Pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), also known as French Maritime pine bark extract, is a useful compound that’s been used in medicine for hundreds of years. Today, it’s used orally for issues like diabetes, cardiovascular issues and it’s also used for skin and anti-aging issues, in some instances. It’s a well-known supplement, but is it good for all the things people claim it is? Below we’ll dig into the science-based evidence answering the question “what is pine bark extract good for?” and give an overview of its origins, and how it’s used today.
What is Pine Bark Extract?
Pine bark extract is Pycnogenol by the more scientific and specific name. It’s basically broken down compounds from Maritime pine trees found along the Mediterranean sea. The trees grow popularly in the southwest section of France, and they’re used all around the world as a medicine. If you’ve been wondering what the difference is between Pine bark extract vs Pycnogenol, the only difference is the name itself. They are the same compound, and can both be used for the same supplementation purposes.
How to Make Pine Bark Extract
As previously mentioned, pine tree bark extract is made into a supplement by processing the bark from Maritime pine trees. The trees are stripped of their bark, and that bark is ground up into a pulp and then mixed with an extraction liquid to help pull all the beneficial compounds out. That extracted material is put into capsules, liquids and made into pills for supplementation. There are numerous benefits of pine tree bark extract, but some benefits are more proven than others. That’s why we’re going to look closely at what claims are backed by science, and also claims that are not so reliable.
Pine Bark Extract Benefits
Many people wonder what is pine bark extract good for? And what’s just unsubstantiated talk. It’s listed as a miracle cure for skin health, liver function, erectile dysfunction, diabetes and other serious conditions. Below we look at some of the proven benefits of Pycnogenol, so you know exactly what you can reliably take it for. Consider taking the supplement to unlock some or all of the benefits of pine bark extract listed down below.
Helps Reduce Discomfort from Osteoarthritis Over Time
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that people suffer from today, and it affects millions of people around the world. The disorder can cause issues at any point where two bones come together, with cartilage in between, but it’s most common at the hands, hips, spine and knees. It’s an uncomfortable and unpleasant condition that causes long-term discomfort for most people suffering from it. One of the benefits of pine bark extract is reducing the symptoms from osteoarthritis according to the findings from this recent study. During the tests outlined in the study, three separate groups of patients were treated with Pycnogenol over a three month period. Over that time the patients that were treated with the pine bark extract experienced osteoarthritis symptoms approximately 35% to 52% less severe than they did at the beginning of the study. This was a significant improvement over the benefits the control groups experienced during the study. The extract managed to reduce the uncomfortable inflammation over an extended period of time, thanks to its ferulic acid, as well as the metabolite M1 that the supplement brings to the body. If you’re suffering from osteoarthritis that isn’t treatable with basic NSAIDs, like aspirin or ibuprofen, adding pine bark extract as a daily supplement could help alleviate some of your discomfort.
French Maritime Pine Bark Extract Can Lower Blood Glucose Levels
One of the major reported benefits of pine bark extract is to help diabetic patients lower their blood sugar level, and in this case the claims appear to be true. A study conducted in 2004 showed how taking Maritime pine bark extract, at a dose between 50mg and 200mg, can effectively lower glucose levels while in a fasted state, as well as shortly after a meal, according to a small study conducted on a total of 30 people. The group was a mix of men and women, and the study results showed a marked reduction in fasted glucose levels by an average of 1.1mmol/l with the maximum dose of 200mg.
During the study mmol/l blood glucose levels were reduced after meals by an average amount of 1.36 mmol/l when 200mg of Pycnogenol was given. It’s important to note that during this test a minimum dose of 50 mg was needed to see benefits, and a 200 mg was the maximum dose that offered blood glucose level reductions.
For diabetics looking for additional ways to control their blood glucose levels, pine bark extract can be an excellent supplement, when used with care.
Help Manage Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaques in the arteries, is one of the biggest causes of death today. That’s why it’s exciting to hear that one of the pine bark extract benefits is a reduction of this condition. Maritime pine bark extract actually reduces the amount of lipids in the arteries, and helps cut down on plaque development over time. That is the information that this study claims. Throughout the study, a liquid dose of 150 mg per day, split into three 50 mg doses, was given.
It’s possible that patients that have issues with atherosclerosis, and are at an increased risk of developing a heart attack, could reduce that risk with help from regular pine bark extract supplementation. This is something that should be discussed with your doctor.
L Arganine and Pine Bark Extract for ED
Out of all the potential pine bark benefits, men might be most interested in its potential to resolve issues with ED (erectile dysfunction), at least for some men.
During a study performed at the Seminological Laboratory in Sofia Bulgaria, promising results were achieved for up to 80% of the men tested, who were suffering from erectile dysfunction. Pine bark extract wasn’t administered on its own, but in combination with L arginine. It appears that taking the two compounds together can resolve some problems with ED. Men suffering with ED may be able to alleviate the problem, to an extent, through the use of regular Maritime pine bark extract supplements. During testing, men were given two or three 40 mg doses of Pycnogenol, split up evenly throughout the day, along with about 1.7g of L-arginine each day, to achieve the improved results. Three doses was found to be more effective than two, making a strong case for three 40 mg doses of Pycnogenol per day for ED.
May Offer Performance Benefits to Athletes
There is some evidence that taking pine bark extract over time, could offer performance benefits to athletes by enhancing blood flow throughout the body, especially to muscles performing exercise. This is achieved by enhancing vasodilation according to this study. During the three-week study, Pycnogenol naturally increased the amount of nitric oxide in the body, when taken in a dose of 180 mg per day. As nitric oxide levels increased, patients in the study benefited from improved vasodilation, and enhanced blood flow as a result.
From these findings, Maritime pine bark extract may benefit athletes looking for improved performance and recovery after workouts. The supplement could also benefit patients suffering from endothelial dysfunction due to a disease, and improve their health over time. More studies need to be done looking at the long-term effects Pycnogenol has on vasodilation throughout the body, but for now it appears to be an effective tool for this purpose.
Using Pine Bark Extract
After examining all the benefits of pine bark extract, it’s time to look at how to actually use the supplement. Some people use pine bark extract powder, but the vast majority use maritime pine bark extract in the form of a capsule or caplet. They’re sold in doses ranging from 50 mg up to 500 mg per capsule, but it’s up to you to determine the size you wish to purchase.
Recommended Pine Bark Extract Dosage
During testing, a range of doses have been used to achieve the noted pine bark extract benefits, but the most recommended dose is 150 mg, split into three doses throughout the day. With recommended doses ranging from 50 mg up to 200 mg per dose, it’s best to focus on supplements in that range. Choose your supplement carefully, to ensure that it’s a quality product with few fillers and additives. By purchasing a quality product, you can minimize the side-effects experienced while taking the supplement.
The recommended maximum dose of Pycenogenol per day is 500 mg to avoid most side-effects, so consider taking several smaller doses. If you notice any of the potential side-effects attributed with pine bark extract, stop using the supplement immediately, and talk with your doctor if more serious conditions develop.
Pine Bark Extract Side Effects
Pine bark extract is a useful supplement that can help alleviate a number of different conditions, and improve health for many people. It does come with some potential side-effects to be aware of. If you plan on taking the supplement, it’s important to avoid taking too high of a dose, and to watch out for each of the following side-effects.
Potential side effects include:
- Bad breath
- Mouth sores
- Stomach discomfort
Theoretically, excess pine bark extract could impair blood clotting, and lead to excessive bleeding. Avoid taking it with blood thinners, such as warfarin, and also before, and after surgical procedures.
Avoid During Pregnancy
There isn’t enough information showing pine bark extract is safe to take during pregnancy. Pregnant women are recommended to avoid using this supplement, just to be safe.
Avoid with Hepatitis
It’s possible that pycnogenol will put more stress on your liver, and decrease liver function, if you suffer from hepatitis.
Use Care if Diabetic
One of the proven benefits of pine bark extract is its ability to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics. Any diabetics using the supplement must take care to avoid lowering their blood sugar levels to dangerous levels. Avoid taking a dose higher than 450 mg per day to avoid these complications, and be careful to avoid taking it alongside other medications designed to lower blood sugar levels.
If you experience any of the side-effects listed above, stop taking the supplement and speak with your doctor. Severe reactions to pine bark extract are rare, but it’s important to be careful when using any new supplements for safety purposes.
Conclusion: It Works for Specific Cases
The benefits of pine bark extract are profound, and the side-effects that come along with taking the supplement are slight for most people. For that reason it’s highly recommended for people suffering from conditions like osteoarthritis, ED, atherosclerosis or for people interested in achieving enhanced fitness performance. With that said, the supplement is unlikely to work for treating many other conditions it’s been advertised as being useful for. Always look for scientific studies to back up potential use, before using the supplement, for the highest level of success and safety.
There’s no guarantee the supplement will work the same for you, as it did for some people during the studies, but it has been shown to have some positive benefits. Consider adding it to your daily routine, just be careful to talk with your doctor if you experience any of the listed side-effects, and avoid taking the supplement if you’re pregnant, have hepatitis or if you are taking blood thinners. Also speak with your doctor before taking the supplement, if you are diabetic.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.