Blood was collected before and after treatment throughout the entire birch pollen season for the measurement of birch specific IgE antibodies. Upon recognition of a specific allergen the IgE class of antibodies stimulates the release of histamine, an inflammatory mediator responsible for the hay-fever symptoms. During exposure to pollen allergic people develop higher levels of the corresponding IgE antibody, which goes along with increasing hay-fever symptoms. Comparison of birch specific IgE levels from the start of the trial and the end of allergy season showed an increase of 31.9 percent in the placebo group but only 19.4 percent in the Pycnogenol group.
Subjects were instructed to rate nasal and eye symptoms daily by means of a self-administered questionnaire, recording values in their treatment journals. These resemble problems well known to people affected by hay-fever: burning, itchy, watering or tearing eyes, redness, sneezing and stuffy, runny or itchy nose. All nasal and eye symptoms were scored with values ranging from "zero" (symptoms absent) to a maximum of "three" (severe, symptoms completely preventing normal activity). Throughout the birch pollen seasons around mid of April until end of May, the total average nasal and eye symptom score was lower in the Pycnogenol group than in the placebo group. A detailed analysis showed that Pycnogenol was more effective the earlier patients began taking the product prior to the onset of the exposure to birch pollen. The researchers speculate that a lag-time of at least five weeks prior to pollen exposure is required for Pycnogenol to defy hay-fever symptoms. Subjects taking Pycnogenol seven weeks before onset of the birch season required very little non-prescription antihistamine medication (12.5%) compared with subjects taking the placebo (50%).
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