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Pine bark appeared to work

December 14, 2009|Joe Graedon, Teresa Graedon | The People's Pharmacy

Q: I read about Pycnogenol for hot flashes and tried it. It worked within only a few days. The main side effect was constipation.

I was pleased until I told my gynecologist about it. She wasn't happy and did an Internet search. To her it looked like a pretty powerful drug with no testing. She suggested I stop taking it and use medicine that has been tested.

A: Pycnogenol is an extract of the bark of the French maritime pine. It is rich in antioxidant compounds called procyanidins and has been studied for a range of problems.

We found 195 scientific articles on studies in humans, animals or cell cultures. She is right that there is not much research on its use for menopause. We found only one double-blind, placebo-controlled study (Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, August 2007): It reported that menopause symptoms improved. Another study found Pycnogenol has no estrogenic activity (Journal of Reproductive Medicine, August 2007).

Compared with prescription drugs such as Prempro, Effexor and Pristiq, Pycnogenol seems to have few side effects.


Q: My oldest son used to get canker sores with a cold. Then my mother-in-law gave us a cure that works overnight. Swish cultured buttermilk in the mouth and hold it about a minute before spitting it out. We don't know why it works.

A: You are not the first to report that buttermilk can help soothe canker sores (aphthous ulcers). It is certainly a simple, safe and inexpensive remedy.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition.

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