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Pine Tree Bark Reduces Duration and Severity of Migraines

Characterized by “attacks of intense…throbbing headache”, migraine headache affects 10-20% of the world population, with more women affected than men. While several theories have been proposed, the actual cause of migraine headache remains very complex and difficult to understand.

Alternative migraine therapies in the form of butterbur extract, coenzyme Q10, melatonin, and glucosamine have been found effective for some people. Current drug treatment includes five groups of medications: beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

A new study has found that Pycnogenol® brand pine tree bark may provide an alternative treatment for migraines in adults.

In the study, patients received antioxidant supplementation containing 10 capsules of 120 mg of pine tree bark extract, 60 mg of vitamin C, and 30 IU of vitamin E each day for three months. Each patient then received a neurological examination once per month and filled out a migraine disability assessment (MIDAS) questionnaire. The MIDAS questionnaire consisted of five questions about the number of days of lost or limited productivity in the previous three months involving work, school, household work, and family, social, and leisure activities.

Not only did the researchers find “a significant improvement” in the MIDAS score, there were also “significant reductions” in both the number of headache days and headache severity. Specifically, the average number of headache days was reduced from 44.4 days at the beginning of the study to 26 days at the end of the study. Headache severity was reduced by nearly 27%.

The researchers concluded “antioxidant therapy…may be beneficial in the treatment of migraine possibly reducing headache frequency and severity.”

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the potential benefit of a pine bark extract and antioxidant vitamin combination product in the treatment of migraine headache. BACKGROUND: This was an uncontrolled preliminary study to investigate the potential of an antioxidant formulation as therapy for migraine headache.

METHODS: Twelve patients with a long-term history of migraine with and without aura who had failed to respond to multiple treatments with beta-blockers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor agonists were selected for the study. They were treated with 10 capsules of an antioxidant formulation of 120 mg pine bark extract, 60 mg vitamin C, and 30 IU vitamin E in each capsule daily for 3 months. Following enrollment patients completed a migraine disability assessment (MIDAS) questionnaire to give a baseline measure of migraine impact on work, school, domestic, and social activities over the previous 3 months. Patients were then treated for 3 months with the antioxidant formulation while continuing to receive existing pharmacologic medications. A second MIDAS was given at the conclusion of the treatment period.

RESULTS: There was a significant mean improvement in MIDAS score of 50.6% for the 3-month treatment period compared with the 3 months prior to baseline (P < .005). The treatment was also associated with significant reductions in number of headache days and headache severity score. Mean number of headache days was reduced from 44.4 days at baseline (95% CI 28.9 to 59.8) to 26.0 days (95% CI 5.3 to 46.7; P < .005) after 3 months' therapy and mean headache severity was reduced from 7.5 of 10 (95% CI 6.7 to 8.4) to 5.5 (95% CI 4.1 to 7.0; P < .005).

CONCLUSION: These data suggest that the antioxidant therapy used in this study may be beneficial in the treatment of migraine possibly reducing headache frequency and severity. Further clinical investigation into the efficacy of antioxidant as therapy for chronic migraine is warranted.

Source

Chayasirisobhon S. Use of a Pine Bark Extract and Antioxidant Vitamin Combination Product as Therapy for Migraine in Patients Refractory to Pharmacologic Medication. Headache 2006 May; 46(5): 788-793.

Key concepts: maritime pine tree bark extract, pycnogenol, migraine headache, antioxidants