Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million people with hay fever in England. It usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years, but you can acquire it at any age. Interestingly the condition is more common in boys than in girls however in adults, men and women are equally affected. Onset is more likely if there is a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema.
Hay fever is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways that causes itching, sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes and rashes.
You can have an allergy to:
- tree pollen, released during spring
- grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer
- weed pollen, released any time from early spring to late autumn
Pycnogenol® shown to substantially improve hay fever symptoms
A study published in an issue of Phytotherapy Research demonstrated Pycnogenol® substantially improves the symptoms of hay fever.
Pycnogenol® is an antioxidant plant extract derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree that grows along the coast of southwest France. It has been is found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, which may offer extensive natural health benefits.
This study (approved by an ethical committee as well as the “Health Canada” authorities) confirmed that taking Pycnogenol® naturally relieves eye and nasal symptoms of hay fever patients brought about by lowering pollen-specific antibodies in the blood.
In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study 60 subjects between the ages of 18 and 65 began treatment three to eight weeks prior to the start of the birch allergy season in Ontario, Canada. All subjects tested positive for birch pollen allergies, a seasonal trigger of hay fever. Patients were assigned to a Pycnogenol® group or placebo group - subjects were instructed to take either one 50 mg Pycnogenol® tablet or one placebo tablet twice daily throughout the allergy season. Patients were allowed to use non-prescription antihistamines as needed and recorded usage and dosage in treatment diaries.
Pycnogenol® reduces levels of allergen specific antibodies
Blood was tested before and after treatment throughout the entire birch pollen season for the measurement of birch specific antibodies. Upon recognition of a specific allergen, the antibodies stimulate the release of histamine, an inflammatory mediator responsible for the symptoms of hay fever. During exposure to pollen allergic people develop higher levels of this antibody, which then correlates with increased hay fever symptoms.
Birch specific antibody levels at the start of the trial when compared to levels at the end of the trial showed an increase of 31.9% in the placebo group but only 19.4% in the Pycnogenol® group. Subjects rated nasal and eye symptoms daily by recording values in their treatment diaries. All nasal and eye symptoms (which included problems commonly associated with hay fever such as burning, itchy, watering eyes, redness, sneezing and stuffy, runny or itchy nose) were scored with values ranging from “zero” i.e. no symptoms to a maximum of “three” i.e. severe symptoms which equated to complete prevention of normal activity.
Throughout the birch pollen seasons (around mid April until the end of May), the total average nasal and eye symptom score was lower in the Pycnogenol® group than in the placebo group. A detailed analysis showed that Pycnogenol® was more effective the earlier patients began taking the product prior to the onset of the exposure to birch pollen. The researchers suggest that a lag-time of at least five weeks prior to pollen exposure is required for Pycnogenol® to combat hay fever symptoms. Subjects taking Pycnogenol® seven weeks before onset of the birch season required very little non-prescription antihistamine medication (12.5%) compared with subjects taking the placebo (50%).
May represent an effective and natural solution to hay fever
The study concluded that for the many people looking for alternatives to conventional treatment for hay fever Pycnogenol® may represent an effective and completely natural solution.
Results supported by previous studies
Previous studies have revealed Pycnogenol® to positively affect patients suffering from allergies. Two earlier clinical trials showed that Pycnogenol® improves symptoms and breathing ability of asthma patients. Asthma is likewise triggered by airborne allergens and Pycnogenol® was demonstrated to significantly decrease leukotriene levels, an inflammatory mediator involved in asthma and hay fever alike. Human pharmacologic studies have pointed to a general anti-inflammatory potency of Pycnogenol®.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.