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PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

Pine bark extract holds promise (but the proof isn't all in)

October 12, 2009|Joe Graedon; Teresa Graedon

I read that Pycnogenol may be helpful for hot flashes. Now a major warehouse club is selling it as a powerful antioxidant with supposed benefits for cardiovascular health, osteoarthritis, skin care, asthma and allergy relief and diabetes. Has any of it been proven?

To our surprise, there are studies suggesting that Pycnogenol, extracted from French maritime pine bark, is better than a placebo in making blood vessels more flexible (Hypertension Research, September 2007), improving blood-sugar control and reducing cardiovascular risk factors (Nutrition Research, May 2008) and reducing knee pain from osteoarthritis (Phytotherapy Research, August 2008). Any uses for skin care or asthma and allergy relief still seem fairly speculative. Side effects are uncommon.

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I've stumbled on a cure for nighttime leg cramps. After suffering for eight years and trying every remedy, six weeks ago I was prescribed colchicine for arthritis. It didn't help the arthritis, but it cured my leg cramps.

Colchicine is a really old medication. It was discovered in 1820 and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration a century ago to treat the inflammation and pain associated with an acute gout attack. The agency has not approved colchicine for either arthritis or leg cramps and discourages off-label use.

Side effects may include diarrhea, stomachache, nausea, vomiting and sore throat. Potentially serious complications include severe anemia and other blood disorders.

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

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www.peoples pharmacy.com

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