November 17, 2008 / 6:42 PM / 10 years ago

Pine tree extract may ease jet lag

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Taking a pine bark extract for a few days before a long-haul flight may reduce the severity and duration of jet lag symptoms, new research shows.

In previous studies, the pine bark extract Pycnogenol reduced problems associated with air travel such as swelling and blood clotting, and also reduced symptoms of jet lag, although these studies weren’t designed to specifically address jet lag, note Dr. Gianni Belcaro of G. D’Annunzio University in Pescara, Italy and colleagues.

For their research, Belcaro and his team had people take Pycnogenol every day for a week starting two days before a seven- to nine-hour flight to specifically evaluate the extract’s effects on jet lag symptoms. Study participants were assigned to take 50 milligrams of the extract three times a day or to a control group.

In the first part of the two-part study, the 32 patients who took the extract and completed the study scored 56 percent lower on a scale measuring jet lag symptoms like fatigue, grogginess, and insomnia 48 hours after their flight, compared to the 30 controls. Their symptoms also lasted 18.2 hours, on average, while study participants who didn’t take the extract had symptoms lasting an average of 39.3 hours.

In the second part of the study, the same procedure was followed, but participants underwent a brain scan within 28 hours of their flight. The 30 control participants showed more swelling in the brain than the 30 who took Pycnogenol, the researchers found; their short-term memory also was more impaired, and the severity of their memory problems correlated to the amount of swelling in their lower limbs.

It’s possible, the researchers say, that jet lag symptoms may be related to swelling of the brain, and that the extract helps by preventing swelling both in the brain and in the limbs.

SOURCE: Minerva Cardioangiologica, October 2008.

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