Pycnogenol: Does Pine Bark Extract Have Any Real Benefits?

By Roy Krebs

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40 years of research and over 400 scientific studies have confirmed what our ancestors long suspected, Pycnogenol (a patented pine bark extract) has incredible health benefits. 

Pycnogenol is a powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and antihistamine.

This wonder ingredient:

  • supports healthy blood flow and circulation by strengthening the walls of your blood vessels and capillaries
  • promotes flexible joints by reducing inflammation
  • fights the free-radicals that cause disease
  • reduces the symptoms of allergies including asthma and hay-fever

In addition, pine bark extract has benefits for skin care, eye care, respiratory function, and women’s health.

It has a positive effect on cognitive health and memory.

As if that’s not enough, Pycnogenol has even been shown to increase athletic performance.

In this article I'll review this french pine bark extract, what it’s used for and how to include it in your stack.

What is Pycnogenol (pine bark extract)?

pycnogenol

Pine bark extract is a powerful antioxidant packed full of oligomeric proanthocyanidin compounds (OPCs).

Antioxidants are important as they counterbalance the free radicals that your body produces naturally to fight disease and eliminate toxins, and that you are exposed to from stress and pollution.

If you have too many free radicals in your system and not enough antioxidants to counterbalance them, your cells can become damaged through oxidization.

Researchers believe that many degenerative diseases are caused by exposure to dangerous levels of free radicals. [1]

Pycnogenol (pyc-nah-gen-ol) is a patented French maritime pine bark extract from Horphag Research.

It comes from trees grown in a pristine forest on the SW coast of France, near the Bordeaux region.

It is 100 percent natural and free from pesticides and herbicides.

Horphag Research has done 40 years of research into the safety, quality, and efficacy of this wonder extract, making it one of the most studied ingredients in the world.

They have discovered Pycnogenol is effective due to its double function. As well as boosting the anti-oxidative power of your cells it also catches the free radicals in your bloodstream.

Currently pycnogenol is available in a number of forms, as a dietary supplement, a powder or cream that is often used in cosmetics, a multi-vitamin, and other health products such as health drinks.

Pycnogenol Benefits and Side Effects

 

Heart and Circulation

In order to function efficiently, blood vessels need Nitric Oxide (NO) to allow them to dilate and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. NO is released in the endothelium, the tissue that lines blood and lymphatic vessels.

Many cardiovascular diseases are caused by an endothelial dysfunction.

Studies have shown that Pycnogenol can increase blood flow, and support better circulation by preventing blood clotting and the restriction of arteries caused by stress. It also strengthens the walls of blood vessels and capillaries. [2]

A study of 58 patients with hypertension showed that 100 mg of Pycnogenol daily had a positive effect on their blood pressure. [3]

Pycnogenol also supports the treatment of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) which is the most common form of heart disease. 200 mg taken daily for 8 weeks has been shown to improve endothelial function in patients with CAD. [4]

Athletic Performance

Athletes can also benefit from the increase in NO supported by pine bark extract, through enhanced circulation and blood flow.

This has a positive effect on athletic performance by delivering oxygen (and therefore energy) more effectively to your muscles, speeding post-exercise recovery, and reducing aches.

Pycnogenol also improves athletic stamina. In a recent trial, both semi-professional and ordinary athletes reported an increase in endurance and ability when taking 100 mg or 150 mg daily. [5]

Joint Health

The cushioning cartilage in your joints can become damaged through wear and tear which causes inflammation and pain.

Pycnogenol can ease these symptoms as it is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown that taking 30 - 150 mg Pycnogenol daily helps support the mobility and flexibility of joints and reduces aches and pains. [6]

Studies have also shown that Pycnogenol can have a positive effect on arthritis and osteoarthritis. [7]

Cognitive Health and Memory

Pycnogenol can help improve your cognitive function including numerical and spatial working, memory, focus, and concentration. [8]

A study of 53 college students, for instance, showed Pycnogenol enhanced memory and focus leading to improved test scores. [9]

Research also suggests as little as 1 mg a day can reduce symptoms of ADHD in children. [10]

Skin care

Skin can be damaged by UV light, stress, and pollution but you also need vitamin D that comes from exposure to sunlight in order to absorb calcium and promote healthy bones.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to many cancers.

A recent study showed that Pycnogenol can offer protection from the free radicals that come from the harmful rays of the sun (photoprotection) and may also reduce hyperpigmentation of the skin, improve the skin barrier function and extracellular matrix homeostasis (the maintenance of the structure of cells and soft tissues). [11]

In addition, Pycnogenol can help maintain your skin elasticity and hydration and slow the aging process. Some anti-aging skin creams and cosmetics contain Pycnogenol.

Eyecare

Oxidative stress causes damage to your eyes, particularly as you get older. Genetics, lifestyle, and diet can also speed up the degeneration of your eyesight.

The antioxidant properties of Pycnogenol support the maintenance of healthy retinal capillaries and better vision.

Research has shown that taking Pycnogenol daily for 2 months can prevent or reduce the symptoms of retinal disease caused by diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis. [12]

You may also be interested in taking an eye health supplement.

Women’s health

A study of 47 women with painful menstrual cramps who were given 30 mg Pycnogenol twice a day, showed subjects had fewer days of menstrual pain when taking the product. [13]

60 mg daily also has a positive effect on symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, sweating, menstrual and sexual problems, anxiety, depression, memory and focus issues, and insomnia and does not cause hormonal changes. [14]

Pycnogenol also reduces symptoms of endometriosis. In addition, 30 mg a day can help reduce pain in the back, pelvis, calves, and hips during the third trimester of pregnancy. [15]

Respiratory Health

As an antihistamine, it can supports healthy respiratory function and reduces edema (swelling).

This can help children with asthma as well as other allergies such as hay fever.

In a trial of 60 children with asthma, 16 out of the 30 in the treatment group were able to stop using their inhaler after taking 1 mg of Pycnogenol for 3 months. [16]

Diabetes

Pycnogenol also helps people suffering from diabetes by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates, reducing blood sugar levels.

Studies have also suggested that it strengthens retinal capillaries which means diabetics are less likely to develop retinopathy and glaucoma. [17]

Side Effects of Pycnogenol

There are very few side effects associated with taking Pycnogenol. There have been a few reports of dizziness, gut problems, headache, and mouth ulcers but these are rare.

It is recommended that you take Pycnogenol with or after meals to reduce potential side-effects to the gut.

Should I take Pycnogenol or regular pine bark extract?

I always recommend taking the branded ingredient as this is a patented formula that is based on 40 years of research and 400 scientific publications, including 135 clinical studies, involving over 10,000 research subjects.

We also know exactly what is in Pycnogenol, that it is 100 percent natural and free from pesticides and herbicides.

As someone who's been working in the supplement industry for a very long time, I cannot advise enough only working with brands and ingredients that are deeply invested in science and production. This product checks all of the boxes.

Recommended Pycnogenol Dosage

I have listed the daily dosage recommendations for common applications of Pycnogenol, but it is better to consult with your doctor to get more information about the dosage that is right for you taking into account your medical history.[18]

  • Hypertension - 50-200mg
  • Memory - 30-150 mg
  • Diabetes (blood glucose) - 50 - 200 mg
  • Diabetes (retinopathy) - 40 - 150 mg
  • Hay fever / asthma - 50 - 150 mg
  • Joint health - 30 - 150 mg
  • Women’s health (menopause) - 50 - 200 mg
  • Women’s health (menstrual discomfort) - 30 - 100 mg
  • Skin care - 50 - 150 mg
  • Sports (performance) - 50 - 200 mg

Conclusion

Thanks to extensive research into the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol, we now know that there are many health benefits that our ancestors could only suspect through trial and error applications.

As a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine, research has shown that Pycnogenol can be used to support cardiovascular, respiratory and women’s health. It has applications for joint, eye and skin care, and can optimize cognitive and athletic performance. There are many other benefits that are still being discovered.

Do you use Pycnogenol? What benefits have you noticed? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us in the comments!

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