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Pycnogenol is a compound of natural chemicals. It comes from the bark of a European pine tree.

Pycnogenol seems to be an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.

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Pycnogenol is a trademarked brand name for a French formula. But similar compounds are in other products and foods. They include other pine bark extracts, grape seed extract, and peanut skins.

Why do people take pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol seems to help with asthma and allergies. Early research shows that taking it at least 5 weeks before the start of allergy season seems to lessen symptoms.

In a study of kids with asthma, pycnogenol helped improve symptoms. It also lessened the amount of asthma medication they needed.

Pycnogenol may have benefits for heart and artery health. It seems to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the legs. Early research suggests it may also protect against coronary artery disease and blood clots.

There's good evidence that pycnogenol helps with eye damage caused by diabetes.

More research is needed to see how this supplement affects all of these conditions.

Pycnogenol may help with other conditions as well. They include:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • High cholesterol
  • Memory problems
  • Menopause symptoms
  • Pain during pregnancy
  • Swelling

We need more research to know for sure if pycnogenol helps treat these conditions.

Optimal doses of pycnogenol have not been set for any condition. Quality and active ingredients in supplements may vary widely from maker to maker. This makes it very hard to set a standard dose. Ask your doctor for advice.

Can you get pycnogenol naturally from foods?

Traditionally, people might drink a brew made from pine bark -- rich in pycnogenol -- as a treatment.

What are the risks?

Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

Side effects. Pycnogenol seems safe for use in adults for up to 6 months. It may cause side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Upset stomach

Risks. Pycnogenol may stimulate the immune system. So it may not be safe for people with immune disorders, such as:

  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

It's not known if pycnogenol is safe for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Interactions. If you take any medications regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using pycnogenol supplements. They could interact with medicines to suppress the immune system, chemotherapy drugs, and blood thinners.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 13, 2013

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