A fake Christmas tree may be more popular, but here’s a new reason to appreciate the real thing: Researchers have identified a group of anti-inflammatory compounds in the bark of the Scotch pine — widely used for Christmas trees — that they say could be developed into food supplements or drugs for treating arthritis and pain. The compounds, which show promise in preliminary cell studies, are likely to be found in other pine species as well, the scientists say.
Anti-inflammatory compounds have been found in a wide variety of plant species, but this is believed to be the first time that they’ve been identified in a species that is used commonly for Christmas trees, the researchers say. The compounds identified were phenolics, a class of highly-active plant chemicals that have been increasingly tied to beneficial health effects. The study is scheduled to appear in the Dec. 29 print issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.
“The preliminary study showed that highly purified preparations of pine bark extract have potent anti-inflammatory effects. In the future, this may mean that people with arthritis may ease their pain by eating food supplements made from Christmas trees,” says study leader Kalevi Pihlaja, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at the University of Turku in Finland. He cautions that the extract used in this study has not yet been tested in animals or humans. Until those studies are done, he adds, no one knows how much might be needed to obtain health benefits or whether there are any side-effects.
Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
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