Osteoarthritis (OA), a type of arthritis caused by the breakdown and loss of cartilage, affects more than 20 million Americans. While the most common prescription to treat OA is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), many seek alternative treatments because of the side effects associated with these drugs. Pycnogenol (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, has been shown to reduce osteoarthritis pain in multiple studies. A study published in the journal Redox Report, reveals Pycnogenol's anti-inflammatory potency further to improve OA symptoms and pain and was also able to significantly lower plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). With progression of osteoarthritis, the inflammation may no longer be limited to the affected joint and in turn could increase the inflammatory marker CRP in the blood.
The study, a joint effort between Italy's Chieti-Pescara University and the University of Munster, Germany, investigated a subset of 55 patients from a previous study with 156 patients who had significantly elevated CRP levels. Treatment consisted of two tablets daily of either 50 mg Pycnogenol or placebo. Blood specimens were drawn at baseline of the initial study and again after three-month treatment. Results showed that Pycnogenol significantly lowered CRP from average 3.9 mg/L at baseline to 1.1 mg/L, reflecting essentially healthy levels. In the placebo group a marginal lowered CRP level was detected. Other blood parameters indicative of acute inflammation also decreased with Pycnogenol, such as fibrinogen (lowered by 37.1 %) and reactive oxygen species (lowered by 29.9 %).
"The decrease of systemic inflammatory markers, particularly CRP, suggests Pycnogenol® properties may be potent enough to arrest the spread of inflammation from osteoarthritic joints to the whole organism" said Dr. Peter Rohdewald, a lead researcher of the study. "When inflammatory processes are allowed to reach the whole body, the degenerative processes may burden overall health including increased cardiovascular risks."