For as many years as I can remember my mum has been drinking beverages with blackstrap molasses to help with arthritis. That’s not so surprising as it’s a good source of calcium and minerals like copper, manganese and potassium which are essential for building bones. (It’s useful to note that vitamins D and K and protein also help. Exercise is helpful too.) But I often wondered what that strange, strong smelling syrupy stuff she put in her drinks was.
Blackstrap molasses seems to be one of those ancient cure-alls, a bit like cider vinegar (which is also famous for helping with arthritis – Sir Ranulph Fiennes swears by it.) Because the causes of arthritis are not known the focus remains on relieving the pain. And now there’s a new kid on the block: pine bark extract.
When I say “new kid” you have to understand that while the benefits of vinegar were supposedly noted by Shennong 7000 years ago, we have to wait until around 400BC for Hippocrates to write about pine bark. However, pine bark was only successfully marketed in the 1990s while molasses and cider vinegar have been in the public eye for a lot longer.
However, when my mum reads this she’ll probably scold me for not heeding her wisdom about drinking pine needle tea if ever I get scurvy?
Anyway, I digress. Researchers from Chieitl-Pescara University and Munster University have now found that the pine bark extract sold under the name Pycnogenol significantly relieves the inflammation of osteoarthritic joints which causes arthritis sufferers so much pain; they even found that patients who took the supplements felt relieved from pain for a further two weeks.
That’s good news as at this point my mum will probably regain interest in the conversation. It’s also interesting to note that while blackstrap molasses helps with heavy periods, pine bark has been found to significantly reduce menstrual pain.
As a cure-all the extract has long been known for it’s aid in healing wounds (and scurvy). Research is now being done into its ability to reduce stress, particularly in children with ADHD (google Dr Peter Rohdewald). And because it destroys free radicals it’s being used in many beauty care products too. Though, you know, I think I’ll pass over talking about anything to do with mum’s need to look more beautiful – or I might find myself ducking a jar of flying molasses.