Pycnogenol reduces muscle cramp in athletes
It's not completely convincing, this Italian study on the preventive effect of the supplement Pycnogenol on muscle cramp and muscular pain. But still: if muscle cramp is bugging your life and your training sessions, it may be worth trying. Pycnogenol is not expensive, and what's more the stuff is completely safe.Pycnogenol
Pycnogenol is a patented extract from the bark of the pine tree Pinus pinaster. It consists of phenols that are built up of the molecules shown above.

In 2006 Italian and German researchers published the results of what was a pretty sloppy study, in which they gave 200 mg Pycnogenol a day for four weeks to several dozen men and women who were severely bothered by muscle cramps. The researchers did not give any of the subjects a placebo and there were no control groups.

Among the subjects were 22 healthy non-athletes [Normals], 21 diabetics with chronic venous insufficiency [CVI] and 23 athletes who were severely troubled by muscle cramps [Athletes].The subjects were asked to report how much trouble they were having from muscle cramps and pain before supplementation started, four weeks after supplementation had ceased and another week after that. The list below was used to score their pain.

The maximum score was 40. The total score which at the start of the study was surprisingly high decreased considerably as a result of supplementation, as the figure below shows. Click on the figure for a larger version.

Even more noticeable was the effect of the supplementation on the number of times that the subjects were troubled by muscle cramps. Click on the figure for a larger version.

The researchers did not look at how Pycnogenol prevents muscle cramps, but they suspect that the blood vessel widening effect of the supplement has something to do with it. Another possibility is that Pycnogenol is capable of reducing the formation of blood clots.

The study was sponsored by Horphag Research, the manufacturer of Pycnogenol.

Angiology. 2006 May-Jun;57(3):331-9.