Has someone suggested you try pine bark to help relieve your osteoarthritis symptoms? Take a look at the research, of the lack thereof, before you go shopping for this supplement.

A study on pine bark as an osteoarthritis treatment, published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research, shows Pycnogenol, an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, reduced osteoarthritis symptoms by 56 percent and provided osteoarthritis pain relief.

In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, held at Italy's Chieti-Pescara University, 156 patients with knee osteoarthritis received 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol or placebo daily for three months and were then evaluated using a number of tools. Patients were permitted to continue taking their choice of pain medication provided they recorded every tablet in a diary for later evaluation.

Results indicated pine bark was an effective osteoarthritis treatment and provided osteoarthritis pain relief. In addition to the statistic cited above, the Pycnogenol group also:

  • Experienced a 55 percent improvement in joint pain.
  • Reduced pain medication use by 58 percent.
  • Had a 63 percent improvement in gastrointestinal complications.
  • Reduced stiffness by 53 percent.
  • Improved physical function scores by 57 percent.
  • Enhanced overall well being by 64 percent.

"The results of this study are significant as they clearly demonstrate the clinical action of Pycnogenol on OA and management of symptoms,” says Gianni Belcaro, MD, PhD, a lead researcher of the study. “The use of Pycnogenol may reduce costs and side effects of anti-inflammatory agents and offer a natural alternative solution to people suffering from OA."

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study such as this is considered the gold standard in clinical research, so the results can be seriously considered. Research has long shown that when people take placebos -- fake pills that contain nothing helpful, though the people are told they might or will benefit -- a large percentage will report positive effects purely from the power of suggestion. That can water down the positive results of some studies using only the test ingredient, but in this study there were other participants who took placebos and they did not report positive results as much as those taking the actual pine bark.

Research on pine bark is limited, however, so consider that when thinking about this option.