A natural extract from the bark of a French pine tree has been shown to improve menopause symptoms, from hot flashes and bloating to digestive problems and even irregular heartbeat.
New research, published in the journal Panminerva Medica, found menopausal women who took a supplement containing Pycnogenol -- an antioxidant plant extract derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree – reported significant improvements in their signs and symptoms.
The clinical trial was conducted at Pescara University and involved 70 perimenopausal women, aged 40-50 years. Participants were given either a placebo or 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol per day for eight weeks.
Researchers then compared participants' ratings of their menopausal symptoms based on a scoring system involving 33 common signs and symptoms.
The study found:
• Patients taking the supplement reported substantial improvements in symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, loss of libido and vaginal dryness;
• Pycnogenol effectively decreased the severity of hot flashes and bloating, but improved irregular heart beat and digestive problems; and
• Menopausal symptoms categorized under "pain" improved significantly with the group taking Pycnogenol.
"As evidenced by this study, Pycnogenol may arguably represent a very effective basic, daily dietary supplement for menopausal women due to its extended range of health benefits, including cardiovascular benefits and Pycnogenol's proven ability to lower blood pressure," said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, the lead researcher from Pescara University, Italy.
Pycnogenol, found in the bark of a pine tree that grows along the coast of southwest France, contains a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids that some believe offer health benefits.
The extract has been widely studied for the past 40 years and is available in more than 700 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products worldwide.
As much as half the female population experiences menopausal symptoms for as much as a third of their lifetime.