A clinical trial published in this month’s The Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that natural supplement Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, minimizes climacteric symptoms of menopausal women. Perimenopause, the transition that women experience leading into menopause, lasts an average of four years and is marked by a number of uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, insomnia, night-time sweating, palpitations, depression, anxiety and memory problems.
“Since climacteric symptoms vary from woman to woman and can manifest as any number of discomforts, it is often a difficult condition to effectively treat. We found that Pycnogenol can aid in relief of a number of these symptoms, which helps improve the quality of women’s life during this transitional period,” said Takafumi Kohama, lead researcher from Keiju Medical Center.
The study was conducted at Keiju Medical Center in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan and examined 170 perimenopausal women. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel-group clinical trial was conducted and participants were given either placebo capsules or 30 mg of Pycnogenol twice per day, over a period of 12 weeks.
The rationale of the study was to identify menopausal symptoms which respond particularly well to supplementation with a low dosage of Pycnogenol. Dr. Kohama and his group discovered that Pycnogenol is most effective for lowering hot flashes and nighttime sweating. Kohama explains that thermal dysregulation may relate to the inability of menopausal women to radiate off excess heat because peripheral blood vessels insufficiently expand. Pycnogenol® supports vascular relaxation, which allows the body to rid of excess body heat, subsiding the sensation of hot flashes and nighttime sweating. Dr. Kohama also emphasizes the increased general risk for cardiovascular health problems of menopausal women, which may benefit from the improved vascular function with Pycnogenol. The discovery of lowered heart palpitations in women taking Pycnogenol in this study provides further support to this point.
This study systematically investigated and compared hormonal changes of women taking Pycnogenol or placebo. Kohama and his co-workers did not find any significant changes between groups as for estradiol (E2), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), insulin-like growth factor (IGF), IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) and dehydroepiandrosterone. The evidence for non-hormonal effects of Pycnogenol may be welcomed by women who wish to soothe menopausal symptoms without using supplements containing soy, kudzu, red clover and other herbals to exert hormonal activity.
Though some women dropped out of the study, none of them left the study because of unwanted effects related to treatment.
An additional questionnaire, the Kupperman index, was given to participants to describe and score the level of discomfort related to climacteric symptoms, using values ranging from one (heavy discomfort) to four (no discomfort). Differences in baseline performance between the placebo group and Pycnogenol group were tested as well as a comparison of perimenopausal symptom scores obtained during treatment. According to the study, the total symptom improvement using the Kupperman index, which represents the most commonly utilized questionnaire in Japan, was statistically significant versus the placebo group. The study identified a number of further menopausal symptom improvements such as decreased heart palpitations which reached borderline statistical significance.
“These findings leave little doubt about the benefit of Pycnogenol for women interested in controlling climacteric symptoms with a more natural approach. Our study is the first to provide evidence for the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol in perimenopausal women,” said Kohama.
This study confirms findings from two previous studies, one of which investigated 200 menopausal women in double-blind, placebo-controlled fashion for half a year, that Pycnogenol effectively improves menopausal signs and symptoms. Furthermore, Pycnogenol’s ability to support heart health is of particular significance as menopausal women live at elevated risk for cardiovascular disease.