I love to travel. Exploring new places, seeing new sights and eating new types of food are among the top greatest things. But traveling has some serious consequences. Not only do you have to deal with the circus that ensues when you try to get on the plane, and must sit on a plane for however many hours that it takes to get to your destination, but then you have to spend the next significant chunk of your

precious travel time adjusting to the time. What if you could skip the recuperation time and avoid your jet lag? According to a new study published in Minerva Cardioangiologica, you can by taking pine bark extract.

More Bark than Bite: Pine Bark, which boasts a number of health benefits due to increased blood blow and antioxidants, may be the answer to jet lag symptoms. Credit:
(c) 2002
Steve Baskauf

Pycnogenol®, an extract from French maritime pine bark, previously studied for other health benefits, proved to reduce symptoms of jet lag by 50%. "This study could not have come at a better time for the upcoming holiday travel season," said Dr. Gianni Belcaro, a lead researcher of the study. "Previous Pycnogenol(R) flight studies have shown a reduction in jet lag; however this was the first study to solely focus on the condition."

Jet lag, or desynchronosis, occurs when traveling across time zones and causes a variety of temporary mental and physical conditions. The body, unable to immediately adjust to the difference in time zones, reacts to the new environment, often causing symptoms including insomnia, fatigue, irritability, disorientation and loss of concentration. Coupled with the physical symptoms the body may experience from long periods of inactivity due, passengers may experience headaches, lower leg edema (swelling) and brain edema.  It takes up to 24 hours for your body to recover completely from desynchronosis for every time zone traveled through.

Belcaro conducted the study at the G. D'Annunzio University in Pescara, Italy and included 133 passengers who took flights that were seven to nine hours in length. Passengers ingested 50 mg of oral Pycnogenol® three times daily, for seven days, starting two days prior to the flight. Results were evaluated by CT scan and a rating system for symptoms. The control group showed a significantly lower score, by 56%, than in the Pycnogenol® treatment group for all symptoms rated. The symptoms also lasted almost half as long in the treatment group (18.2 hours) than in the control group (39.3 hours). The CT scan, studied for the severity of various conditions including sleep alterations, swelling and other neurological signs of instability, showed that the group given Pycnogenol® displayed consistently lower (61.5%) severity of symptoms than the untreated group.

"This is the first study describing diffuse subliminal swellings of the brain after long haul flights, which we found to be reduced to less than half in the Pycnogenol(R) group," said Dr. Belcaro

Other studies have also examined the varied health benefits of Pycnogenol® including reduction of edema, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and an increase in blood circulation. Published in Clinical Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis, one study showed that passengers taking Pycnogenol® on flights 7-12 hours in length were protected from complications resulting from DVT and superficial vein thrombosis. Comprised of a combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, Pycnogenol® may provide a host of health benefits. Belcaro attributes results due the combined effects of antioxidant efficacy and the increased blood circulation activity of Pycnogenol®.

"I'm encouraged by the results of the study as Pycnogenol(R) was effective in preventing jet lag related effects without any side-effects," said Dr. Belcaro. While more research needs to be conducted on this topic, Pycnogenol(R) is emerging as natural, yet safe option for long distance travelers.

If you are planning a trip during the holidays, and want to skip the recovery time, then pop some pine bark and you will be ready to eat some turkey, trim the tree and otherwise eat, drink and be merry, without the jet lag.