As part of a larger search for healthy compounds in plants that might be used to develop functional food products or nutraceuticals, the researchers studied several different preparations of pine bark extract taken from the Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) and identified up to 28 compounds, some of which showed high biological activity.
The researchers then tested the various extracts against mouse inflammatory cells (macrophages) for their ability to produce nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), chemicals which are known to help trigger inflammation when they are produced in excess amounts, as during disease or injury. The results were then compared to the chemical responses of inflammatory cells that were not exposed to pine bark extracts.
The researchers found that the most highly purified extract tested had the most potent anti-inflammatory activity. The extract (at 50 g/mL concentration level) inhibited nitric oxide production, an excess of which has been linked to arthritis and circulatory problems, by up to 63 percent, they say. Likewise, they found that the same extract concentration inhibited prostaglandin production, an excess of which has been linked to arthritis and pain, by up to 77 percent.
The extract inhibited prostaglandin E2 production probably by blocking COX-2 enzyme activity, which is normally enhanced during inflammatory responses, according to the scientists. Blocking this enzyme is the basis for some widely used arthritis medications.
It is not known how the compounds in the extract compare to anti-inflammatory agents that are already on the market. Some of the phenolic compounds identified in the extract are already familiar to scientists as potent disease-fighting antioxidants, but there are other compounds present in the extract that have not yet
Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society