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Can Your Christmas Tree Fight Arthritis?

You may be surprised the bark of that natural Scottish pine sitting in your living room and "posing" as a Christmas tree could be the source of a number of anti-inflammatory compounds which may be developed into food supplements or medications for treating arthritis and pain, according to a new study. Scientists believe these compounds, which show promise in preliminary cell studies, are likely to be found in other pine species too.

Anti-inflammatory compounds have been found in a wide variety of plant species, but this is believed to be the first time they've been identified in a species used commonly for Christmas trees, researchers said. The compounds identified were phenolics, a class of highly-active plant chemicals that have been increasingly tied to beneficial health effects.

The most highly purified extract tested had the most potent anti-inflammatory activity, researchers said. The extract inhibited nitric oxide production, an excess of which has been linked to arthritis and circulatory problems, by up to 63 percent. Likewise, they found the same extract concentration inhibited prostaglandin production, an excess of which has been linked to arthritis and pain, by up to 77 percent.

So far, however, the extract used in this study has not yet been tested in animals or humans. So don't save a piece or two from your Christmas tree to make your own anti-inflamatory, at least until more research is done. In fact, by merely "right-sizing" the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats -- essential to human health -- you already have a natural alternative at your disposal.

EurekAlert December 13, 2004

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