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Pine bark can treat side-effects of hypertension medication

A new study has shown that Pycnogenol®, an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, can reduce painful ankle swelling (oedemas), a major side-effect of medicines taken by patients with hypertension.

The study of 53 patients, published in the Journal of Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis, found that Pycnogenol reduced ankle swelling by over a third in patients taking ACE inhibitors and nifedipine, medicines commonly used to treat hypertension. These findings are important as more than 35% of patients taking antihypertensive medications are believed to suffer from oedema as a side-effect.

"Antihypertensive medications reduce pressure by inhibiting constriction of blood vessels," explains one of the study's authors, Dr Belcaro, from G D'annunzio University in Italy. "In order to avoid blood pooling in the lower legs and feet, blood vessel diameters must adjust when a person changes positions from laying down to standing up. Results of this study show Pycnogenol to improve blood circulation, avoiding blood pools and reducing oedema."

After eight weeks of Pycnogenol treatment, patients treated with ACE inhibitors and nifedipine experienced a 35% decrease of ankle swelling respectively. Furthermore, Pycnogenol has a blood pressure-lowering effect itself and thus helps to achieve a healthy cardiovascular system.

Dr Patricia Macnair, physician, Royal County Surrey Hospital, commented: "Oedema is a huge problem for many patients with hypertension as it causes their legs to become swollen and painful. Doctors see patients everyday with this debilitating condition, particularly those treated with calcium channel blockers."

Pycnogenol was chosen for the study because it has demonstrated its effectiveness with conditions such as oedema, DVT and blood circulation improvement in many clinical trials. In 2005, a study published in Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis showed Pycnogenol to be effective in reducing oedema during long airplane flights lasting 7-12 hours.

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