Pine bark is a pine native to southwest France which grows along the western Mediterranean. Also commonly known as Pycnogenol, this antioxidant-rich extract is known for treating a wide range of ailments and conditions.
Although Pycnogenol is the most studied, all pine bark extracts contain beneficial active compounds, including powerful antioxidants known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). Taking this supplement can:
- Help strengthen blood vessels and improve blood flow
- Support cardiovascular and brain health
- Improve delivery of oxygen to cells
- Improve blood pressure
When studying flavonoids in the 1950s, Jacques Masqualier found powerful antioxidants in peanut skins that improved circulation and repaired damaged tissue. These were the OPCs that make pine bark so effective.
Later, he found that trees growing in France not only contained these OPCs, but they were the most efficient source. In order to extract proanthocyanidins from the bark, all you need to warm water and pressure. From there, the benefits of this extract were widely researched.
OCPs and Free Radicals
The term free radical is thrown around a lot, typically being discussed regarding antioxidants. To put simply, free radicals are unstable atoms that have an unpaired electron. These free radicals are produced from pollution, smoke, illness, poor diet choices, stress, lack of exercise, and radiation.
Once these desperate free radicals reach cell membranes or DNA, they can become dangerous. After this occurs, cells may either die or suffer in terms of their ability to function. The end result will be a weak immune system, disease, and chronic illnesses.
This is where antioxidants come into play. Antioxidants are able to interact with free radicals and essentially neutralize them before they can cause damage. If we didn’t consume antioxidants, we wouldn’t survive. The antioxidants found in pine bark extract not only prevent damage but also be able to assist in repairing the damage that’s already occurred.
Benefits of Pine Bark Extract
The benefits of pine bark extract are varied, but research includes effects on:
In a double-blind study, published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research, it was found that pine bark extract helped reduce osteoarthritis and chronic pain. In comparison to those who took a placebo, patients who were supplemented with 100 mg of pine back extract reduced their osteoarthritis pain by 56 percent in just three months.
Not only did they experience pain relief, but they also reduced stiffness by 53 percent, experienced a 63 percent improvement in gastrointestinal issues, and a 57 percent improvement in physical functioning. Overall, the experimental group experienced a 64 percent improvement in their overall well-being, in comparison to the placebo group.
In a similar study conducted by German researchers, participants were given 150 mg of pine bark extract for three months. After given this extract, participants experienced a dramatic reduction in both joint pain and arthritic symptoms.
Many individuals with asthma have been able to successfully treat their symptoms with pine bark extract. In one study conducted in 2005, it was found that many children who were given pine bark extract were able to stop using inhalers based on the dramatic improvements they experienced.
It has been found that when combining pine bark extract with vitamin C and a natural enzyme, symptoms are reduced even further. This is exciting because, unlike inhalers, pine bark extract does not produce any negative side effects.
In one double-blind study, it was found that pine bark extract was able to effectively treat ADHD. This is believed to be due to this extract’s rich supply of catechin, phenolic acids, taxifolin, and procyanidins.
After four weeks of taking a daily dose of pine bark extract, hyperactivity symptoms in children significantly reduced. These same children also improved in terms of attention span, concentration, and coordination. Once again, pine bark extract yields less negative effects in comparison to ADHD drugs.
Within one study, it was found that pine bark extract significantly impacted health risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. When given 150 mg daily, for six months, pine bark was shown to decrease waist circumference, lowered blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as triglyceride levels.
Overall, the study reported that pink bark extract can help individuals who struggle to control blood lipids, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and who like to achieve a healthy body mass index. In turn, these effects help to reduce one’s risk of heart disease.
Potential Side Effects and Dosing
Pine bark extract appears to be safe when taken in doses between 50 and 450 mg daily. In some cases, individuals experienced minor symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, mouth ulcers, and GI issues. Some research has said that this extract is possibly safe within late pregnancy, however, more research needs to be conducted in order to verify these findings.
If you suffer from an auto-immune disease, such as MS, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, pine back extract could cause your immune system to become more active. In turn, symptoms could worsen. The same is true for those who have a bleeding condition or diabetes.
Dosing varies, depending on the supplement you choose and what condition you’re trying to treat. Please speak with your doctor regarding any medications or current conditions you suffer from before taking your first dose.