Pycnogenol Health Benefits & Side Effects: Effective vs. High Blood & Aging?

Health experts may have finally found THE panacea — the legendary elixir of life.

And it’s not a potion, but a powerful antioxidant extracted from the bark of maritime pine trees that grow mainly in a 900,000 hectare man-made forest in Gascogne, along the Atlantic coast of southwest France.

You can, of course, dismiss news like this. Skepticism in this age of “supplement fatigue” — when many health supplements, once hailed as miracle-workers, have been exposed as hoaxes — is warranted. But you shouldn’t.

First off, pycnogenol is one of the most studied herbs. Studies of all types — on cells, on animals, and even many clinical trials on humans — have revealed that it can help treat a number of illnesses, apart from being one of the most potent antioxidants.

The healing powers of the pine bark have been used for centuries, but it was only in 1987, when a patent was filed over pycnogenol, the water and proanthocyanidins extract derived from the bark of the Pinus pinaster.

As a concentrated mixture of flavonoids, pycnogenol functions as a powerful antioxidant and a natural free radical scavenger. It can be absorbed and distributed in the body within 20 minutes.

In your day-to-day life, your body generates free radicals, which damage your cells by oxidizing them. When you are stressed, more radicals are created.

Pycnogenol counteracts the dangers of free radicals in two ways: It stimulates your cells to double their antioxidative strength and catches free radicals in the bloodstream.

It also helps the body circulate more blood in times of stress by relaxing the blood vessels and preventing the heart from working harder and increasing blood pressure.

According to WedMD, “Pycnogenol contains substances that might improve blood flow. It might also stimulate the immune system and have antioxidant effects.”

Today, doctors recognize Pycnogenol as a natural and alternative treatment for circulation problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, muscle soreness, pain, menopausal symptoms, painful menstruation, ringing in the ears, an eye disease called retinopathy, allergies, asthma, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a disease of the female reproductive system called endometriosis and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Because it can strengthen capillaries, arteries and veins by binding collagen and protecting these from degradation, Pycnogenol can be used effectively to prevent stroke, heart disease, varicose veins and other disorders of the heart and blood vessels.

It is also the only known antioxidant able to cross the blood brain barrier and protect the supply of oxygen to the brain and central nervous system.

The name Pycnogenol is actually a trademark of the British company Horphag Research, Ltd. over its complex proprietary mixture of water-soluble proanthocyanidins derived from the bark of the European maritime pine. But the active ingredients can also be extracted from other sources like peanut skin, grape seed and witch hazel bark, according to WebMD.

Tablets and capsules must contain a minimum of 20 mg pycnogenol for the right to use the Pycnogenol trademark on the label or as a product name.

Pre-patent clinical studies
In clinical studies to file for a patent, Horphag Research found that Pycnogenol reduced the promotion of tumors and treated:

  • • hypoxia—or the insufficient levels of oxygen in blood or tissue—following atherosclerosis, heart attack or stroke
  • • inflammation
  • • ischemia or reduced blood flow and oxygen to a particular part of the body
  • • alterations of the synovial fluid found between joints needed to lubricate and nourish them
  • • the degradation of collagen or the fibrous tissue in skin, bone, tendons, muscles, and cartilage

But in the 24 years since the company acquired its patent, numerous studies have shown Pycnogenol to have many more health benefits.