Maritime Pine Bark Health Benefits: What is Pycnogenol?
Maritime Pine Bark Extract, also known as Pycnogenol, is a natural herbal supplement made from the bark of the French Maritime Pine Tree (Pinus pinaster) grown in southern France.
The main active ingredients in Pycnogenol are Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). The OPC’s are the ingrediets that give Pycnogenol all of its healing and immune building properties. OPC’s are reported to help Vitamin C work better in the brain to synthesize the neurotransmitters seratonin, dopamine, and norepinepherine and protect the brain against free-radical damage. OPC’s also have been shown to block inflammation, boost the immune system, act as natural anti-histamines, and inhibit the breakdown of of norepinepherine and dopamine.
Pycnogenol (OPC’s) can also be found in grape seeds, lemon tree bark, peanuts, cranberries and citrus peels. Pycnogenol is also made from Grape Seed Extract. Studies have not yet concluded as to whether Pycnogenol from grape seeds is as potent as Pycnogenol from Maritime Pine Bark. Many feel that Pycnogenol from Maritime Pine Bark is more potent. This extract is reportedly almost 25 times more powerful than Vitamin C as an antioxidant. Pycnogenol has also been shown to have anticancer, antimicrobial, antitumor, anti-viral and cardiovascular-protective actions.
Maritime Pine Bark Health Benefits: The Benefits of Pycnogenol
Many scientific human and animal studies have been performed on Pycnogenol. It has been proven safe and effective for both humans and animals.
Pycnogenol has been found useful in the treatment of:
- ADD and ADHD: The dose used in clinical trials was 1mg/kg of body weight per day.* A one month trial in children with ADHD showed significant reduction in hyperactivity and improved attention.**
- Age Related Cognitive Decline: A double-blind study using 150 mg of Pycnogenol per day on healthy senior people showed that the Pycnogenol improved memory after three months as compared to the placebo group.
- Allergies: Studies show that at a dose of 100 mg per day, Pycnogenol helps normalize the immune response by inhibiting Nuclear Factor-Kappa B and lowering the sensitivity level for triggering an immune response. Pycnogenol also inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. When an allergen is present, mast cells release histamine which triggers the onset of allergic symptoms such as coughing, itching, sneezing, wheezing, etc. Clinical studies show that Pycnogenol blocks histamine release and decreases these allergic response symptoms.
- Asthma: The dose used in clinical trials was 1 mg/lb of body weight per day.* Testing in children 6-18 years old over a three month period showed significant reduction of inflammatory markers, improvement in pulmonary function, and decrease in need of rescue inhalers.**
- Arthritis: The dose used in clinical trials was 100-150 mg/day.* A double blind trial using Pycnogenol at a dosage of 100 mg per day showed Pycnogenol to reduce pain and other osteoarthritis symptoms. The study group also experienced improved walking performance and reduced their use of pain medication. Another double blind trial using Pycnogenol at a dosage of 150 mg per day showed an improvement in symptoms and reduction in use of pain medication.
- Cholesterol/dyslipidemia: The dose used in clinical trials was 120-150 mg/day.* In 2003 a study by Devaraj, et al, showed that supplementation of healthy volunteers with Pycnogenol lowered LDL-cholesterol and increased HDL-cholesterol.
- Cancer Prevention: Because of it’s strong antioxidant properties, it is has been proposed as a measure to prevent cancer. In veterinary practice, Charles Loop DVM successfully uses pycnogenol in his clinic at a dosage of 1-2 mg per pound of body weight as a part of any cancer treatment protocol. Herbalist Robert McDowell uses it as the mainstay of all of his successful cancer herbal treatments. Both of these practitioners utilize Pycnogenol for its superior antioxidant properties and clearing of free radicals. In a study on ovarian cancer, Pycnogenol was proven to induce apoptosis in cancer cells while not affecting normal cells at all, showing that Pycnogenol may be useful as a chemopreventative agent against cancer. Pycnogenol was also studied and proven effective against Leukemia cancer cells by increasing differentiation and inducing apoptosis in the cancerous cells.
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency: The dose used in clinical trials was 150-360 mg/day.* Pycnogenol has been proven very effective in decreasing the symptoms of venous ulcerations, edema, and leg pain in people with chronic venous insufficiency.**
- Diabetes: The dose used in clinical trials was 50-200 mg/day.* Studies show that Pycnogenol is more effective than green tea extract and commonly prescribed diabetes medications at slowing the rate at wich carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream. Because of this, Pycnogenol can also lower glucose and aid in weight loss.**
- Dysmenorrhea: The dose used in clinical trials was 30-60 mg/day.* A double-blind study showed reduction in abdominal and back pain during menses.
- Endometriosis: The dose used in clinical trials was 60 mg/day.* Studies showed that Pycnogenol reduces the symptoms of endometriosis by 33%.
- Erectile Dysfunction: The dose used in clinical trials was 120 mg/day.* Combined with 1000 mg of of L-arginine twice per day, Pycnogenol was found to allow 92.5% of men to experience normal erection within 3 months.**
- Heart Health: In animal studies, Pycnogenol has been shown to protect from cardiotoxicity caused by antitumor drugs. Because of it’s strong antioxidant properties, Pycnogenol has been proposed as a measure to prevent heart disease. Animal studies show that this extract can slow or reverse atherosclerosis. Pycnogenol has been shown to reduce capillary permeability, increase capillary resistance, and strengthen capillary walls. This extract has also been proven to reduce blood-platelet aggregation, creating better circulation and reducing plaque formation.
- Hypertension: The dose used in clinical trials was 100-200 mg/day.* At doses of 200mg per day, Pycnogenol lowererd systolic blood pressures of patients with mild hypertension an average of 10-15 points.**
- Inflammation: Pycnogenol inhibits the eicosanoid generating enzymes with is consistent with reported clinical anti-inflammatory and platelet inhibitory effects according to in vivo studies.
- Jet Lag: At a dosage of 150 mg of Pycnogenol per day for 7 days, controlled studies showed jeg lag symptoms to be more mild and last for a shorter period of time as compared to untreated control groups. In the study, Pycnogenol was taken for two days before and five days after the air travel.
- Leg Cramps: Studies show that at a dosage of Pycnogenol at 200 mg per day significantly reduces leg cramps from athletic exertion, circulatory disorders, and unknown causes.
- Lupus: In a study using Pycnogenol at a dosage of 120 mg per day for 30 days followed by 60 mg per day for an additional 30 days in addition to medication, a small controlled study showed that the disease activity, blood measurements, signs and symptoms declined at a greater rate in the group taking the Pycnogenol.
- Menopause: Studies have shown that 200mg per day leads causes dramatic improvement in all menopause symptoms without any side effects.**
- Melasma: The dose used in clinical trials was 75 mg/day.* Studies showed that a dosage of Pycnogenol at 75 mg per day lightens and shrinks the pigmented areas of skin in 80% of women.
- Muscle Cramps: The dose used in clinical trials was 200 mg/day.* Studies show an improvement in overall symptoms as compared to placebo group. A five-week study using Pycnogenol and a regimen of drinking 1.5 liters of water per day showed a significant decrease inf the number of cramps episode and a much lower score concerning muscular pain as compared to the control groups.
- Osteoarthritis: The dose used in clinical trials was 100-150 mg/day.* A double blind trial using Pycnogenol at a dosage of 100 mg per day showed Pycnogenol to reduce pain and other osteoarthritis symptoms. The study group also experienced improved walking performance and reduced their use of pain medication. Another double blind trial using Pycnogenol at a dosage of 150 mg per day showed an improvement in symptoms and reduction in use of pain medication.
- Perimenopause: The dose used in clinical trials was 200 mg/day.* Studies showed an inmprovement in overall symptoms.
- Platelet Function: The dose used in clinical trials was 25-200 mg/day.* Studies show Pycnogenol to be as effective as aspirin in experiments for controlling platelet activity.
- Retinopathy: The dose used in clinical trials was 20-160 mg/day.* In preliminary and double blind studies, Pycnogenol has been shown to slow the progression of retinopathy and improve vision.
- Skin Health: Studies show that Pycnogenol prevents the effects of sun exposure and reduces wrinkling. Topically used, Pycnogenol has been shown to accellerate wound healing, reduce wrinkles, and help prevent scarring. Some studies suggest that Pycnogenol protects and strengthens collagen.
- Skin Ulcers: A controlled study showed that an oral dosage of 150 mg Pycnogenol daily combined with topical application of 100 mg daily showed the fastest and most complete healing for the group using both oral and topical Pycnogenol. The group using oral Pycnogenol showed faster and more complete healing than the placebo group, but the group using both oral and topical Pycnogenol showed the fastest and most complete healing of the three.
- Sunburn: At a dose of 1.1 to 1.66 mg/kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day Pycnogenol has been shown to significantly increase the amount of ultravoilet rays necessary to cause sunburn.
- Venous Thrombosis: The study was done for plane travel with a Pycnogenol dosage of 200 mg two to three hours before a flight, 200 mg six hours later, and 100 mg on the following day. Compared to the placebo group, the group on the Pycnogenol regimen showed a reduction in the number of venous thrombosis episodes.
*This dosage was obtained from the Scientific and Clinical Monograph for Pycnogenol by the American Botanical Council. The most common duration of use during the clinical trials was 2-3 months, but long term use may be justified and there is no evidence from actual product use over several decades by millions of people that might warrant a limitation on length of use. Click here to view the entire monograph.
**These statistics were obtained from Pycnogenol by Gary E. Foresman, MD. Click here to view the entire article.
Maritime Pine Bark Health Benefits: Side Effects and Drug Interactions of Pycnogenol
Pycnogenol should not be taken during the first three months of pregnancy because there is no published data on pregnant women using Pycnogenol in the first trimester.
Saftey studies have shown Pycnogenol safe with no mutagenic or teratogenic effects, no perinatal toxicity, and no negative fertility effects.
Pycnogenol has been approved as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for use in conventional foods, and its safety data is obtained from 70 clinical studies including both healthy subjects and subjects with a particular dysfunction and/or disease.
The side effects reported from the above mentioned studies were all mild. The most common side effect was gastrointestinal discomfort, which did not occur when Pycnogenol was taken with or after meals. Other side effects reported were dizziness, headache, and nausea, also reported as mild.
According to the American Botanical Council, “there have been no reports of serious adverse effects in any clinical study or from commercial use of Pycnogenol since it was initially introduced into the market in Europe around 1970.”
Because of Pycnogenol’s potent antioxidant effects, it may interfere with the action of certain chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation therapy.
Pycnogenol may react with prescription medications such as anticoagulants, antiplatelet medications, blood pressure medications and diabetes medications. If you are on any prescription medications, you should check with your healthcare provider prior to supplementing with Pycnogenol.
Maritime Pine Bark Health Benefits: Pine Bark & Pycnogenol on Fox News
Maritime Pine Bark Health Benefits: Scientific Studies
- A Randomized, Double-Blind, PlaceboControlled Exploratory Study to evaluate the potential of Pycnogenol® for Improving Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms
- A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology.
- CAM: Pycnogenol (Cancer Study)
- Cramps and muscular pain: prevention with pycnogenol in normal subjects, venous patients, athletes, claudicants and in diabetic microangiopathy.
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation Review of Studies Done on Pycnogenol
- Protection from inflammation, immunosuppression and carcinogenesis induced by UV radiation in mice by topical Pycnogenol.
- Pycnogenol and Cardiovascular Health
- Pycnogenol® Decreases Allergy Symptoms
- Pycnogenol for Healthy Platelet Function
- Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients.
- Pycnogenol® (French Maritime Pine Bark Extract) Shown To Improve Endothelial Function And Reduce Oxidative Stress In New Clinical Trial
- Pycnogenol induces differentiation and apoptosis in human promyeloid leukemia HL-60 cells
- Charles Loop DVM Holistic Veterinarian
- Engineered for Health: Pycnogenol
- Herbs for Dogs: From Robert McDowell’s Herbal Treatments
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
- NYU Langone Medical Center
- Pine Bark Extract Proanthocyanidins and Pine Bark Uses
- Pycnogenol Is Protective Against Heart Disease, Diabetes and Inflammation: An Interview with Ronald Ross Watson, Ph.D.
- Pycnogenol: A Long History of Use
- Pycnogenol: Safe and Effective
- Pycnogenol supplement benefits and side effects, review of research trials by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
- Scientific and Clinical Monograph for Pycnogenol by American Botanical Council
- Total Health Special Report: French Maritime Pine Bark
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