Pine Bark Extract Improves Several Perimenopausal Symptoms

Joe Barber Jr, PhD

February 14, 2013

Low-dose treatment with French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol, Horphag Research Ltd) appears to alleviate several of the symptoms associated with perimenopause in women but has no effect on many other symptoms, according to the findings of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Takafumi Kohama, MD, and Masako Negami, MD, from Keiju Medical Center and Keiju Health Service Center in Nanao City, Japan, published their findings in the February issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

The authors mention that previous research identified benefits of French maritime pine bark extract treatment among perimenopausal women. The extract "has been investigated successfully in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 200 perimenopausal women in Taiwan; however, that trial employed a remarkably high daily dosage of 200 mg," the authors write. "That study found good results across all major menopausal symptoms after a treatment period of half a year."

A total of 170 perimenopausal women, who were between 42 and 58 years of age, enrolled in the study between January 2007 and July 2010. The investigators randomly assigned participants to receive either 60 mg French maritime pine bark extract or placebo daily.

Despite a substantial placebo effect for many symptoms, the researchers observed significantly larger improvements for several climacteric symptoms of perimenopause in the extract group compared with the placebo group, as measured by the Women's Health Questionnaire at 12 weeks. Women in the extract group reported a 35.1% improvement in vasomotor symptoms relative to baseline compared with 28.6% by women in the placebo group (P = .0359). Insomnia/sleeping problems (27.8% vs 21.0%; P = .0025), and feeling tired or worthless (48.7% vs 39.6%; P = .0480) also improved more in the extract group than in the control group.

The researchers found no difference between the 2 groups in terms of abnormal perceptions, nervousness, anxiety, dizziness, arthritic or muscular pain, headache, palpitations, formication, memory and concentration problems, menstrual problems, sexual problems, or impaired sense of attractiveness.

The reductions in the Kupperman index were also significantly larger in the French maritime pine bark extract group at 4 (−6.4 vs −4.7; P < .05) and 12 (−8.5 vs −5.6; P < .05) weeks.

"This finding leaves little doubt about the benefit of [French maritime pine bark extract] for women interested in controlling climacteric symptoms with a more natural approach," the authors conclude. "In view of the positive symptom relief in Kupperman index, [French maritime pine bark extract] may arguably represent a daily dietary supplement for menopausal women due to its extended range of health benefits. Menopausal women are at elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, and the improved endothelial function related to [French maritime pine bark extract] may prove helpful for women at this stage in life."

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

J Reprod Med. 2013;58:39-46. Abstract