Pycnogenol is an extract from maritime pine (Pinus Pinaster). These trees are native to the southwest area of France, close to Bordeaux. In fact, the pines grow for 30-50 years without using pesticides nor herbicides.
What is pycnogenol?
For the last 40 years, the extract has been deeply studied. Actually, it has more than 370 published studies and reviews that ensure the safety and efficacy of this ingredient.
The Pycnogenol® patent is standardized to obtain around 65-75% of proanthocyanidins. These substances contain catechins like the ones from green tea. For example, some of the best sources of catechins and polyphenols are:
- It tends to be mistaken for grape seed extract, although they are completely different sources
- Cocoa polyphenols
Anti-aging properties of pycnogenol
For instance, some of its most outstanding functions are:
How to take pycnogenol?
The dose tends to be between 50-60mg daily. In fact, the result are remarkable after taking Pycnogenol® for a long period of time. However, the recommended daily dose tends to be around 100-200mg, which is regarded as safe.
The intake of Pycnogenol® would consist of dividing the dose in two parts, one for breakfast and another for dinner. Or you can take the full dose directly with breakfast.
Benefits of pycnogenol for our health
Pycnogenol® performs and antiviral and antimicrobial effect that enhances the immune system. Moreover, it also strengthens the walls of the blood vessels and capillaries. Therefore, it improves the blood flow by preventing arterial constrictions and blood clots.
Thanks to the properties of Pycnogenol®, we can take advantage from the following benefits for health:
Lowering the blood pressure
It improves the production of nitric oxide thanks to its effects on the endothelial function. Pycnogenol® enhances the nitric oxide production by activating the endothelial nitric oxide synthase, known as eNOS. The precursor of this reaction is the amino acid l-arginine. Consequently, it will increase the blood flow and reduce the onset of clots, which in turn lowers the risk of heart attack. A direct consequence of this process will be:
Improving the cardiovascular health
Pycnogenol® helps to have a healthy blood pressure by supporting the relaxation of the arteries. Above all, it will improve the blood flow and blood pressure so that the heart does not have to work as hard. In fact, it can lower the systolic pressure, which is the highest blood pressure.
This value tends to be around <120mmHg. But let’s not forget about the diastolic blood pressure (around <80mmHg). Therefore, it can regulate the arterial function, which also improves the platelet function.
Strengthening the blood vessels
Some people experience inflammation in the legs and ankles, pain and a high blood pressure when walking or standing up. These symptoms can be more serious, such as skin ulcers and infections. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of Pycnogenol® will help to relax the blood vessels, connective tissue and make the blood less thick.
Consequently, it protects these proteins against the damage of the free radicals and enzymatic breakdown. Recent studies found out that the collagen synthesis in the skin improved with Pycnogenol®. In fact, it increased the synthesis of hyaluronic acid in the skin of women, providing more elasticity and hydration to the skin.
Therefore, these are some of the benefits from Pycnogenol®:
- Increasing the elasticity of the skin: it improves the production of hyaluronic acid and regulates the hydration for a young-looking skin.
- Reducing the wrinkles: Pycnogenol® binds to the proteins from the skin, collagen and elastin, to protect them against harmful enzymes. Consequently, it provides elasticity, which is essential for a smooth and young-looking skin.
- Hyper-pigmentation and brown spots: Pycnogenol® stimulates the «brightness» and reduces the excess of pigmentation for a homogeneous skin.
- Sun care: sunburns are the inflammation due to tissue damage by the free radicals. By neutralizing said free radicals, Pycnogenol® helps to protect the skin against stress and photo-aging.
- Scar formation: several clinical studies have proven how Pycnogenol® protects the collagen matrix and increases the stability of the skin during the wound healing process
- It selectively binds to collagen and elastin to prevent their breakdown
- Moreover, it improves the blood flow in the capillaries, so that the skin will get more oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, the skin will be more hydrated and the removal of metabolic waste products will be more effective as well.
- Pycnogenol also inhibits the melanogenesis, the pigmentation process caused by UVB sun rays.
- It has inflammatory properties.
Supporting the bone system
Our joints are subject to deterioration, specially as we grow old. The lining of the joints – “cartilage” – deteriorates progressively. When the cartilage is significantly damaged, it will affect the joint tissue, causing tissue trauma and local inflammation. Consequently, we will lose joint flexibility and experience that can be unbearable without treatment.
Moreover, Pycnogenol® has the ability to lower the inflammatory pain markers in the joints.
How does pycnogenol® reduce the inflammation of arthritis and the inflammation markers of osteoarthritis?
After taking Pycnogenol®, it limited the activation of a pro-inflammatory trigger: NK-kB. Said trigger stimulates all the pro-inflammatory molecules, which play a destructive role in arthritis.
Pycnogenol® considerably lowers the production of extracellular matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). These substances deteriorate the collagen from the cartilages during osteoarthritis. Moreover, taking Pycnogenol® naturally inhibits the production of COX-2 enzymes during the inflammation in human beings. Therefore, it provides an important support against joint pain.
Increasing the physical resistance
Physical exercise is very important to stay healthy. But it also increases the need to take oxygen to the locomotive apparatus. Pycnogenol® can support this process and enhance the sport performance thanks to its ability to stimulate the nitric oxide production (NO). Consequently, it will increase the blood flow to the muscles, which in turn increases the oxygen and nutrient supply.
How does pycnogenol increase the blood flow?
Pycnogenol® stimulates the eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase) to produce nitric oxide thanks to the precursor L-arginine. Consequently, it will increase the oxygen supply and the excretion of carbohydrates. This will improve the blood flow and muscle oxygenation, as well as the excretion of waste substances.
Arginine supplementation increases the blood flow even in healthy subjects who do not suffer this type of problems. Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels from the penis, allowing the blood to flow, which is essential to get an erection. Pycnogenol produces nitric oxide, and arginine is a precursor form of said substance. Therefore, combining both products results in a powerful tool to treat this pathology. Apart from enhancing the sexual potency. But it also has another effect, that is, increasing the amount of spermatozoa, which can be useful for fertility issues.
Other benefits of pycnogenol
- Reducing the cases of asthma in children
- Preventing allergies
- Improving the blood lipid profile, regulating the cholesterol levels
- Enhancing the renal function, increasing the cortical blood flow to the kidneys
- Preventing retina diseases in diabetic people
- Stimulating the cognition and improving the memory
- Relieving the inflammation
- J Sex Marit Ther 2003 May-Jun; 29(3):207-213
- Phytomedicine 2010;17:835–9
- Durackova Z, Trebaticky B, Novotny V, Zitnanova A, Breza J. Lipid metabolism and erectile function improvement by Pycnogenol®, extract from the bark of Pinus pinaster in patients suffering from erectile dysfunction – a pilot study. Nutr Res 23: 1189-1198, 2003
- Enseleit F, Sudano I, Wolfrum M, Périat D, Winnik S, Krasniqi N, Matter CM, Neidhart M, Ruschitzka F, Noll G. Pycnogenol® Improves Endothelial Function in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease. Submitted 2010
- Nishioka K, Hidaka T, Takemoto H, Nakamura S, Umemura T, Jitsuiki D, Soga J, Goto C, Chayama K, Yoshizumi M, Higashi Y. Pycnogenol®, French maritime pine bark extract, augments endothelium-dependent vasodilation in humans. Hypertens Res 30: 775-780, 2007.