Pine bark extract must be the secret ingredient in the mythical elixir of life considering the fact that it is touted as an anti-infective, anti-cancer, anti-ageing, anti-hypertensive, anticoagulant, anti-diabetes, anti-erectile dysfunction, anti-allergy, anti-PMT, anti-endometriosis, anti-diabetic foot ulcer, pro-circulation, pro-analgesic, pro-stamina, and AHDH remedy (to name just a few). It supposedly brings us all the benefits of red wine (and more) without the effects of alcohol.
Table of Contents
What Is Pine Bark Extract?
Pine bark extract comes from the Pinus pinaster (spp Atlantica) tree which is indigenous to the Mediterranean basin. The tree has a characteristic red bark and takes 30-50 years to grow.
It was used in the middle ages for healing and reversal of scurvy. It is positioned as Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) in the USA (which is the first hint that there may not be too much solid research to back up the health benefits of this panacea). It is marketed worldwide as a functional food, herbal medicine and cosmeceutical. It is a rich source of phenolic compounds including phenolic acid, catechin, taxifolin and oligo monomeric procyanidins (1). Pine bark has been shown to act as an antioxidant (2).
Pycnogenol is the trademark name for a branded standard extract of French pine bark. Pycnogenol is a fine aromatic astringent brown powder which is extracted using a patented process involving ethanol and water as solvents.
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Is There Any Research?
There are over 8000 publications on pine bark extract and 56 of these are human clinical trials. This compares favorably with cinnamon (a valid comparison as another tree source with health benefits) which has about 2000 published papers.
However, I have to comment that there are over 56 proposed health benefits of pine bark extract which means that we must be missing at least some data points...
Does Pine Bark Extract Lower Glucose Levels? (Or help Diabetes?)
There are two randomised controlled trials looking at the effect of pine bark extract on glucose control.
The first study was a dose finding study in 30 German adults with type 2 diabetes (3). Dose finding studies are done to identify the ideal dosing range of any new compound or product. In these studies, the dose of the investigational agent (Pycnogenol) is sequentially increased and compared to the outcome of interest (glucose control). The study found that fasting blood glucose levels decreased with increasing levels of Pycnogenol up to a dose of 200mg.
This research group then followed up on the dose finding study with another clinical trial. This was a multicenter, placebo- controlled, double-blind, randomized control trial in 77 patients with type 2 diabetes (4).
Patients were randomized to either Pycnogenol 100mg or placebo (in addition to their usual medications and care plan) for 12 weeks. The study showed a statistically significant reduction in glucose level in the Pycnogenol treated group as compared to the control (placebo) group. There was also a reduction in the levels of HbA1C (a marker of glucose control over time) but this only reached the level of significance for the first month of the study. It is difficult to reconcile the discrepancy between the glucose levels and the HbA1C levels in this study.
Had the investigators just measured/reported on the glucose levels, then pine bark extract would be moving along to claim that title of elixir of life. However, the discrepancy between the glucose and HbA1C results raise some doubts and at a minimum beg for more data. On the plus side, all adverse effects in the study were mild and transient and there were no significant differences between the treatment and the control arm in terms of side effects.
Summary: Further studies are needed before pine bark extract can be definitively recommended as an adjunctive treatment for diabetes.
Does It Help Prevent Hearing Loss Or Improve Balance?
There are no human clinical trials looking at the effect of pine bark extract on preventing hearing loss or improving balance.There is a (much-quoted) study which showed that pine bark extract reduced chemotherapy induced hearing loss in rats (5).
Summary: There is no human clinical evidence to support the role of French pine bark for ototoxicity or balance.
Does It Fight Infections?
Research on pine extract in infectious diseases is limited to four studies.
In 2007, Japanese researchers reported that pine bark extract inhibited key steps in the replication of HIV (6). This has not translated into any clinically relevant treatment options over the intervening decade.
Another Japanese research group looked at infections of the heart muscle in four-week old inbred male mice (7). Pycnogenol was shown to have a beneficial effect on viral myocarditis by decreasing virus replication in this study.
A third study found that Pycnogenol reduced hepatitis C replication in both wild type and resistant (telaprevir resistant) viral strains in mice (8)
German researchers showed that Pycnogenol exerted a significant, yet limited inhibition of growth and adherence of H. pylori to gastric cells in laboratory models. (9)
Summary: There is no clinical evidence to recommend Pycnogenol as an anti-infective agent.
Does It Help Erectile Dysfunction?
There are two clinical trials looking at Pycnogenol for erectile dysfunction.
The first study looked at a co-formulation of L-arginine plus Pycnogenol in a double-blind placebo controlled trial in 134 patients over 6 months (10). The co-formulation had a statistically significant benefit on erectile dysfunction and was associated with a significant increase in testosterone levels compared to the placebo group.
The second study was done in Germany and was designed as a randomized double-blind placebo, cross over trial (11). The study compared Pycnogenol plus roburins plus L-arginine plus L-citrulline versus placebo and found beneficial effects of the combination therapy during the month of the study evaluation.
Summary: There is some evidence to support a possible role for pine bark extract in erectile dysfunction. However, there are no clinical trials looking at the effect of pine bark in isolation without the possible confounding effects of co-administered agents.
Does It Reduce Inflammation?
There are a number of clinical studies which comment on the anti-inflammatory effect of Pycnogenol.
Pycnogenol 50 mg twice plus inhaled steroid therapy was compared to inhaled steroid therapy daily in 76 patients with dust mite induced asthma (12). The Pycnogenol group showed a statistically significant improvement in key symptoms such as cough, night wakening, need for salbutamol rescue inhalers and visits to the doctor. There was a 15% decrease in IgE (a key marker of inflammation) in the Pycnogenol plus steroid treatment arm as compared to a 13% increase in IgE in the steroid alone treatment arm.
An Italian study showed that perivascular inflammation decreased following Pycnogenol administration in 30 patients with chronic venous insufficiency (13).
However, a Swiss study in 23 patients who received Pycnogenol 100mg/day for 8 weeks for heart disease showed no changes in inflammatory markers 14)
Summary: There is limited and conflicting data on Pycnogenol’s role in inflammation at this time.
Does It Increase Athletic Performance?
There is one clinical trial which looked at the effect of pine bark extract supplementation on training, exercise recovery and oxidative stress. (15).
This Italian trial consisted of two sub-studies.
In sub-study #1, 74 people received pine bark extract 100mg/day during an 8-week intensive training program and were compared to a control group of 73 people. At the end of the study, the pine bark extract group had a statistically better running time and reduced oxidative stress as compared to the control group.
Sub-study #2 consisted of 54 people who were training for a triathlon. Thirty-two of these study participants received pine bark extract 150mg/day for four weeks. The pine bark extract group had a statistically significant decrease in cramps, running cramps and post-running cramps as compared to controls.
The study authors concluded that pine bark extract may improve training and performance in normal people and semi-professional athletes performing in high-stress sports such as triathlons.
Summary: There is some evidence to suggest that pine bark extract may benefit athletic performance.
Does It Protect Skin Against UV Light?
There are two key clinical studies looking at the dermatological effects of pine bark.
In the first study, thirty women with melasma (hyperpigmentation affecting sun exposed areas) took Pycnogenol 25mg three times daily with food for 30 days (16). There was a statistically significant improvement in the pigmentation score as compared to baseline and the treatment was well tolerated.
In the second study, twenty-one volunteers were given oral supplementation with Pycnogenol for 4 weeks. The minimal erythema dose (lowest dose of UV radiation needed to cause redness of the skin) was measured before and after supplementation and found that higher doses of UV radiation were required to produce redness after Pycnogenol treatment (17)
Summary: There is preliminary evidence to suggest that pine bark may protect against UV radiation.
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Is It More Effective (At Anything) Than Aspirin?
There are no head-to-head studies of aspirin versus Pycnogenol for anything. There is an in vitro study which suggests that Pycnogenol may intensify the anti-platelet effects of aspirin. (18).
A small study in 19 American heavy smokers showed that Pycnogenol 200 mg exerted an antiplatelet effect that lasted six days (19).
However, a deep dive into the data reveals an anomaly. Bleeding time is an old test used by physicians to assess the function of platelets. A small cut is made and the time to forming a clot is recorded. In this study, aspirin significantly (p<0.001) increased bleeding time from 167 to 236 seconds while Pycnogenol did not. It is concerning that pycnogenol did not increase the bleeding time as bleeding time is an actual measure of platelet function and should be increased if Pycnogenol is exerting a clinically significant anti-platelet effect.
Summary: The is no evidence that Pycnogenol is more effective than aspirin at anything.
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Is Pine Bark Extract Safe?
The two main side effects of pine bark are hyper sensitivity/allergy to pine bark and irritability in people with ADHD.
Pine bark is not recommended for people who are on chemotherapy or radiotherapy as its antioxidant properties may reduce the effects of these anticancer agents.
Pine bark has an antiplatelet effect and is not recommended for people who have a bleeding disorder or who are taking aspirin /antiplatelet agents (19).
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When it comes to the final word on rigorous analysis of research data, Cochrane reviews are the undoubted gold standard. A Cochrane meta-analysis of all published studies on Pycnogenol has been conducted. Two independent authors independently assessed all published data. They also contacted the manufacturer of Pycnogenol for any additional data of relevance.
The Cochrane reviewers concluded that ‘Current evidence is insufficient to support Pycnogenol use for the treatment of any chronic disorder. Well-designed, adequately powered trials are needed to establish the value of this treatment’. (20). Put another way, pine bark extract falls way short of being the elixir of life.
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Pine bark extract is an herbal supplement rich in healthy polyphenols like procyanidins, catechins, and phenolic acids. These plant compounds appear to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects on the human body. As such, pine bark extract shows great potential as a therapeutic herbal supplement.Is pine bark good for brain? ›
Boost Brain Function and Recovery
New research shows that adults over the age of 55, supplementing with pine bark extract over the course of one year, showed superior results in brain-related tasks compared to placebo groups.
Although it has positive effects in both the treatment and control of cancer, it also has several side effects. The most well-known side effect is nephrotoxicity, which can cause severe liver damage and result in kidney failure .Can you take pine bark daily? ›
Dosing. Maritime pine bark extract has most often been used by adults at a dose of 50 mg, taken 2-3 times daily, for up to one year. It's also used in various products, including creams and topical powders.Who should not take pine bark? ›
For that reason, you should be careful taking pine bark if you have hypertension or diabetes. We don't yet know what the best dose to use is, but studies have used two 50 mg Pycnogenol® capsules per day.Is pine bark healthy to eat? ›
While most tree barks are safe to eat, two that are easier to identify are pine and birch. The inner bark of all birch and pine trees is nutritious and perfect as emergency food. Pine trees have chunky thick outer bark, longer needles and cones (of which the seeds are also edible!).Is pine bark good for kidneys? ›
The current data showed a significant increase in the total phenolic content in pine bark extract in compared with the fruit extract. Conclusion: The pine bark and fruit can be useful in the prevention and treatment of kidney stones due to the high diuretic properties and antioxidant activity.Is pine bark good for your heart? ›
At the conclusion of the 12-week study, there was significant decrease of systolic and diastolic pressure as well as a decrease in heart rate in the PycnoQ10® group, compared to marginal improvements in the control group.Does pine bark raise blood pressure? ›
Gianni Belcaro, a lead researcher of the study. "The results of this study demonstrated Pycnogenol®'s ability not only to reduce blood pressure, but also to relieve the kidney damage caused by chronic hypertension."Who should not take Pycnogenol? ›
- are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- have an autoimmune condition.
- have a bleeding condition.
- have diabetes.
- are within two weeks of a scheduled surgery.
- have liver issues.
- have a heart condition.
Pycnogenol contains proanthocyanidins, which are naturally occurring substances found in sources like pine trees, peanut skins, grape seeds and green or black tea. Maritime pine bark extract also contains other phenolic compounds, the antioxidative substances found in plants.What can you not use Pycnogenol with? ›
The Ordinary – Pycnogenol 5%:
Avoid mixing with water-based formulas and Copper Peptides. However, the Vitamin Cs, retinol, and niacinamide can be used with this product.
In addition, the pine bark extract was associated with a reduction in levels of oxidative stress. “Pycnogenol does not appear to have any phyto-estrogen-like activity and in a study with women suffering endometriosis Pycnogenol was found to have no influence on women's estrogen levels,” they added. Authors: S.How long does it take for Pycnogenol to start working? ›
Limited research suggests that pycnogenol, used alone or in combination with L-arginine, might improve sexual function in men with ED. It seems to take up to 3 months of treatment for significant improvement.Does Pycnogenol affect blood pressure? ›
Pycnogenol may have benefits for heart and artery health. It seems to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the legs. Some small studies suggest it may also protect against coronary artery disease and blood clots.Is Pycnogenol good for kidneys? ›
In summary, this study shows that the addition of Pycnogenol to ramipril treatment improves kidney function and kidney cortical flow and perfusion more so than ramipril alone in advanced hypertensive patients with histories of cardiovascular events.Does pine bark lower dopamine? ›
The results reveal Pycnogenol lowers stress hormones by 26.2 percent in the case of adrenaline and decreases neurostimulant dopamine by 10.8 percent, which plays an important role in brain physiology involving learning, cognition, attention and behavior.Does pine bark lower cholesterol? ›
Moreover, in addition to its antioxidant effects, PYC significantly reduced LDL-cholesterol levels and increased HDL-cholesterol levels in plasma of two-thirds of the subjects.What happens if you eat pine bark? ›
The first is to eat it raw
Digesting raw pine bark is so fibrous it can give you stomach cramps. So consuming it raw is possible, and an excellent way to get nutrients fast in a pinch, it's not how you want to eat pine bark if there are other options available.
Dosing. Doses of pine bark extract have been studied in clinical trials, most commonly at 150 mg per day in 3 divided doses.
Promotes healthy brain function. A 2011 Italian trial administered a pine bark extract supplement to students for eight weeks, resulting in improved concentration, memory and mood, and a decrease in anxiety levels.Does pine bark increase testosterone? ›
Several studies have shown that pine bark extract when combined with L-arginine, is very effective in increasing testosterone production and improve sexual health in men.What is the difference between pine bark and Pycnogenol? ›
Pycnogenol is a trademarked name for pine bark extract, and there is little to no difference between the two in terms of composition or effects. You might use pine bark extract or pycnogenol to help treat a variety of medical conditions, including chronic venous insufficiency, retinopathy or erectile dysfunction.What herbs repair the kidneys? ›
- Dandelion Root. Otherwise known as Taraxacum officinale, dandelion root is a weed that has diuretic properties. ...
- Chanca Piedra. ...
- Horsetail. ...
- Juniper Berries. ...
- Uva Ursi Leaf. ...
- Hawthorn Leaf. ...
- Cleaver's Leaf/Stem. ...
Pine offers relief in sinus and lung congestion through its stimulating expectorant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory qualities. The fresh, younger needles also contain Vitamin C.Does Pycnogenol cross the blood brain barrier? ›
The improved cognition and memory are attributed to pycnogenol metabolites, developing from interaction of pycnogenol-specific procyanidins with gut microbiota. The pycnogenol metabolites readily pass the blood-brain barrier, thereby effectively quenching reactive oxygen species in the brain.Is pine bark good for diabetes? ›
One of these inspiring natural treatments is Pycnogenol®. Pycnogenol® is a trademarked supplement derived from the bark of the French Maritime Pine tree, rich in antioxidants called oligomeric procyanidins (or OPCs). Pycnogenol® appears to lower blood glucose and improves diabetic changes to the small blood vessels.What is the best leaf for high blood pressure? ›
Basil is extremely effective in treating medical conditions such as blood pressure, cold, flu, arthritis, and others. Eugenol present in the basil leaves helps to control high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Drinking basil tea or chewing raw basil is recommended for the benefits.Does Pycnogenol affect sleep? ›
Pycnogenol was found to be especially effective for improving vasomotor and insomnia/sleep problem symptoms, which were significantly better after 4 and 12 weeks than with placebo (p < 0.05).Does Pycnogenol tighten skin? ›
Pycnogenol® stimulates the natural production of hyaluronic acid in the skin, which then goes on to revive the collagen, which in turn lifts and tightens sagging skin. The study found that women with dehydrated skin saw an increase in skin moisture within just a few weeks of starting the supplement.
Enlarged prostate affects nearly all men and drugs that are prescribed to shrink the prostate may take up to six months to show results. This initial study shows measurable benefit from Pycnogenol within 60 days – a natural option without side effects."Does Pycnogenol prevent blood clots? ›
Conclusion: This study suggests that Pycnogenol® may have significant long-term protective efficacy for individuals following a thrombotic event. Moreover, Pycnogenol® appears to be at least as effective for post-thrombosis management as compression stockings, while the combination of both is superior.Should I use Pycnogenol in the morning or night? ›
How do you use pycnogenol in a skincare routine? Dr Tillo recommends finding a serum containing pycnogenol and using it before heavier creams such as moisturiser and SPF. "I would recommend using it once a day, in the morning," he says.Is Pycnogenol better than aspirin? ›
Vision level was better with Pycnogenol® (20/25 at nine months; P<0.05). With Pycnogenol®, edema at the retinal level was also significantly reduced compared to the other groups. Pycnogenol® has a very good safety profile. In the Aspirin® group 26 completed 9 months and 6 subjects dropped out for tolerability problems.How does Pycnogenol make you feel? ›
The women taking Pycnogenol also experienced improvement in fatigue, sleep, concentration, memory, dizziness, and mood, including less irritability.
Mental performance was also significantly increased in the active supplement group (by 8.9%) compared with only 3.1% in the control group. In addition, sustained attention and memory both increased in the Pycnogenol group by 13.4% and 3.6%, respectively.
Results: Nine PycnoQ10 treated patients (out of 32) and 3 (out of 21) taking placebo improved NYHA class. Systolic and diastolic pressure as well as heart rate and respiratory rate were significantly lowered with PycnoQ10 as compared to the control group (P<0.05). No significant changes were observed in controls.Does Pycnogenol help with aging? ›
Pine bark extract or the branded name, Pycnogenol®, provides many benefits to the skin, including reducing the visible signs of aging. Not only does it enhance the skin's ability to produce more hyaluronic acid to help maintain hydration, but more importantly, it also helps with collagen production.Which fruit is full of estrogen? ›
Dried fruits are a potent source of phytoestrogens. Dried apricots, dates, and prunes are some of the dried fruits with the highest phytoestrogen content.Which foods increase estrogen the most? ›
- Seeds: flaxseeds and sesame seeds.
- Fruit: apricots, oranges, strawberries, peaches, many dried fruits.
- Vegetables: yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, kale, celery.
- Soy products: tofu, miso soup, soy yogurt.
- Dark rye bread.
- Legumes: lentils, peas, pinto beans.
When it comes to estrogenic foods, flax seeds rank near the top. They have the highest amount of phytoestrogen content out of all the phytoestrogen-rich foods. Flax seeds are also a great source of dietary fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and regulate the digestive tract.Does Pycnogenol improve eyesight? ›
Conclusions: Pycnogenol taken at this early stage of retinopathy may enhance retinal blood circulation accompanied by regression of edema, which favorably improves vision of patients.Does Pycnogenol cause frequent urination? ›
Specifically, subjects taking Pycnogenol had a 51% improvement of residual bladder volume, 42% improvement in bladder emptying, 37% reduction in urination frequency, 31% improvement in urinary straining, 31% reduced frequency of nocturia, 31% reduction in intermittency, and 24% improvement of weak flow.Is Pycnogenol good for eyes? ›
Pycnogenol provides potent antioxidant protection against oxidative-stress related degenerative processes in the eyes, and Pycnogenol's vascular benefits translate to considerable benefits for people suffering from retinopathy.What Herb raises your blood pressure? ›
Examples of herbal supplements that can affect your blood pressure or blood pressure medications include: Arnica (Arnica montana) Ephedra (ma-huang) Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius and Panax ginseng)Which is better Pycnogenol or grape seed extract? ›
When it comes to improving blood flow, the compounds in pycnogenol that improve blood flow are the exact same molecules in grape seed extract that improve blood flow. The benefits of one are the benefits of the other, and the main difference is that grape seed extract is much cheaper.Which tree is used for controlling blood pressure? ›
Phyllanthus niruri is the only plant which can treat the essential high blood pressure (Table 1).Does pine bark increase heart rate? ›
At the conclusion of the 12-week study, there was significant decrease of systolic and diastolic pressure as well as a decrease in heart rate in the PycnoQ10® group, compared to marginal improvements in the control group.Does Pycnogenol thin your blood? ›
Pycnogenol might slow blood clotting. Taking pycnogenol along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.Is pine bark extract good for blood pressure? ›
The researchers found that the pine bark extract reduced the SBP of those in the high blood pressure group. The reductions were both statistically and clinically significant.
Most of the beneficial substances in pine bark extract should absorb into your system within 24-48 hours.