As the cold and flu season begins, new clinical research published in September’s Otorinolaringologia finds natural supplement Pycnogenol, an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, in combination with vitamin C and zinc to be effective in shortening duration of the common cold and lessening the seven “pillar” symptoms, including runny nose, nasal obstruction, sore throat, sneezing, high temperature, cough and general discomfort. With more than 200 viruses that can lead to infection, colds cause more than 75 million physician visits a year in the U.S.

“The common cold affects the average adult two to five times each year, which can have a major effect on work and home life,” says Dr. Fred Pescatore, expert and practitioner in health and nutritional medicine. “This research shows that Pycnogenol, taken in conjunction with vitamin C and zinc, can help to shorten the duration of a cold and reduce some of its main symptoms, which makes this natural supplement valuable for the recovery process and for controlling cold-related costs and missed work days.”

The new study was conducted to evaluate the effect of Pycnogenol on the signs and symptoms of an established cold in four variations: Pycnogenol alone; Pycnogenol and vitamin C; Pycnogenol and Gluconate Zn (zinc compound) and a trio combining all three. These groups were compared to each other and to a “control” group only using leading over-the-counter cough and cold products. The trio (100 mg Pycnogenol + 200 mg vitamin C + 30 mg Gluconate Zn per day) showed the most success in significantly shortening the duration of symptoms to four days, as compared to the average of seven days. The other three variations also out-performed the control group in daily regression of the pillar cold symptoms.

“In this study, we found that taking Pycnogenol with Vitamin C and Zinc for at least 5 days in episodes of the common cold can shorten the course of a cold and decrease symptoms,”  said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, a lead researcher of the study. “The results of the study demonstrate the effects of a supplement plan using Pycnogenol alone or in association with other supplements to reduce the symptoms and severity of the common cold.”

The study, conducted at the Chieti-Pescara University in Pescara, Italy, focused on two phases to evaluate the effects of the four supplement variations. The first phase followed 73 healthy volunteers with no history of serious illness. At the first sign of a cold, 40 subjects in this group supplemented with 50 mg of Pycnogenol two times daily while 33 patients only used OTC treatment. The effect of Pycnogenol alone was statistically significant; key results within this group included the duration of the cold being significantly decreased in comparison with controls which resulted in a decrease of lost working days and a decrease of the need to use OTC treatment. The second phase followed 196 patients with colds, which were divided into three groups and given the three separate variations of supplementation for five days or more. Both phases of the study evaluated subjects between the ages of 25 to 70 and conducted a follow-up examination after three days.

The Pycnogenol and vitamin C combination performed better, and had synergistic effect, to aid in faster recovery from the common cold. The reason for this result is that the immune system cells, called leukocytes, require a significant amount of vitamin C to naturally recover from the common cold. Research shows that likewise, Pycnogenol metabolites were found in leukocytes via the GLUT1 transporter in a study earlier this year. Therefore, the Pycnogenol and vitamin C interaction demonstrated improved natural immunity due to the synergistic antioxidant effect of the combination.

Pycnogenol alone and also in combination with the other ingredients was found to control excess inflammation and swelling in the nasal mucus membrane which is common in patients with colds.

Decades of research have demonstrated Pycnogenol serves as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and supports heart and circulatory health.