Barking Up the Right Tree

Pine-bark extract proves effective for hay fever relief in study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract found in pine-tree bark, significantly improves symptoms of hay fever, according to a new study.

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis), suffered by as many as 60 million Americans, is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways. It causes itching, swelling, mucus production, watery eyes, hives and rashes in a number of patients and is often mistakenly dismissed as a trivial health problem or nuisance. Hay fever can dramatically interfere with quality of life, however.

In a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 60 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 -- all of whom tested positive for birch allergy -- began pine-bark extract treatment approximately three to eight weeks before birch season began in Ontario, Canada.

Participants took either one 50 mg Pycnogenol pill or one placebo pill twice daily throughout birch season. At the end of the trial, researchers at KGK Synergize, Inc. found birch-specific IgE antibody levels (which are responsible for hay fever symptoms) increased 31.9 percent in the placebo group but only 19.4 percent in the Pycnogenol group.

The demonstrated efficacy of Pycnogenol may be of interest to those seeking natural alternatives to conventional treatment for allergic rhinitis, said Dr. Malkanthi Evans, scientific director of KGK Synergize Inc.

It should be noted that adverse effects of Pycnogenol may include irritability and decreased energy, especially when used in those with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactive disorder). The extract may also interact with certain chemotherapeutic drugs, anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs and immunosuppressants, so talk with your doctor before taking Pycnogenol.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 14, 2011
Last Updated:
January 16, 2011