Monday, January 02, 2006


New promotions for old natural ingredients are filling the media with promises about improving health and beauty. Whether they offer hope or hype, time will tell.

Extracts of pine have long been used in flavorings such as pineapple, citrus and spice. Extracts of various species of Pinus are popular in bath oils, bath salts, and perfumery. In concentrated form, pine oil can cause irritation, allergy and in large amounts, intestinal hemorrhage if ingested. Now, an extract of pine bark known as Pycnogenol® has been reported potentially useful in the treatment of skin ulcers. Varicose veins, the kind that are blue and stand out on the legs of about half the adult population can lead to swollen legs and sometimes ulcers, which are very difficult to treat. Pycnogenol®, distributed by Natural Health Science Inc. of Hoboken, NJ, is a brand of a pine bark that grows along the coast of southwest France. It contains a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids. In a study in which one group of ulcer sufferers received Pycnogenol® oral tablets and powdered Pycnogenol® sprinkled into the ulcers had complete healing of the sores,. The results were published in Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis in 2005.

Clinical trials for patients suffering from inflammatory problems, primarily osteoarthritis, are now underway with a volcanic mineral deposit found only in the high Sierra Mountains,SierraSil™. While other joint health supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine reduce pain by rebuilding cartilage, an earlier mechanism of action study indicated that SierraSil™ works by inhibiting the gene that causes inflammation.

An eight week, double-blind study involved 107 participants, all with mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee. They were divided into four groups: one group received 3g of SierraSil™ a day; one received 2g of SierraSil™; one received 2 grams of SierraSil™ plus 100mg of botanical cat's claw extract; and the last group received a placebo., The researchers, led by Marc Miller of the Center for Cardiovascular Sciences at Albany Medical College, decided to include cat's claw extract in the study since the Amazonian vine has a long history of use for joint pain and inflammation, and earlier in vitro studies suggested a complementary effect when used in combination with SierraSil™. The study was reported in Journal of Inflammation. The advocates of SierraSil™ say it works faster than chondroitin and glucosamine which may not show benefits for several weeks.

Beta-glucan, a soluble fiber derived from the cell walls of oat kernels has long been touted as a food ingredient that lowers cholesterol. Oatmeal, which is listed on European cosmetic labels as Avena sativa, has been used through the ages as a soothing face mask. Oat root extract is used in cosmetics as an astringent. In a study reported in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, it was found that beta-glucan colored by a dye, did indeed penetrate the skin. In a follow up study, 27 subjects applied beta-glucan to fine lines and wrinkles on their faces over an eight week period. Investigators using digital imaging determined that there was a reduction of wrinkle depth and the skin was less rough.

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