9 Best Pycnogenol Benefits
This post will explore nine of the best and most studied positive effects of Pycnogenol.
Pycnogenol is a U.S. registered trade-mark term. It is an extract of phenolic compounds. These include bioflavonoids, procyanidins and organic acids. Pycnogenol is obtained from French maritime pine bark grown in the Les Landes de Gascogne forest in southwest France. Pycnogenol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Pine bark extract has been used as early as 1535 when a French explorer used tea made from maritime pine bark to treat scurvy contracted by his sailors. It has also been used to promote wound healing.
In the 1960’s, Pycnogenol was developed by Charles Haimoff using a patented extraction process. We will explore some of the many uses of this substance in this post.
Asthma is a reactive airway disease making breathing difficult. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Approximately 7.9% of the United States population had asthma in 2017 according to the CDC. Of these, 45.6% reported having one or more asthma attacks.
There were 3564 deaths attributed to asthma in 2017.
Pycnogenol 50mg was given by mouth twice daily to a subgroup of 76 patients for six months. These patients were also receiving inhaled corticosteroids for their condition. The study found that 55% of the patients taking the Pycnogenol were able to reduce their dosage of corticosteroids whereas only 6% of the patients who did not receive Pycnogenol were able to function on a lower corticosteroid dose. This study from 2011 concluded that “Pycnogenol administration was effective for better control of signs and symptoms of allergic asthma and reduced the need for medication.” These patients may also be able to decrease use of albuterol rescue inhalers.
Panminerva Med. 2011 Sep;53(3 Suppl 1):57-64
Allergic Rhinitis results in a runny or stuffy nose and occurs as a result of allergens in the air. Also known as “hay fever”
A small study (39 subjects) was performed comparing Pycnogenol to placebo for the treatment of allergic rhinitis in 2010. Although the results showed that the Pycnogenol group had less severe allergy symptoms, the study did not have enough subjects enrolled to show statistical significance.
Holist Nurs Pract 2016;30(5):301-304
Pycnogenol may produce vasodilation (makes vessels larger). It may also reduce platelet aggregation (formation of blood clots). This may reduce systolic blood pressure and decrease stroke and heart attack risk. Pycnogenol also seems to lower LDL cholesterol which is the “bad” type.
A meta-analysis was conducted in February of 2019 to assess the impact of Pycnogenol on plasma lipids in humans. This study included 14 articles and 1065 patients. These studies were conducted in various countries. The conclusion from this meta-analysis was that Pycnogenol had a beneficial effect on HDL-C concentrations. Effects on other blood lipids were not found.
Hadi A, Pourmasoumi M, Mohammadi H, Javaheri A, Rouhani MH,
Phytother Res. 2019 Feb;33(2):276-287. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6234. Epub 2018 Nov 19.
If combined with coenzyme Q10, Pycnogenol may also improve stable heart failure when used as an adjunctive treatment.
Jessberger et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2017) 17:537 DOI 10.1186/s12906-017-2044-1
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. This disorder usually affects the joints in the hands, hips, knees and spine. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage which cushions the ends of bones. Symptoms include pain, stiffness and reduced mobility. Weight loss, exercise and medications such as acetaminophen, NSAIDS and duloxetine are commonly used to treat this disorder.
In a study published in December of 2017 in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 20 women and 10 men were randomized to receive either Pycnogenol or no supplementation over three weeks prior to joint replacement surgery. Twice as many women as men were chosen in this study because osteoarthritis occurs in women twice as often as in men above the age of 60.
Even though Pycnogenol was only given for three weeks, this study concluded that Pycnogenol was helpful in alleviating osteoarthritis symptoms by down regulating gene expression of cartilage degradation markers. This shows a positive effect of this dietary supplement in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
A review of three studies evaluating the use of Pycnogenol for osteoarthritis was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2018. All three studies were designed the same. All patients in these studies received either 150mg Pycnogenol daily or placebo. These patients were allowed to use their NSAID medication along with either Pycnogenol or placebo when indicated.
- Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi S, Zulli C, Errichi BM, Vinciguerra G, et al. : Variations in C-reactive protein, plasma free radicals and fibrinogen values in patients with osteoarthritis treated with Pycnogenol®. Redox Rep 2008;13:271–276
- Farid R, Mirfeizi Z, Mirheidari M, et al. : Pycnogenol supplementation reduces pain and stiffness and improves physical function in adults with knee arthritis. Nutr Res2007;27:692–697
- Cisar P, Jany R, Waczulikova I, et al. : Effect of pine bark extract (Pycnogenol®) on symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. Phytother Res2008;22:1087–1092
Table 1 from this article shows the overall results from the three studies.
In the small study (Farid et al.), there was a significant difference in all symptoms after 3 months between the Pycnogenol group and the control group. Pain was reduced by 43%, Stiffness was reduced by 35% and Physical performance was improved by 52% in the Pycnogenol group. The global score for the Pycgenol group was improved by 49% in this study.
In the study performed by Cisar et al., scores improved but due to the high placebo effect, differences were not statistically significant.
In the final study performed by Belcaro et al., pain was reduced by 45%, stiffness was reduced by 53%, physical performance improved by 56% and the global score improved 50% in the Pycnogenol group. The placebo group did not see a significant decline in symptom scores.
In all three studies, the use of NSAIDS was significantly reduced in the Pycnogenol groups whereas there was a slight increase in NSAID use in the placebo groups.
It should be noted that improvement was observed in all three studies and no undesirable effects from the Pycnogenol were noted.
Rohdewald PJ. Review on Sustained Relief of Osteoarthritis Symptoms with a Proprietary Extract from Pine Bark, Pycnogenol. J Med Food. 2018;21(1):1–4. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.0015
A 12-week product evaluation study in 2014 concluded that Pycnogenol supplementation appeared to improve cognitive function and oxidative stress in healthy professionals aged 35-55 years. Pycnogenol 150mg/day was used in this study along with a health plan.
Effect On Physical Fitness
A two-part study was conducted to determine if Pycnogenol could improve training, exercise, oxidative stress and recovery. Normal subjects were used and the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) was utilized. This study was conducted at the end of 2013. The results from this study were impressive:
Part 1. (Pycnogenol 100mg/day) Pycnogenol group (74 subjects); control group (73 subjects)
- The Pycnogenol group had a statistically significant improvement in their 2 mile running time.
- Pycnogenol group had a greater improvement in the number of push-ups and sit-ups also improved in this group.
Part 2. (Pycnogenol 150mg/day) Pycnogenol group (32 subjects); control group (22 subjects)
- Although both groups improved with training in the swimming, biking and running scores, the Pycnogenol group had more benefits.
- Total triathlon time: Pycnogenol group (89 min 44 sec); control group (96 min 5 sec).
- The Pycnogenol subjects also showed a significant decrease in cramps and post running pain whereas the control group had no change.
- One hour after the triathlon there was a decrease in PFR of -26.7 whereas PFR in the control group increased.
- The Pycnogenol group showed a lower increase in oxidative stress and had a faster recovery to normal levels. This was interpreted in the Pycnogenol group experiencing a faster metabolic recovery.
Symptoms Of Menopause
Pycnogenol 100mg daily was given to 38 women as a supplement for eight weeks. There were 32 comparable subjects in the control group. Six of the most common symptoms (hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, loss of libido and vaginal dryness) were scored.
The Pycnogenol group showed a decrease from an average (2.67/4) to (1.45/4) after eight weeks while the control group showed no change: (2.72/4) to (2.73/4). This change was statically significant.
The sensation of “electric shocks” and digestive problems also improved significantly in the Pycnogenol group as compared to the control group.
Elevated oxidative stress was lowered significantly after 4 weeks (P<0.05) and eight weeks (P<0.022) in the Pycnogenol group. The control group showed no decrease in oxidative stress over any time period in this study.
Although not statistically significant, dizziness, fatigue, concentration and memory problems, sleeping disorders, depression and irritability all improved in the Pycogenol group.
Pycnogenol was found to be effective in improving vasomotor, insomnia and sleep symptoms in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 170 perimenopausal women. A low dose of 30 mg Pycnogenol was given twice daily in this study.
Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH)
Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) is enlargement of the prostate gland in men. This condition leads to a decrease in urine flow. Signs include a weak urine stream, urinary hesitance, urgency and a feeling that the bladder is not completely empty after voiding. Men with this problem may wake up to urinate several times a night greatly decreasing sleep quality.
A study was published in August comparing Pycnogenol with traditional BPH pharmacotherapy as well as standard management which utilized no medications or supplements:
Three groups were constructed as follows:
Group 1. Control group (Avoid anticholinergic drugs, opiates and sympathomimetics). Urinate on a regular basis. Avoid seating for extended periods. Consume a low salt, low sugar diet. Avoid caffeine and spices and hydrate adequately.
Group 2. Pycnogenol group: dose was 50mg three times daily.
Group 3. Pharmacological treatment using dutasteride 0.5mg/day or finasteride 5 mg/day.
75 men completed this study. Group 1: (27) Group 2: (22) Group 3: (26)
See the table below for results:
BPH symptoms were all significantly improved with Pycnogenol as compared to both control groups. As shown in the above table, these differences were statistically significant.
This study shows the Pycnogenol may be a good option for healthy men suffering from BPH. Traditional medications used to treat this condition are associated with several side effects. Some of these include worsening of erectile and ejaculatory function, decreased libido and possible anxiety and depression.
Ledda A, Belcaro G, Feragalli B, Cornelli U, Dugall M, Corsi M, et al. Benign prostatic hypertrophy: Pycnogenol® supplementation improves prostate symptoms and residual bladder volume. Minerva Med 2018;109:280-4. DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4806.18.05572-6
Diabetic Retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels causing damage to blood vessels in the retina of the eye. This can lead to blurred vision, impaired perception of color, vision that fluctuates, and eventually can lead to vision loss.
A study was conducted in 2009 to determine whether Pycnogenol could be beneficial in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Forty six subjects were randomized into two groups. One group received 150mg Pycnogenol daily each morning after breakfast and the other group received placebo. All subjects in this study presented with moderate diabetic macular edema.
The results of this study showed subjective visual improvement in 18 of the 24 subjects in the Pycnogenol group. This group also showed improvement of visual acuity using the Snellen chart. They improved from a baseline of 14/20 to 17/20 after only 2 months of treatment.
No change was found in the control group
This study suggests Pycnogenol when utilized at the early stage of diabetic retinopathy, may improve vision by decreasing edema and improving retinal blood circulation.
Steigerwalt. Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics Volume: 25 Issue 6 (2009) ISSN: 1080-7683 Online ISSN: 1557-7732
Pycnogenol pretreatment was highly effective in preventing augmentation of cisplatin-induced oxidative stress and inflammation in eye tissue. This study was not performed with human subjects.
Cutaneous & Ocular Toxicology. 37(4):396-400, 2018 Dec.
The purpose of this post was to explore the various uses of Pycnogenol. This substance which is extracted from French marine pine bark seems to be useful for a variety of conditions. The two main benefits of Pycnogenol are its use as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.
Pycnogenol has been shown in studies to be beneficial for:
2. Allergic Rhinitis
3. Some aspects of cardiovascular disease
5. Effect On Physical Fitness
6. Benign prostatic hypertrophy
7. Symptoms Of Menopause
8. Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy
9. Diabetic Retinopathy
As with any medication or supplement, Pycnogenol does have side effects. These include headache, dizziness, insomnia, skin irritation, gastric upset and nausea. In clinical trials involving 7000 patients, these effects occurred with a rate of 1.9% and were mild.
Rohdewald P: Update on the clinical pharmacology of Pycnogenol®. Med Res Arch 2015;3:1–11
I was pleasantly surprised to find so many clinical articles related to Pycnogenol. This research has piqued my interest and I plan to offer this product in my store in the near future.
I am particularly interested in its cognitive and exercise improvement effects. I have no financial interest in this product and all opinions in this post are my own. I have attempted to bring the most pertinent articles to light regarding this unique substance. If you decide to try this supplement, I recommend visiting the following website:
This site lists the various retailers selling Pycnogenol-containing products in the SHOP section. As always, caution must be exercised when purchasing nutritional supplements as counterfeit products do exist.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. My goal is to give my readers the best possible relevant information regarding happiness, health and healing.
Michael J. Brown, RPh. BCPS, BCPP
Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.
Read Michael’s story here. Feel free to send Michael a message using this link