Pycnogenol as Natural Pain Relief for Osteoarthritis

Pycnogenol may be an effective alternative treatment for osteoarthritis

A maritime pine tree on the island of Corsica.
A maritime pine tree on the island of Corsica. DEA/DIEGO M.ROSSI/Getty Images

Pycnogenol is an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of a French maritime pine tree. The tree grows exclusively along the coast of southwest France in Les Landes de Gascogne. Pycnogenol has been found to contain procyanidins, bioflavonoids, and organic acids -- all of which enhance good health naturally.

Pycnogenol has been studied for the past 35 years, and there are more than 220 published studies and review articles that conclude it is safe and effective. It is available in more than 600 dietary supplements, vitamins, and other health products.

In the United States, there has been some confusion about pycnogenol. Some grape seed extract products and other unregulated nutraceuticals were labeled and marketed in the United States as containing "pycnogenols." While the brand name, patented product Pycnogenol and grapeseed extracts contain some similarity in chemical composition, the two products are not identical. The information we are reporting only applies to the brand name product Pycnogenol.

Pycnogenol and Osteoarthritis

Pycnogenol has been shown to reduce all osteoarthritis symptoms by 56%. A study published in the April 2008 issue of the journal Phytotherapy Research describes the effectiveness of Pycnogenol. It is encouraging for those patients who prefer natural treatments.

Study Specifics

One hundred fifty-six patients with knee osteoarthritis were involved in the study, which took place at Chieti-Pescara University in Italy. The patients were given 100 mg of Pycnogenol or placebo daily for 3 months.

After 3 months, the pain levels of those in the Pycnogenol group were significantly lower; no significant findings occurred in the placebo group. Scores related to stiffness were reduced by 53% and physical function scores were reduced by 57% in the Pycnogenol group. Overall well-being (emotion) scores improved by 64% for those who took Pycnogenol and 15% for the placebo group.

Results of exercise tests performed on a treadmill demonstrated better performance after 3 months on Pycnogenol. After 3 months of being treated, patients could walk 216 yards (142 more yards than they could walk before the study began).

Another striking result -- initially patients showed signs of foot and ankle edema. After 3 months of Pycnogenol, edema decreased 79% but only decreased 1% in the placebo group.

While patients were allowed to continue taking their usual dosage of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), usage of NSAIDs dropped by 58% during Pycnogenol treatment versus only 1% with placebo. This also correlated with a 64% drop in gastrointestinal complications in the Pycnogenol group.

Why Does Pycnogenol Work?

Researchers believe it is effective against arthritis because it has anti-inflammatory properties. More studies are expected based on the positive results that have been revealed so far.

Interested in Taking Pycnogenol?

Remember, you should not take any supplements without first discussing the idea with your doctor. In addition to seeking a medical professional's advice about Pycnogenol, you should also take time to learn about potential drug interactions and warnings associated with the supplement yourself. Not all physicians may be aware of the intricacies of every supplement.

Warnings About Pycnogenol

Don't disregard warnings associated with Pycnogenol. Bring the warnings to your doctor's attention so an informed decision can be made about using it in your particular case.

Here's what you and your doctor must consider before taking this supplement. It should be used with caution in patients who:

  • Have diabetes or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Take cholesterol-lowering medications
  • Have a history of bleeding or clotting disorders
  • Take anticoagulant medications, including Coumadin, aspirin, NSAIDs, or anti-platelet medications
  • Take blood pressure medications
  • Taking medications to stimulate or suppress the immune system
  • Have known allergies to plants

Pycnogenol should also be discontinued at least 14 days prior to dental or surgical procedures. As a general precaution, pregnant women should not take it within the first 3 months of pregnancy. Also, children under the age of 6 should not take it.

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Article Sources

  • Pycnogenol (Pinus pinaster): Natural Drug Information. UpToDate. 
  • Treatment of osteoarthritis with Pycnogenol. The SVOS (San Valentino osteo-arthrosis study). Evaluation of signs, symptoms, physical performance and vascular aspects. April 2008. Phytotherapy Research.