Here’s a new reason why a real Christmas tree is always best! Researchers have identified a group of anti-inflammatory compounds in the bark of the Scotch pine — widely used for Christmas trees — that they say could be used for treating arthritis and pain. The compounds, which show promise in preliminary cell studies, are likely to be found in other pine species as well, the scientists say. The compounds identified were phenolics, a class of highly active plant chemicals that have been increasingly tied to beneficial health effects.
“The preliminary study showed that highly purified preparations of pine bark extract have potent anti-inflammatory effects. In the future, this may mean that people with arthritis may ease their pain by eating food supplements made from Christmas trees,” says study leader Kalevi Pihlaja, PhD, a chemistry professor at the University of Turku in Finland.
Pine bark extract has been used worldwide for many years as folk medicine, both orally and topically, to treat a variety of health conditions ranging from wounds to coughs. Recent research by others, including some human studies, shows that the extract has the potential to relieve high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease and skin cancer.
The extract did not appear to show any signs of cell toxicity in the current study. But don’t try to brew your own pine bark remedy at home, Pihlaja and his associates warn, as further studies are needed to ensure the safety of its components.
American Chemical Society, Dec 14, 2004