The standardized extract of the bark of the French maritime pine tree (Pinus pinaster) is one of those Swiss Army Knife ingredients. Branded “Pycnogenol” by its supplier, it is a rare natural bioactive that works on a seemingly endless number of health conditions, from cardiovascular conditions to skin care, diabetes, asthma, allergies, menstrual disorders, sperm quality, varicose veins, cancer and inflammation.
It contains a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids that offer condition-specific nutrition.
“Pycnogenol's core competencies is as a producer of endothelial nitric oxide, which helps as a vasodilator of blood vessels, and its ability to bind to collagen make it a very effective ingredient for cardiovascular health,” says Frank Assumma, marketing director at Natural Health Science, the exclusive North American supplier of Pycnogenol. “This also led us to results that demonstrated Pycnogenol's ability to reduce inflammation in the blood stream. This provided results for us in new studies related to inflammation in joints such as knees and we found very strong results for Pycnogenol for overall joint health.”
Pycnogenol inhibits key triggers of inflammation. In 2000, it was first discerned that Pycnogenol works on a genetic level by suppressing activation of a genetic master switch, called nuclear factor-kappa B, which regulates expression of more than 300 genes that promote an abnormal inflammatory response.1 In a 2006 study on seven healthy human volunteers, 200 milligrams a day exerted anti-inflammatory effects, apparently by inhibiting pro-inflammatory gene expression.2
Pycnogenol boasts more than 220 published studies over the past 35 years. In 2008 alone there were three published studies in the peer-reviewed literature for osteoarthritis. In one, 100 milligrams per day of the ingredient decreased the use of anti-inflammatory drugs by 58 percent (which led to a 63 percent decrease in gastrointestinal irritation, versus no change in the placebo group), lowered levels of CRP (a marker for inflammation), cut patient pain and increased patient walking distance.3
On the cardio front, it specifically enhances circulation, reduces cholesterol, controls blood pressure and protects against heart infarction and stroke. In one study amongst people with borderline hypertension, eight weeks of taking Pycnogenol led to diastolic blood pressure dropping from 139.9 to 132.7.4
Update: Italian researchers recruited 53 heart failure patients between the ages of 54 and 68. For 12 weeks, half the group took a placebo and the other half took 350 mg of co-Q10 and 105 mg of pycnogenol. The results: improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, 22 percent increase in the amount of blood the heart pumped.8
ecruited 53 heart failure patients aged between 54 and 68 were randomly assigned to receive either the PycnoQ10 supplement or placebo for 12 weeks. According to findings published in Panminerva Medica, 12 weeks of daily supplementation with 350 milligrams of CoQ10 (Kaneka) and 105 milligrams of the branded pine bark extract Pycnogenol (Horphag) were associated with a improvements in blood pressure and heart rate, compared to a placebo group.
With cholesterol specifically, one six-week human clinical trial dropped LDL (the bad cholesterol) levels by seven percent and raised HDL (the good cholesterol) by 10 percent.
In a gold standard study with 200 perimenopausal women, after six months of taking Pycnogenol they experienced an average
As another example of Pycnogenol’s wide-ranging utility, a recent gold standard double-blind, placebo-controlled, human clinical trial tracked the cognitive performance of 101 elderly people, age range 60 to 85 years, who took 150 milligrams per day for three months. Statistically significant interactions were found for memory-based cognitive variables and lipid peroxidation products, with the Pycnogenol group displaying improved working memory relative to the control group.7
To peruse some of the hundreds of studies that have been done using Pycnogenol, you can visit this health library.
1. Peng Q, et al. Pycnogenol inhibits tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced nuclear factor kappa B activation and adhesion molecule expression in human vascular endothelial cells. Cell Mol Life Sci 2000 May;57(5):834-41.
2. Grimm T, et al. Inhibition of NF-kappaB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). J Inflamm 2006 Jan 27;3:1
4. Hosseini S, et al. A Randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, prospective, 16 week cross- over study to determine the role of Pycnogenol® in modifying blood pressure in mildly hypertensive patients. Nutr Res 21(9): 67-76, 2001.
5. Devaraj S, et al. Supplementation with a pine bark extract rich in polyphenols increases plasma antioxidant capacity and alters the plasma lipoprotein profile. Lipids 37: 931-934, 2002.
6. Liao M-F, Yang H-M, Liao M-N, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Pycnogenol on the climacteric syndrome in peri-menopausal women. Acta Obstetricia Gynecologica Scandinavica 2007;86(8):978-85.
7. Ryan J, et al. An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol(R) on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population. J Psychopharmacol 2008 Jul;22(5):553-62.
8. Belcaro, G., et al. Investigation of Pycnogenol in combination with coenzyme Q10 in heart failure patients. Panminerva Medica: volume 52, 21-25.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of WellWise.org, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended to constitute personal medical advice.