Menopausal and perimenopausal issues can be elusive and difficult for doctors to treat without hormone replacement therapy. However, research shows that some natural remedies can successfully reduce menopausal conditions. One of these, in particular, is pine bark extract.
Several studies have now supported the use of pine bark extract for menopausal conditions.
Let’s quickly review these.
Perimenopause conditions improved by Pycnogenol
A popular pine bark extract branded as Pycnogenol® – a patented extract of the bark of the French maritime pine tree (Pinus pinaster) – was the subject of a 2017 study by medical school researchers at Italy’s D’Annunzio University. This study tested 70 peri-menopausal women for two months.
Perimenopause (or peri-menopause) is a period where a woman transitions to menopause, a period that can last between 8 and 10 years. Perimenopause typically begins during the mid- to late-40s.
The researchers gave half the women 100 milligrams per day of the Pycnogenol pine bark extract for the 8 weeks. The other women were given a placebo.
The researchers used the Menopausal Symptoms Questionnaire-34 as a testing tool. They found that practically all of the menopausal symptoms of the women taking the Pycnogenol improved significantly after the 8 weeks.
The women taking the Pycnogenol also saw their elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels reduced on average, and fasting glucose levels were “normalized” according to the researchers.
Menopausal symptoms reduced by more than half
In a 2013 study, researchers from Japan’s Keiju Medical Center also found that the same pine bark nutraceutical, Pycnogenol, can significantly reduce symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
The researchers tested 170 women who were in perimenopause in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Twice a day for three months the women were given either 30 milligrams of Pycnogenol or a placebo. The women were also tested for hormones and had a thorough blood analysis before and after the treatment period.
The women were also given extensive questionnaires, using the standardized Women’s Health Questionnaire, along with the well-known Kupperman index test.
After only four weeks of treatment, women taking the Pycnogenol showed significant improvement in their physical menopausal symptoms. These included problems with sleep and circulation issues – which can relate to a number of symptoms including restless legs syndrome (RLS) and hot flashes.
After the three-month trial, the Pycnogenol treatment resulted in a 56% reduction in perimenopausal symptoms using the Kupperman index.
The Kupperman index rates different symptoms, each weighted to importance. They are: hot flashes, paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, melancholia, vertigo, weakness, arthralgia or myalgia, headache, palpitations, and formication. These are rated by severity by the number of times reported per day. The highest index score is a 51.
This study confirms a study two years ago done by researchers from Italy’s Pescara University. Here 38 perimenopausal women were given 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol per day over a two month period, and compared with 32 control subjects.
The researchers found that while the control group showed no improvement, the Pycnogenol group showed improvement in most of the major symptoms of menopause, in addition to decreases in “fatigue, sleeping disorders, concentration and memory problems, dizziness, depression and irritability” according to the research.
The researchers concluded:
“Pycnogenol® significantly contributed to reduce signs and symptoms associated with menopausal transitions in women investigated in this study. Furthermore, Pycnogenol® improved the quality of life of most women and these benefits may be at least in part attributed to decreased oxidative stress levels.”
Menopause symptoms, memory and depression also helped
A 2011 study from Italy’s Pescara University tested 70 peri-menopausal women over an 8 week period. They gave 38 women 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol and the other women acted as a control group.
After the eight weeks, the pine bark extract group saw their levels of hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and other symptoms significantly decrease. They also had improvements in memory, dizziness and depression after their testing period.
Pine bark compounds
Pycnogenol has been the subject of numerous other studies over the past decade. Its antioxidant potential is extremely high, and most attribute its success against cardiovascular disease and asthma as related to its antioxidant potential.
However, pine bark extract also contains other compounds. Lab testing has found it to contain procyanidins, polyphenolic monomers, phenolic acids, catechin, epicatechin, cinnamic acids and other compounds.
The extract from the maritime pine tree also contains a variety of phytochemicals – some that have been shown to affect nitric oxide levels – which modulate blood vessel dilation and stimulates circulation. This effect on nitric oxide in the bloodstream has other effects as well – such as strengthening immunity.
Luzzi R, Belcaro G, Hosoi M, Feragalli B, Cornelli U, Dugall M, Ledda A. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol®. Minerva Ginecol. 2017 Feb;69(1):29-34. doi: 10.23736/S0026-4784.16.03913-7.
Kohama T, Negami M. Effect of low-dose French maritime pine bark extract on climacteric syndrome in 170 perimenopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Reprod Med. 2013 Jan-Feb;58(1-2):39-46.
Errichi S, Bottari A, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Hosoi M, Cornelli U, Dugall M, Ledda A, Feragalli B. Supplementation with Pycnogenol® improves signs and symptoms of menopausal transition. Panminerva Med. 2011 Sep;53(3 Suppl 1):65-70.
D’Andrea G. Pycnogenol: a blend of procyanidins with multifaceted therapeutic applications? Fitoterapia. 2010 Oct;81(7):724-36. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.06.011.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.