Pine Bark Extract History and Interesting Facts
Pine bark extract comes from the inner bark of the Pinus pinaster tree, most commonly found in Europe. A popular variety is the pinus maritime or the maritime pine that grows exclusively along the coast of southwest France.
This bark extract has been around for about 450 years. In 1534, a French ship led by the famous explorer Jacques Cartier became stranded in ice near Quebec, Canada.
The crew fell extremely ill from scurvy, an extreme lack of vitamin C. Cartier’s crew crossed paths with a Quebec Indian who encouraged them to drink a tea made from pine bark and needles.
Four hundred years later, a French researcher named Jacques Masquelier did some studies to understand why this natural remedy was so effective.
He learned about the seemingly omnipotent antioxidant within it and how those antioxidants increase the absorption of vitamin C.
Continued research showed that the pine bark contained flavonols and bioflavonoids, which hold tissue-repairing properties. Masquelier was easily able to create a pine bark extract from materials that were otherwise known as waste.
Who might benefit from pine bark extract?
Everyone. No one is immune from the potential damage of free radicals and oxidation. Even if you live a healthy lifestyle and eat organic food, it’s impossible to avoid the toxins in the water we drink and the air we breathe.
Individuals who have compromised circulatory systems will especially benefit from taking pine bark extract, as well as:
- Stroke victims
- Those with varicose veins
- Women who use oral contraceptives
- Those with arthritis
- Others with general cardiovascular problems
- Children with ADD or ADHD
Signs You May Need Pine Bark Extract
The antioxidant properties of OPCs mean that any decline in general health could indicate a need for pine bark extract.
The most obvious of these signs often affect the skin, giving it an aged appearance. Inflammatory conditions may also mean that you could benefit from pine bark.
Additional signs that pine bark could help you include a lack of elasticity in your cartilage and tendons. Edema is often the result of an unhealthy capillary network, which can be helped by pine bark.
Health Benefits Pine Bark Extract
Boost Antioxidant Status
If you’re overweight, out of shape, or in poor health, your body will produce an excess of free radical compounds that trigger inflammation throughout the body.
Damaging your DNA and compromising your health.
Antioxidants extinguish these internal fires. Research has shown that Pycnogenol – a patented formula of pine bark extract – is able to prevent and minimize this oxidative damage from free radicals.
Ensuring you eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit is also important to lay the foundation for robust antioxidant intake (coffee is another great source, just remember to ditch the sugar!).
Improve Erectile Dysfunction (Blood Flow)
Pine bark extract has a significant impact on nitric oxide (NO) levels in the body, which are responsible for vasodilation and improving blood flow.
A recent study found the combination of pine bark extract and arginine (an amino acid that also boosts NO production) were effective for improving mild to moderate erectile dysfunction.
If you struggle with low libido or erectile dysfunction, or suffer from high blood pressure.
Boosting NO levels in the body is an effective strategy for helping to reverse these conditions.
Balance Blood Sugars
Pine bark extract may provide some added benefits for you if you struggle with high blood sugar, pre-diabetes, or diabetes.
A double blind, placebo-controlled study of 77 diabetic patients taking their prescription medications, along with 100mg of supplemental Pycnogenol.
Found greater improvement in blood sugar control and cardiovascular health when pine bark extract was combined with diabetic medications. (Make sure to talk to your doctor before combining any supplements with current medications you’re taking.)
Fight Off Common Colds
There is nothing more annoying than a nagging cold; it stalls your productivity at work and in the gym.
A study of 146 people suffering from a common cold found supplementing with Pycnogenol was able to reduce the duration (i.e. the number of days) and severity (i.e. the intensity of the symptoms you experience) of the colds.
This is great news for keeping up your pace, even if you’ve got the sniffles.
Boost Brain Function
If you’ve been struggling with forgetting small details – like where you put your car keys or what you’re supposed to pick up for dinner – you may be suffering from the early signs of age-related cognitive decline.
Stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep can all contribute to sub-optimal brain function. And while diet and exercise are fantastic for boosting healthy brain function, so too is pine bark extract.
New research shows that adults over the age of 55, supplementing with Pycnogenol over the course of one year. Showed superior results in brain related tasks compared to placebo groups.
The researchers believe the benefits stem from pine bark extract’s antioxidant effects and ability to reduce oxidative stress (associated with poor diet, high stress, lack of exercise, etc.).
Protect Skin From Sun Damage
Getting enough sun exposure and vitamin D is crucial for your health and vitality.
New research shows that not getting enough sun exposure is as dangerous to your health as smoking.
Unfortunately; you don’t want to sacrifice your skin along the way.
The addition of supplemental pycnogenol has been shown to offer protection from harmful UVB rays and may reduce hyperpigmentation and improve skin barrier function.
If you spend a lot of time in the sun, this can be a nice added skin support.
Cytokines are a group of pro-inflammatory molecules that are released when you get a cold or flu. Suffer from a fall or injury (or train too hard in the gym!). Or if you’re struggling with a chronic health condition.
Research shows that pine bark extract is capable of reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1 and IL-6, responsible for many of the adverse effects of chronic inflammation.
Pine bark extract can make a great addition to your nutritional arsenal for its potent antioxidant support, as well as its added support for blood flow, blood sugar, inflammation, immunity, brain function and skin support.
Pycnogenol is a standardized supplement formula guaranteed to contain at least 65-75% proanthocyanidins, the active ingredient that triggers all these benefits.
Remember, a good diet and regular exercise should always be the foundation for building your best health.
However, sometimes the body needs a little added support and supplemental Pycnogenol can go a long way to keeping your brain and body sharp this winter.
Pine Bark Extract Side Effects
In general, pine bark extract is believed to be safe for human supplementation. No ill side effects have been observed or reported with doses ranging between 75 and 475 milligrams per day.
Long term usage of up to one year seems to have no increase of negative side effects.
When used as a cream for the hands, ankles and feet, no side effects have been noted with daily use for seven days. In powder form, usage for six straight weeks presented no side effects.
In rare cases of over-supplementation, pine bark extract has been known to cause mild stomach upset, dizziness, headaches and/or temporary mouth ulcerations.
Groups that should not use Pinus pinaster without the explicit approval of their doctors include:
- Women who are nursing or pregnant;
- Those with any autoimmune condition including, but not limited to lupus, MS (multiple sclerosis) and (RA) rheumatoid arthritis;
- Anyone with a condition that affects bleeding/clotting capacities;
- Those with type II diabetes mellitus;
- Anyone scheduled for any surgical procedure within the next 2 weeks
Pinus pinaster from the southern regions of France is believed to have the highest concentrations of OPCs.
Clinical research is continuously underway from private, public, university and governmental institutions addressing its capacities to affect human health on numerous levels.
All current clinical proof shows strong promise for uncovering more human health benefits of supplementation.
To this point, there have been no conclusive determinations made from leading healthcare authorities concerning its effectiveness to prevent or cure any disease.
The best choice for those considering the benefits of Pinus pinaster extract supplementation is to ask their doctors about it first.
It is important to understand all the possibilities of condition or medication interactions in order to save yourself from any possible pine bark extract side effects.