Pycnogenol: A Flavonoid With a Diverse Range of Potential Applications

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  • Pycnogenol is a substance derived from the bark of pine trees. Research has shown that it has several possible benefits for your health
  • Based on published studies, Pycnogenol has a diverse range of applications, such as helping boost cardiovascular health, protecting neurons and managing pain

The pine tree is one of the most abundant plants found around the globe, and it has been used in various ways throughout history, both for humans and the environment. For example, pine trees are used to help control soil erosion, as certain species of pine grow fast, making it effective for steep slopes.1 It may also help boost your antioxidant profile, according to a certain study.2

But did you know that the bark of pine trees may also benefit your health? In the following article, you can learn  how Pycnogenol, a substance derived from pine tree bark, may help promote your well-being.

What Is Pycnogenol and Where Does It Come From?

Pycnogenol is a patented natural substance derived from the bark of pine trees originating in the Mediterranean region, Pinus pinaster. It is classified as a flavonoid, which are phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are believed to be the source of the different colors in the plant world, and studies indicate that they are also potent antioxidants that may help promote optimal health.3

A single serving of Pycnogenol contains around 65 to 75 percent of procyanidins by weight,4 and also includes catechin and epicatechin subunits of varying chain lengths.5 Pycnogenol can be derived from other species of pine trees such as Pinus radiata, Pinus densiflora and Pinus thunbergii.6

Pycnogenol is gaining attention because of the way it affects various biological functions, such as its potential ability to inhibit cancer cells.7 But is Pycnogenol supplementation right for you?

Studies About the Potential Benefits of Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol has been studied extensively in various applications. Studies have found that Pycnogenol supplementation may help:

Manage Type 2 Diabetes — One study examined the effects of Pycnogenol supplementation on 77 patients with Type 2 diabetes, with one group receiving the supplement and the other receiving a placebo. After 12 weeks of daily supplementation of 100 milligrams, the test group had lowered glucose levels and improved endothelial function.8

Increase production of nitric oxide — In one study, 23 patients with coronary artery disease participated in a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over study. They took 200 milligrams of Pycnogenol daily for eight weeks followed by a placebo, and vice versa. Pycnogenol treatment has been associated with decreased oxidative stress, which then led to improved endothelial function.9

Manage symptoms of asthma — In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, 26 patients were randomly assigned either a placebo or 1 milligram-per-pound/day of Pycnogenol for four weeks, and then vice versa.

After the trial, researchers noted that participants responded positively to Pycnogenol, and that the treatment helped reduce serum leukotrienes.10 In another experiment, asthmatic participants who took Pycnogenol had minimized or stopped using their rescue inhalers more than the placebo group.11

Fight viruses — A study published in the Journal of Cardiac Failure notes that Pycnogenol supplementation may have a beneficial effect on viral myocarditis in mice by suppressing virus replication. Researchers noted that treatment also suppressed the "expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, genes related to cardiac remodeling and mast cell-related genes in the hearts of mice."12

Reduce menstrual pain — In a 2004 study, researchers treated 47 women suffering from menstrual pain with 30 milligrams of Pycnogenol twice a day. Participants noted that after treatment, they experienced lowered pain with each successive menstrual cycle.13

Lower cholesterol levels — In the previously cited Lipids study,  researchers also noted that the participants had lowered LDL cholesterol levels, which is a favorable result based on their findings.15

Promote nerve cell health — In a mice study published by Neurochemistry International, supplementation of Pycnogenol exhibited neuroprotective benefits that may benefit patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. Researchers observed that Pycnogenol may be a possible treatment for neurodegenerative diseases as it may help combat oxidative stress and inflammation.16

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Possible Side Effects of Pycnogenol Are Few

Pycnogenol is generally well-tolerated by most people. Only minor issues have been reported, such as digestive problems, headaches, mouth ulcers and dizziness. Should you develop any issues, stop taking this supplement  and consult your doctor right away. Those who have autoimmune diseases should avoid Pycnogenol as it may make your immune system more active. Those who have had surgery should also avoid Pycnogenol, as it may slow blood clotting.17

Currently, there's very little data regarding the safety of Pycnogenol supplements for breastfeeding and pregnant women. Therefore, women who fall under these categories should avoid Pycnogenol to safeguard their health.18

The Applications of Pycnogenol Are Diverse, but You Should Be Cautious

Based on published studies, Pycnogenol has a diverse range of applications, such as helping boost cardiovascular health, protecting neurons and managing pain. Whichever reason you choose to take this product, make sure that you review the manufacturer thoroughly and that they use high-quality ingredients to ensure your safety. Lastly, it is important that you consult your doctor first so that they can give you expert advice on how much you should take.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pycnogenol

Q: What is Pycnogenol good for?

A: Studies indicate that Pycnogenol supplementation may help reduce cholesterol,19 maintain skin elasticity,20 fight viruses21 and manage the symptoms of asthma.22

Q: Is Pycnogenol safe?

A: Pycnogenol is likely safe for most people when taken daily for a year, or as a skin cream for seven days. However, it may cause dizziness, digestive issues, headaches and mouth ulcers. There is little evidence regarding its safety for pregnant and breastfeeding women.23

Q: How much Pycnogenol should I take?

A: The dosage for pycnogenol supplementation depends on the need. Consult your doctor to find the best amount for your situation.