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Pine Bark Extract May Effectively Treat ADHD in Boys

Authors: News Author: Laurie Barclay, MD CME Author: Penny Murata, MDFaculty and Disclosures


June 23, 2006 — Pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) is effective for treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), at least in boys, according to the results of a randomized trial reported in the May 13 Online First issue of European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

"These findings are especially notable for parents who are concerned about overmedicating children diagnosed with ADHD," coauthor Peter Rohdewald, MD, from the University of Munster in Germany, said in a news release. "Many families are seeking natural options to avoid the potentially dangerous side effects of prescription drugs."

Pycnogenol, an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine, consisting of phenolic acids, catechin, taxifolin and procyanidins, was associated with improvement of ADHD in case reports and in an open-label study.

In this double-blind trial, 61 children with ADHD were randomized 2:1 to receive 1 mg/kg/day pine bark extract or placebo for 4 weeks. Average age was 9.5 years. Standard questionnaires including Child Attention Problems (CAP) teacher rating scale, Conner's Teacher Rating Scale (CTRS), Conner's Parent Rating Scale (CPRS), and the modified Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children were administered at the start of the trial, 1 month after starting treatment, and 1 month after completing treatment.

The pine bark extract group had a significant reduction in hyperactivity and improved attention, visual-motor coordination, and concentration, whereas there were no positive effects noted in the placebo group. One month after pine bark extract treatment ceased, patients had recurrence of symptoms. Treatment was not significantly effective for girls in contrast to boys, but there were only 6 girls in the pine bark extract group.

"The results of this study show Pycnogenol may serve as a safe, effective treatment for children diagnosed with ADHD," Dr. Rohdewald says. "French maritime pine bark extract reduced hyperactivity among study participants, while improving attention and visual-motor coordination and concentration of these children."

However, the authors note that their findings should be further confirmed by studies involving a greater number of patients, especially girls, and for a longer duration of treatment. Although the underlying mechanism is still unknown, urinalysis revealed a lower excretion of catecholamines in the pine bark extract group than in the placebo group, suggesting an influence of pine bark extract on catecholamine formation or metabolism.

"ADHD is affecting the quality of life for so many children and their families," Dr. Rohdewald concludes. "It is imperative that science explores natural means to provide expanded treatment options. We look forward to advancing this promising research."

Horphag Res. Ltd., VEGA, Ministry of Education of SR, Drug Research Institute, Modra, and Mind & Health supported this study.

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. Posted online May 13, 2006.

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