Published in January's issue of Life Sciences (74(7):855-62), the double-blind, placebo-controlled study demonstrated that 58 participants with high blood pressure medication were able to cut their dosage of prescribed medication in half when they supplemented with the French maritime pine tree bark extract Pycnogenol.
High blood pressure is estimated to affect one out of every four American adults due to stress, older age and obesity.
Research has previously suggested that antioxidants can both reduce inflammation and fight free radicals that may damage heart health. Studies on Pycnogenol, the brand name of a natural plant extract from the bark of the Maritime pine that grows along the coast of southwest France, have associated its combination of procyanidins and bioflavonoids, with numerous heart health benefits, including lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, a reduction in platelet activity, relaxed artery constriction and improvements in circulation.
The new research at the Chinese Medical Science Research Institute in Beijing found that supplementation with 100mg Pycnogenol over a period of 12 weeks helped to reduce patients' dose of the calcium antagonist nifedipine in a statistically significant manner, said the researchers.
Both groups experienced mild gastrointestinal problems, vertigo, headache and nausea but these were not greater in the Pycnogenol group.
"Taking into account its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation and its diverse anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory actions, we suggest that French maritime pine tree bark extract offers a broad spectrum of protection for the patient with high blood pressure," said Peter Rohdewald from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Munster, one of the authors of this study.
The extract been widely studied for the past 35 years and is available in over 140 dietary supplements, multi-vitamins and health products worldwide.
It is distributed in North America by Natural Health Science (NHS) based in Hillside, New Jersey, for its manufacturer Horphag Research.