Is it me, or is there something slightly disturbing about this picture? It bothers me a little bit. He looks happy enough, but there's something unnatural looking about a baby elephant eating a tree. I feel worried for him.
Unlike the pie, pudding, and honeyed ham that may be haunting your fridge, though, pine trees' unique oils may actually help some animals' digestion, Kuehne said.
People too might benefit from a little bark—but not necessarily in their bites. Some doctors are touting supplements with a pine bark extract called Pycnogenol. Supporters claim the antioxidant compound can reduce asthma attacks, thin blood, improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and relieve symptoms of diabetes.
Pycnogenol? I've never heard of it. But then I don't know much about natural products. Pycnogenol.com has this to say:
More than 170 scientific articles and clinical trials have confirmed Pycnogenol’s safety, absence of toxicity and clinical efficacy over the past 35 years. Today, Pycnogenol® is one of the most researched ingredients in the natural product marketplace. Published findings have demonstrated Pycnogenol’s beneficial effects in cardiovascular health, skincare, cognitive function, diabetes health, inflammation, sports nutrition, asthma and allergy relief and menstrual disorders, among others.
And there's this 1998 report from UC Berkeley:
Pycnogenol is a combination of some 40 chemicals extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine, Pinus pinaster, which grows in many areas along the Atlantic coast of France and into North Africa. Extracts and teas of pine were commonly used by early Europeans and native Americans, and reportedly are used in Asian medicine as well.
While many scientists eschew research on chemical mixtures like Pycnogenol, Packer has long seen the value of looking at natural plant extracts, most of which are a mélange of chemicals.
It's true: most scientists do eschew research on chemical mixtures. Chemist that I am, I would have to number myself among the eschewers. I was trained to study one variable at a time. Plus, that's how the FDA likes it. Although Pycnogenol® is in some small clinical trials, lotsa luck getting the FDA to embrace those trial results.
I think some companies bankroll clinical trials just to get the credibility of being in clinical trials. They have no intention of launching a drug. They don't need to; they'll sell plenty of extract without the hassle of seeking FDA approval. Saying your stuff's been through clinical trials will be enough for some consumers. But people shouldn't think something is safe and effective just because it's been through clinical trials or scientists at notable institutions support it. (Thalidomide? Vioxx?) Be wary about what you put in your body.