50 Years of Consistent FindingsDecember 2018
By Logan Bronwell
French maritime pine bark extract provides a concentrated mixture of procyanidins, or flavonoid compounds.
What distinguishes pine bark compounds is a remarkable number of human studies showing consistent findings.
Pine tree bark extract has demonstrated an array of health benefits over the past 50 years.1
New applications of pine bark extract are still being discovered and reported in the medical literature each year.
What you need to know
- French maritime pine bark extracts offer a blend of procyanidin flavonoids capable of modulating oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Reducing inflammation both improves symptoms of allergy and reduces risk for age-related disease.
- Both by quelling inflammation and numerous other biological mechanisms, pine bark extract has been shown to improve markers of poor health, including abnormalities of lipids, blood glucose, and other components of metabolic syndrome.
- The cardiovascular benefits of pine bark extract are numerous, with evidence both for reducing risk factors as well as improving heart function and limiting cardiac events.
- Numerous other health benefits of pine bark extract have been reported in the medical literature.
Inflammation, Allergy, & Asthma
A key feature of pine bark extract is its ability to help control inflammation in the body.
Chronic inflammation plays an insidious role in most disease states.
Even low levels of persistent inflammation contribute to age-related diseases. Cancer, Alzheimer's, arthritis, autoimmune disease, and cardiovascular disease involve inflammation as one of their major causative factors.
Exposure to environmental toxins, diet, and the aging process contribute to chronic inflammation.2,3 Natural compounds found in French maritime pine bark extract function as a weapon against chronic inflammation.
In human immune cells, French maritime pine bark extract has been shown to significantly alter the gene expression of important components of the inflammatory process.4 It appears to reduce the expression of nuclear factor-kappa B, or NF-kappa B, which is involved in chronic inflammation and has been implicated in age-related disorders such as atherosclerosis.5,6
A pooled analysis published this year found that French maritime pine bark extract significantly lowered the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in humans.7 C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation. It is associated with both the presence of disease and increased risk for development of various conditions, including cancer.8-10
This ability of pine bark extract to subdue inflammation makes it a candidate for treating allergic disorders. Allergy is an inflammatory overreaction to otherwise harmless stimuli, such as pollen and cat dander.
French maritime pine bark extract improves symptoms of hay fever and other forms of allergic rhinitis (itchy, runny nose) compared to placebo.11 The mechanism of this protection may in part be due to the fact that pine bark extract inhibits the response of mast cells.12 Mast cells initiate many allergic responses through their release of histamine that cause inflammation and allergic symptoms.
Asthma, a narrowing of the airways caused by inflammation, is often allergic in nature. Pine bark extract has been found to improve the control of this respiratory disorder, including in children.13,14 Compared to controls, patients using pine bark extract were able to reduce their use of steroids and rescue inhalers needed to prevent and treat asthma attacks. Pine bark's mechanism of this protection appears to be the prevention of inflammation in human study subjects.14
The Metabolic Syndrome Pandemic
As of 2012, more than one-third of all adults in the U.S. had metabolic syndrome, putting them at risk for chronic disease and mortality.15 The pervasiveness of these metabolic abnormalities is so troubling that clinicians and researchers alike consider it to be a pandemic.16,17
An individual must have three of the five following conditions to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome:18
Fasting glucose over 100 mg/dL;
Blood pressure ≥130/85 mm Hg;
Serum triglycerides ≥150 mg/dL;
HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol") <40 mg/dL in men or <50 mg/dL in women (or drug treatment for any of the above)
Waist circumference ≥40 inches in men or 35 inches in women (slightly lower measurements apply for Asian individuals)
The risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, and early death are significantly elevated in the presence of metabolic syndrome.19
Modern medicine's answer to this problem often lies in prescriptions for multiple drugs to control each of these factors independently: statins to improve cholesterol levels, anti-hypertensives to lower blood pressure, various blood sugar–lowering drugs, and so on. French maritime pine bark extract has demonstrated a remarkable ability to improve many, if not all, of these metabolic abnormalities.
A study evaluated its use in individuals with metabolic syndrome.20 A group of 64 adults with metabolic syndrome were given 150 mg/day of pine bark extract and then compared to a control group. Improvements were observed in all aspects of the syndrome as follows:
Fasting blood glucose (sugar) levels dropped by over 14% on average.
Waist circumference was reduced by more than 7% on average.
Triglyceride levels were decreased.
HDL cholesterol levels (the "good" cholesterol) were increased.
Blood pressure was lower.
Plasma free radicals (a marker of oxidative stress in the body) were reduced by nearly 35%.
Subsequent investigations have also found that individuals' metabolic indices benefited from an extract of pine bark. Those treated benefited from an increase in HDL cholesterol, a decrease in LDL cholesterol, reduced glucose levels, and reduction in blood pressure.21,22
These studies build upon evidence from prior clinical trials that have likewise observed a positive impact on markers of metabolic health.20,23,24 Furthermore, French maritime pine bark extract's impact on these factors has been shown to translate into a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide, responsible for almost one third of all deaths.25 It includes a number of disorders that affect blood vessels.
Vascular occlusion is most commonly associated with heart disease, but it is also a factor in damage to many other organs and tissues as well, including stroke in the brain, kidney failure, and more.
French maritime pine bark extract protects against cardiovascular disease by several complementary mechanisms:
Reduces inflammation as evidenced by its ability to reduce C-reactive protein levels.21,22
Improves the metabolic profile, helping to control metabolic syndrome and its individual elements, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.20
Reduces atherosclerotic plaque formation by altering pathways related to inflammation in artery walls, including reducing NF-kappa B pathways.5,6
Improves endothelial function, a measure of the health of blood vessels.26
These findings demonstrate the ability of French maritime pine bark extract to improve cardiovascular health and interfere with the progression of atherosclerotic plaques.
In a large group of patients with blood vessel plaques followed over four years, 100 mg/day of pine bark extract slowed the growth of atherosclerotic plaques.27 Furthermore, it cut the number of cardiovascular events that required hospital admission by about half!
In addition to aiding blood vessel disease, French maritime pine bark extract appears to improve heart function. In healthy elderly subjects, 150 mg daily led to a significant improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction, a marker of the strength of the heart in pumping blood.28
An Array of Health Benefits
In addition to the benefits already discussed, the applications of pine bark extract have a noteworthy breadth. From brain health to the common cold, there appears very little this natural product cannot do. While a complete list is not possible here, below is a summary of some of the other notable uses that have impressive support in the medical literature.
Eye Health: In humans, it shows promise in slowing the progression of eye disease and visual loss related to diabetes, one of the most common causes of poor vision and blindness in adults.29,30
Common Cold: Compared to controls, sufferers of the common cold had milder symptoms and a shorter course of the illness when taking 100 mg pine bark extract daily.31
Athletic Performance: Trained athletes randomized to pine bark extract versus placebo benefited from improved endurance, better performance, and less muscle cramping and post-exercise pain.32-34
Jet Lag: Travelers experienced reduced symptoms of jet lag following pre-treatment with French maritime pine bark extract.35
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including abdominal pain and bloating, were reduced with 150 mg of pine bark extract daily.36
Ménière's Disease and Tinnitus: Individuals suffering from Ménière's disease experience debilitating bouts of vertigo, nausea, and tinnitus.37 Compared to controls, those treated with pine bark extract had fewer lost work days, improved blood flow in the ear, and improvement in symptoms, including reduced tinnitus.38 It also benefited individuals with tinnitus alone, reducing symptoms and improving blood flow.39
Skin Health: Oral administration of pine bark extract can improve skin health. In one study, post-menopausal women experienced improved skin hydration and elasticity. Altered gene expression of enzymes responsible for maintenance of skin tissues was observed with treatment.40 In another experiment, patients with psoriasis benefited from improved control of symptoms with pine bark extract.41
The applications of French maritime pine bark extract continue to impress based on new studies being published almost every month.
After 50 years of use and study, the breadth and quality of data supporting the health benefits of French maritime pine bark extract continues to grow. This blend of procyanidin flavonoids, capable of modulating oxidative stress and inflammation, offers improvement and prevention for myriad conditions and age-related changes.
Pine bark extract can deal a potent blow to conditions such as allergy and asthma. Furthermore, the reduction of inflammation may delay progression of age-related chronic disease and dysfunction.
Some of the most common causes of disease and risk for mortality, including metabolic syndrome and the various cardiovascular disorders, appear to be reduced with regular intake of pine bark extract at doses ranging from 100-200 mg per day.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
- Available at: https://www.pycnogenol.com/company/history/. Accessed September 24, 2018.
- Franceschi C, Campisi J. Chronic inflammation (inflammaging) and its potential contribution to age-associated diseases. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2014 Jun;69 Suppl 1:S4-9.
- Sanada F, Taniyama Y, Muratsu J, et al. Source of Chronic Inflammation in Aging. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018;5:12.
- Park YC, Rimbach G, Saliou C, et al. Activity of monomeric, dimeric, and trimeric flavonoids on NO production, TNF-alpha secretion, and NF-kappaB-dependent gene expression in RAW 264.7 macrophages. FEBS Lett. 2000 Jan 14;465(2-3):93-7.
- Liu R, Fan B, Cong H, et al. Pycnogenol Reduces Toll-Like Receptor 4 Signaling Pathway-Mediated Atherosclerosis Formation in Apolipoprotein E-Deficient Mice. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2016 Oct;68(4):292-303.
- Luo H, Wang J, Qiao C, et al. Pycnogenol attenuates atherosclerosis by regulating lipid metabolism through the TLR4-NF-kappaB pathway. Exp Mol Med. 2015 Oct 23;47:e191.
- Nikpayam O, Rouhani MH, Pourmasoumi M, et al. The Effect of Pycnogenol Supplementation on Plasma C-Reactive Protein Concentration: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Clin Nutr Res. 2018 Apr;7(2):117-25.
- Shrivastava AK, Singh HV, Raizada A, et al. C-reactive protein, inflammation and coronary heart disease. Egyptian Heart Journal. 2015;67(2):89-97.
- Singh-Manoux A, Shipley MJ, Bell JA, et al. Association between inflammatory biomarkers and all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer-related mortality. CMAJ. 2017 Mar 13;189(10):E384-E90.
- Allin KH, Nordestgaard BG. Elevated C-reactive protein in the diagnosis, prognosis, and cause of cancer. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2011 Jul-Aug;48(4):155-70.
- Wilson D, Evans M, Guthrie N, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled exploratory study to evaluate the potential of pycnogenol for improving allergic rhinitis symptoms. Phytother Res. 2010 Aug;24(8):1115-9.
- Choi YH, Yan GH. Pycnogenol inhibits immunoglobulin E-mediated allergic response in mast cells. Phytother Res. 2009 Dec;23(12):1691-5.
- Belcaro G, Luzzi R, Cesinaro Di Rocco P, et al. Pycnogenol(R) improvements in asthma management. Panminerva Med. 2011 Sep;53(3 Suppl 1):57-64.
- Lau BH, Riesen SK, Truong KP, et al. Pycnogenol as an adjunct in the management of childhood asthma. J Asthma. 2004;41(8):825-32.
- Moore JX, Chaudhary N, Akinyemiju T. Metabolic Syndrome Prevalence by Race/Ethnicity and Sex in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-2012. Prev Chronic Dis. 2017 Mar 16;14:E24.
- Grundy SM. Metabolic syndrome pandemic. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2008 Apr;28(4):629-36.
- Oladejo AO. Overview of the metabolic syndrome; an emerging pandemic of public health significance. Ann Ib Postgrad Med. 2011 Dec;9(2):78-82.
- Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/165124-overview. Accessed September 18, 2018.
- Kaur J. A comprehensive review on metabolic syndrome. Cardiol Res Pract. 2014;2014:943162.
- Belcaro G, Cornelli U, Luzzi R, et al. Pycnogenol(R) supplementation improves health risk factors in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Phytother Res. 2013 Oct;27(10):1572-8.
- Valls RM, Llaurado E, Fernandez-Castillejo S, et al. Effects of low molecular weight procyanidin rich extract from french maritime pine bark on cardiovascular disease risk factors in stage-1 hypertensive subjects: Randomized, double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled intervention trial. Phytomedicine. 2016 Nov 15;23(12):1451-61.
- Luzzi R, Belcaro G, Hosoi M, et al. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol(R). Minerva Ginecol. 2017 Feb;69(1):29-34.
- Hu S, Belcaro G, Cornelli U, et al. Effects of Pycnogenol(R) on endothelial dysfunction in borderline hypertensive, hyperlipidemic, and hyperglycemic individuals: the borderline study. Int Angiol. 2015 Feb;34(1):43-52.
- Stuard S, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, et al. Kidney function in metabolic syndrome may be improved with Pycnogenol(R). Panminerva Med. 2010 Jun;52(2 Suppl 1):27-32.
- Available at: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds). Accessed July 19, 2018.
- Enseleit F, Sudano I, Periat D, et al. Effects of Pycnogenol on endothelial function in patients with stable coronary artery disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. Eur Heart J. 2012 Jul;33(13):1589-97.
- Belcaro G, Dugall M, Ippolito E, et al. Pycnogenol(R) and Centella asiatica to prevent asymptomatic atherosclerosis progression in clinical events. Minerva Cardioangiol. 2017 Feb;65(1):24-31.
- Belcaro G, Dugall M. Preservation of muscular mass and strength in aged subjects with Pycnogenol supplementation. Minerva Ortop Traumatol. 2016;67(3):124-30.
- Schonlau F, Rohdewald P. Pycnogenol for diabetic retinopathy. A review. Int Ophthalmol. 2001;24(3):161-71.
- Steigerwalt R, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, et al. Pycnogenol improves microcirculation, retinal edema, and visual acuity in early diabetic retinopathy. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Dec;25(6):537-40.
- Belcaro G, Shu H, Luzzi R, et al. Improvement of common cold with Pycnogenol(R): a Winter registry study. Panminerva Med. 2014;56(4):301-8.
- Bentley DJ, Dank S, Coupland R, et al. Acute antioxidant supplementation improves endurance performance in trained athletes. Res Sports Med. 2012 Jan;20(1):1-12.
- Vinciguerra G, Belcaro G, Bonanni E, et al. Evaluation of the effects of supplementation with Pycnogenol(R) on fitness in normal subjects with the Army Physical Fitness Test and in performances of athletes in the 100-minute triathlon. J Sports Med Phys Fitness.2013 Dec;53(6):644-54.
- Vinciguerra G, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, et al. Cramps and muscular pain: prevention with pycnogenol in normal subjects, venous patients, athletes, claudicants and in diabetic microangiopathy. Angiology. 2006 May-Jun;57(3):331-9.
- Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Steigerwalt RJ, et al. Jet-lag: prevention with Pycnogenol. Preliminary report: evaluation in healthy individuals and in hypertensive patients. Minerva Cardioangiol. 2008 Oct;56(5 Suppl):3-9.
- Belcaro G, Gizzi G, Pellegrini L, et al. Pycnogenol(R) supplementation improves the control of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Panminerva Med. 2018 Jun;60(2):65-9.
- Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/menieres-disease. Accessed September 13, 2018.
- Luzzi R, Belcaro G, Hu S, et al. Improvement in symptoms and cochlear flow with pycnogenol in patients with Meniere's disease and tinnitus. Minerva Med.2014 Jun;105(3):245-54.
- Grossi MG, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, et al. Improvement in cochlear flow with Pycnogenol(R) in patients with tinnitus: a pilot evaluation. Panminerva Med. 2010 Jun;52(2 Suppl 1):63-7.
- Marini A, Grether-Beck S, Jaenicke T, et al. Pycnogenol(R) effects on skin elasticity and hydration coincide with increased gene expressions of collagen type I and hyaluronic acid synthase in women. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(2):86-92.
- Belcaro G, Luzzi R, Hu S, et al. Improvement in signs and symptoms in psoriasis patients with Pycnogenol(R) supplementation. Panminerva Med. 2014 Mar;56(1):41-8.