- French Marine Pine Bark Extract
- Pine Bark
- Procyanidin Oligomers
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Pine bark extract has been used for a variety of chronic conditions that involve inflammation, but larger studies are needed.
Pycnogenol is derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. Preliminary studies suggest it may improve inflammatory conditions and skin disorders because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but other studies are mixed on whether it benefits cardiovascular health. Large-scale studies are needed to establish the safety and effectiveness of pycnogenol in the treatment of chronic disorders.
- To treat cardiovascular disease A few trials suggest pine bark extract may improve chronic venous insufficiency and endothelial function, but meta-analyses found no benefit with pycnogenol on blood pressure and suggest effects are small for cardiometabolic health. Additional studies are needed.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) One study found pycnogenol is not effective in treating ADHD in adults.
- Inflammation Preliminary studies suggest benefit, but more clinical trials are needed.
- Erectile dysfunction Limited studies have been conducted and more trials are needed to establish this use.
Do Not Take If
For Healthcare Professionals
Obtained from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, Pinus maritima, pine bark extract consists of proanthocyanidins and is marketed under the tradename Pycnogenol®.
In vitro and animal studies suggest that pine bark extract has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory (6), immunostimulant (1), cardioprotective (20), and neuroprotective (31) effects. It may also have antimicrobial activities (15) (16) (17).
In humans, preliminary data suggest it may reduce menopausal (8), dysmenorrheic (27), and osteoarthritic (9) (10) symptoms. Pine bark extract may also improve hyperpigmentation (11), erythema (12), and symptoms of endometriosis (13) and lupus (14). Other studies suggest improvements in endothelial dysfunction (2) (33) and chronic venous insufficiency (5), but meta-analyses found no benefit with pycnogenol on blood pressure (36), and determined effects were small for cardiometabolic health (37). Another meta-analyses recommended against pycnogenol and various other supplements for musculoskeletal pain (38).
Pycnogenol may enhance memory in elderly participants (7), but studies in adults and children with ADHD yielded mixed results (3) (4). When used in conjunction with L-arginine, pycnogenol improved erectile dysfunction symptoms (18) (29). A systematic review concluded that large-scale studies are needed to establish the value of pycnogenol in the treatment of chronic disorders (34).
Preliminary data suggest pycnogenol may reduce some adverse effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy (30), but further research is needed.
Mechanism of Action
The primary constituents of pine bark extracts are procyanidins and phenolic acids (35). Pine bark extract acts as an antioxidant by scavenging reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and suppressing production of peroxides (21). It increases the activities of antioxidant enzymes by increasing the intracellular glutathione levels (22). In addition to increasing NO production which induces vasodilation (2), pine bark extract also blocks the NF-kB activation stimulated by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and inhibits production of adhesion proteins that cause inflammation and atherosclerosis (22).
In vitro, pycnogenol induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells (23) and reduced neuronal apoptosis, an important feature of Alzheimer’s disease, by decreasing free radical generation (24). In animal studies, cardioprotective effects were also attributed to free radical scavenging (20).