tree bark extract offers a broad spectrum of protection for the patient with high blood pressure,” said Peter Rohdewald from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Munster, one of the authors of this study.

The extract been widely studied for the past 35 years and is available in over 140 dietary supplements, multivitamins and health products worldwide. It is made by Horphag Research.