I have been vaporizing an oil form of pine bark extract for two years now since I found out about its anti-cancer and anti-infection effects – two important points for longevity – and noticed the ease of breathing while walking through a pine forest. The extract also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduces free radical damage.
This article summarizes the references and supported findings of the scientific research surrounding pine bark extract constituents, first in regards to conditions of illness and in normal healthy situations, and then in a technical mechanism response.
- What Is Pycnogenol?
- Pycnogenol Dosage
- Benefits of Pycnogenol in Health Conditions:
- 1) Pycnogenol Lowers Blood Glucose and Fights Type 2 Diabetes
- 2) Pycnogenol Increases Nitric Oxide Release and Improves Endothelial Function
- 3) Pycnogenol Improves Asthma Symptoms
- 4) Pycnogenol May Improve Symptoms of ADHD
- 5) Pycnogenol Reduces Pain Associated with Pregnancy
- 6) Pycnogenol Prevents Viruses
- 7) Pycnogenol Heals Wounds and Scarring
- 8) Pycnogenol Reduces Menstrual Pain
- 9) Pycnogenol Reduces Varicose Veins
- 10) Pycnogenol Reduces the Common Cold
- 11) Pycnogenol Manages Hemorrhoids
- 12) Pycnogenol Manages Melasma (or Chloasma)
- 13) Pycnogenol Reduces Free Radicals
- 14) Pycnogenol Manages Cholesterol
- 15) Pycnogenol Improves Skin Elasticity
- 16) Pycnogenol Saves Neurons
- Pycnogenol Reviews
- Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
What Is Pycnogenol?
Pycnogenol is a patented extract of French maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster). It is standardized to contain 65-75% procyanidins, a class of polyphenols and flavonoids like those found in blueberries, wine, grape skin, citrus, and cocoa. The procyanidins break down into catechin and taxifolin before reaching the blood and caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and another metabolite (in this image, M1) [R].
Pycnogenol is usually extracted from the maritime pine, however extracts of Pinus radiata, Pinus densiflora, and Pinus thunbergii are also known to have the similar amounts of the same substances, and are often sold under the brand name Pycnogenol [R].
The extract is known for anticancer effects and preventing tumor growth, with some scientists advocating its use as a food additive, such as in vitamins [R].
In most studies, 50-300 mg/day seems to be the standard dosing range. There does not appear to be any difference in effectiveness between dividing the total dose into two doses throughout the day and taking the entire dose at one time.
Benefits of Pycnogenol in Health Conditions:
1) Pycnogenol Lowers Blood Glucose and Fights Type 2 Diabetes
Pycnogenol has been shown to potently lower blood glucose and help improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics.
In a double blind, randomized controlled trial (DB-RCT), 100 mg of daily Pycnogenol for 12 weeks in type 2 diabetic patients significantly lowered blood sugar levels and HbA1c (a marker of long term blood glucose levels) [R]. Interestingly, the researchers found that insulin was not affected, indicating the Pycnogenol affects blood sugar concentrations by a mechanism other than insulin secretion.
Another DB-RCT found that 125 mg daily Pycnogenol supplementation in 48 type 2 diabetics resulted in 28 of the subjects bringing their blood glucose levels to within the normal reference range, while also significantly lowering HbA1c [R].
It’s important to note that both studies were funded by Horphag Research, the original developers and exclusive marketers of Pycnogenol. That being said, the studies appear to be methodologically sound, meaning there were no blatant errors in the study design and data collection.
2) Pycnogenol Increases Nitric Oxide Release and Improves Endothelial Function
Nitric oxide is crucial to the healthy functioning of blood vessels, allowing them to dilate and maintain a healthy blood pressure. It is also an important molecule for the immune system, where it is used by certain immune cells to destroy pathogens.
Endothelium is the tissue that lines the inside of blood and lymphatic vessels and is where nitric oxide is released. Endothelial dysfunction (an imbalance of vasodilating, such as nitric oxide, and vasoconstricting substances) is a key event in the development of cardiovascular disease [R].
A double-blind, randomized controlled trial in 16 healthy men showed that daily supplementation with 180 mg Pycnogenol for two weeks increased blood flow in the forearm via an increase in nitric oxide [R].
In 58 patients with hypertension, 100 mg of Pycnogenol for 12 weeks reduced endothelin-1 levels compared to placebo [R]. Endolelin-1 is a peptide that constricts blood vessels and increase blood pressure.
Another DB-RCT in patients with coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, showed that 200 mg/day of Pycnogenol resulted in 32% improvement in a marker known as flow-mediated dilation, a reliable non-invasive measure of endothelial function [R].
3) Pycnogenol Improves Asthma Symptoms
At least three clinical trials have revealed the ability of Pycnogenol to control the symptoms of asthma.
Twenty-six asthmatic were randomized to receive 1 mg/lb/day of Pycnogenol (maximum of 200 mg) or a placebo for four weeks. Supplementation with Pycnogenol improved Asthma symptom scores and reduced thromboxane and leukotriene levels, two molecules implicated in the symptoms of asthma [R].
In 60 children (aged 6-18) with mild-to-moderate asthma received either 1 mg/lb/day Pycnogenol or placebo for three months. Amazingly, 18 of 30 patients in the treatment group were able to stop using their inhaler. Supplementation with Pycnogenol also led to a reduction of an average of 2.6 Albuterol puffs per day down to an average of 0.2 puffs per day as well as a 38.6% decrease in leukotrienes, compared to a slight increase in the control group [R].
A longer study in 76 asthmatic patients, examined 100 mg daily supplementation with Pycnogenol in addition to inhalation corticosteroid (ICS, conventional asthma treatment) compared to only inhalation corticosteroid. Results showed that 55% of patients in the treatment group were able to reduce their ICS dose and no patient needed to increase their dose, compared to 6% of the control group being able to reduce their dose and 18.8% of patients requiring a higher dosage [R].
Patients in the treatment group also experienced less frequent night-awakenings, fewer days when their peak expiratory flow (a measure of airway obstruction) was less than 80%, and the need for additional asthma medication was less frequent.
4) Pycnogenol May Improve Symptoms of ADHD
Adrenaline (epinephrine) is one of the molecules that mediates the fight-or-flight response, and individuals with ADHD have been shown to have on average five time more adrenaline than normal. Supplementation with 1 mg of pycnogenol per kg of body weight daily for one month in 57 ADHD patients led to a 25% reduction in adrenaline and reduction in hyperactivity, compared to placebo (DB-RCT) [R].
5) Pycnogenol Reduces Pain Associated with Pregnancy
Pycnogenol has been shown to reduce the pain associated with pregnancy, particularly hip joint, lower back, groin, and calf cramps [R].
However, this reduction in pain may be due to a placebo effect as the control group did not receive a placebo supplement. Placebo effect has been shown to be as strong as 6 mg of morphine for pain reduction [R, R].
6) Pycnogenol Prevents Viruses
Pine bark extract was found to reduce the replication of viruses (viral myocarditis) in the hearts of mice by a factor of 32 [R] .
7) Pycnogenol Heals Wounds and Scarring
Pycnogenol improved wound healing time and reduced the size of the scar after wound healing by 20% in rats [R].
8) Pycnogenol Reduces Menstrual Pain
In 47 patients, 30 mg twice daily Pycnogenol supplementation reduced pain associated with menstruation [R].
9) Pycnogenol Reduces Varicose Veins
In women who took 100 mg/day of Pycnogenol for six months, edema, spider veins, and cramps were significantly decreased [R]. These effects were even more pronounced than those seen in elastic compression stockings.
10) Pycnogenol Reduces the Common Cold
Pycnogenol supplementation reduced the number of lost working days, reduced the need to use over-the-counter medications, and resulted in fewer number of days of perceived cold compared to those who did not supplement with the extract [R].
11) Pycnogenol Manages Hemorrhoids
In a controlled, randomized trial Pycnogenol completely prevented hemorrhoids from bleeding in acute hemorrhoidal attacks, whereas bleeding still occurred in the control group [R].
12) Pycnogenol Manages Melasma (or Chloasma)
Pycnogenol was found to reduce the area of melasma as well as lowers symptoms of fatigue, constipation, body pain, and anxiety [R].
13) Pycnogenol Reduces Free Radicals
14) Pycnogenol Manages Cholesterol
In 25 subjects, cholesterol levels were reduced when 150 mg/day of Pycnogenol was supplemented for six weeks [R].
15) Pycnogenol Improves Skin Elasticity
Pycnogenol helps skin to maintain its balance, prevents uneven tanning, and improves strength [R].
16) Pycnogenol Saves Neurons
Pycnogenol has been shown to help prevent nerve cells from dying (neurodegeneration) in mice [R]
“Originally, I started taking Pycnogenol to ameliorate the symptoms of von Willebrand disease (a blood coagulation disorder), and it certainly helped reduce the frequency of nosebleeds. Beyond that, however, I noticed that my usually cool hands and feet were warm and flushed with color, even in cold environments. After about two weeks, I noticed that my skin was clearer, more even, and more smooth than it has ever been before” [R].
“I read about this product in Life Extension magazine. I have many age related problems that this product has helped.however the most exciting for me is my tinnitus has all but disappeared.When I realized there was quiet in my head for the first time in years I nearly cried” [R].
Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.
That’s why I decided to create tools that will help others cut down the guesswork:
- Lab Test Analyzer – a software tool that will analyze your labs and tell you what the optimal values are for each marker — as well as provide you with actionable tips and personalized health and lifestyle recommendations to help you get there.
- SelfDecode – a software tool that will help you analyze your genetic data from companies such as 23andme and ancestry. You will learn how your health is being impacted by your genes, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
- SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
- SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
- Selfhacked Inflammation course – a video course on inflammation and how to bring it down
- Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
- Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
- BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
- SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
HOW WOULD YOU RATE THIS ARTICLE?