A study published in the October journal of Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis shows Pycnogenol® (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree reduced edema, a typical side-effect of antihypertensive medications, by 36 percent in patients taking these medications.
According to Dr. Gianni Belcaro, lead researcher of the study, more than 35 percent of patients taking antihypertensive medications are believed to suffer from edema as a side-effect.
This happens because the antihypertensive medications cause blood vessels to dilate, which allows easier blood flow and thus lowers blood pressure. However, as a side-effect this causes blood to pool in the vessels of the lower legs. In result they stretch and liquid seeps into tissue causing swelling (edema). Hypertension is a serious risk factor for developing severe cardiovascular incidents some time in the future and thus the necessity for treatment justifies the development of edema as a side-effect.
Antihypertensive medications reduce pressure by inhibiting constriction of blood vessels. “The larger the blood vessel diameter, the easier blood will flow with less pressure,” said Dr. Belcaro. “In order to avoid blood pooling in the lower legs and feet (edema), 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 edema.”
The study sampled 53 hypertensive patients at the G D’annunzio University in Italy. All patients suffered from edema of their ankles and feet as a result of antihypertensive medications and were taking medications at the same dosage for at least four months. Twenty-three patients were being treated with ACE inhibitors (brand names Mavik®, Altace®) and 30 patients were being treated with nifedipine (calcium channel blockers) (brand names Adalat®, Procardia®).
The eight week study sampled 27 patients with 150 mg Pycnogenol® treatment per day versus an equivalent dosage of placebo for the remaining 26 patients.
Blood vessels causing edema of the lower legs were measured using a strain gauge plethysmography (a general instrument for determining and registering variations in the size of an organ or limb). Patients were first measured in supine position then while standing up.
After an eight week Pycnogenol® treatment, patients treated with ACE inhibitors experienced a 35 percent decrease of ankle swelling while patients being treated with nifedipine experienced a 36 percent decrease of ankle swelling. According to Dr. Belcaro, Pycnogenol® helps defy a major side-effect of antihypertensive medication. Furthermore, Pycnogenol® has a blood pressure-lowering effect itself and thus helps to achieve a healthy cardiovascular system.
Pycnogenol® was chosen for the study because it has demonstrated its effectiveness with conditions such as edema, 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 edema during long airplane flights lasting 7-12 hours. In 2004, a study published in Life Sciences revealed patients who took prescribed high blood pressure medication were able to cut the dosage in half when they supplemented with Pycnogenol®.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.