'Pine bark extract eases pain of cramps'

The study could help individuals interested in muscle cramp and pain relief with a natural approach.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 19:43 IST

Cramps are the bane of every sportsman's life and with magnesium therapy failing to live up to its promise of providing sustained relief to atheltes, researchers have been working overtime to find a suitable substitute.

And help may be close at hand, with researchers revealing that supplementation with the pine bark extract Pycnogenol showed promising results in reducing muscle cramp and pain in athletes and diabetics taking part in twin studies.

The studies involving 113 participants demonstrated that Pycnogenol significantly improves blood flow to the muscles resulting in speedy recovery after physical exercise.

"With the millions of athletes worldwide, this truly is a profound breakthrough and extremely significant for all individuals interested in muscle cramp and pain relief with a natural approach. These findings indicate that Pycnogenol can play an important role in sports by improving blood flow to the muscles and hastening post-exercise recovery," said Dr. Peter Rohdewald, a lead researcher of the study.

"Pycnogenol improves the blood supply to muscle tissue creating a relief effect on muscle cramping and pain. Poor circulation in the muscle is known to cause cramps and Pycnogenol improved the cramping in patients due to a stimulation of blood flow to their muscle tissue. Nitric oxide (NO) a blood gas, is well known to enhance blood flow and Pycnogenol may be influencing the activity of NO," Rohdewald added.

"The insufficient production of NO is the common denominator responsible for impaired blood flow in vascular disease," he further added.

Researchers at L'Aquila University in Italy and at the University of Würzburg in Germany studied the effects of Pycnogenol on venous disorders and cramping in two separate studies.

The first study consisted of 66 participants who had experienced normal cramping at some point, had venous insufficiency, or were athletes who suffer from exercise-induced cramping. All the participants were given 200 mg of Pycnogenol once a day for four weeks.

The findings showed that the number of cramps the participants experienced while on Pycnogenol had significantly decreased (around 25 percent ).

The second study involved 47 participants with diabetic microangiopathy (a disorder of the smallest veins commonly associated with diabetes), or intermittent claudication (a blood vessel disease that causes the legs to easily cramp).This study also used a two-week pre-trial observation period followed by a week of supplementing with Pycnogenol (200 mg per day for one week), followed by a week of observation without Pycnogenol supplementation.

Results indicated that patients with diabetic microangiopathy had a 20.8 per cent reduction in pain, while participants with claudication experienced a 21 per cent decrease in the amount of pain experienced while supplementing with Pycnogenol. However, participants who took placebo experienced no decrease in pain.

First Published: Jun 16, 2006 20:20 IST