Pine bark extract (PYCNOGENOL) Overview Information
Pycnogenol is the US registered trademark name for a product derived from the pine bark of a tree known as Pinus pinaster. The active ingredients in pycnogenol can also be extracted from other sources, including peanut skin, grape seed, and witch hazel bark.
Pycnogenol is used for treating circulation problems, allergies, asthma, ringing in the ears, high blood pressure, muscle soreness, pain, osteoarthritis, diabetes, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a disease of the female reproductive system called endometriosis, menopausal symptoms, painful menstrual periods, erectile dysfunction (ED), and an eye disease called retinopathy.
It is also used for preventing disorders of the heart and blood vessels, including stroke, heart disease, and varicose veins.
Pycnogenol is used to slow the aging process, maintain healthy skin, improve athletic endurance, and improve male fertility.
Some people use skin creams that contain pycnogenol as "anti-aging" products.
How does it work?
Pycnogenol contains substances that might improve blood flow. It might also stimulate the immune system and have antioxidant effects.
Possibly Effective for:
- Allergies. Some research shows that taking pycnogenol before allergy season begins might reduce allergy symptoms in people with birch allergies.
- Asthma. Taking pycnogenol daily, along with asthma medications, seems to decrease asthma symptoms and the need for rescue inhalers in children and adults with asthma.
- Athletic performance. Young people (age 20-35 years) seem to be able to exercise on a treadmill for a longer time after taking pycnogenol daily for about a month.
- Circulation problems. Taking pycnogenol by mouth seems to reduce leg pain and heaviness, as well as fluid retention, in people with circulation problems. Some people use horse chestnut seed extract to treat this condition, but using pycnogenol alone appears to be more effective.
- Mental function. Research suggests that taking pycnogenol improves mental function and memory in both young adults and the elderly.
- Disease of the retina in the eye. Taking pycnogenol daily for 2 months seems to slow or prevent further worsening of retinal disease caused by diabetes, atherosclerosis, or other diseases. It also seems to improve eyesight.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Taking pycnogenol by mouth does not seem to help ADHD symptoms in adults. However, taking pycnogenol daily for one mouth appears to improve symptoms in children.
- Clogged arteries (coronary artery disease). There is some evidence that taking 150 mg of pynogenol three times daily for 4 weeks might help improve some complications associated with clogged arteries.
- Blood clots in deep veins (deep vein thrombosis, DVT). There is some evidence that taking a specific combination product (Flite Tabs) might help to prevent DVT during long-haul plane flights. The product combines a blend of 150 mg of pycnogenol plus nattokinase. Two capsules are taken 2 hours before the flight and then again 6 hours later. Also, taking pycnogenol 100 mg before a flight, 6 hours after the flight, and the following day appears to reduce the risk of blood clots forming in the veins during long flights.
- Dental plaque. Early research suggests that chewing at least 6 pieces of gum with added pycnogenol for 14 days reduces bleeding and prevents increased plaque.
- Diabetes. Early evidence suggests that taking 50-200 mg of pycnogenol daily for 3-12 weeks slightly decreases blood sugar in people with diabetes.
- Foot ulcers due to diabetes. Early research suggests that taking pycnogenol by mouth daily and applying it to the skin heals ulcers related to diabetes.
- Circulation problems in diabetes. Early research shows that taking 50 mg of pycnogenol three times daily for 4 weeks improves circulation and symptoms in people with diabetes.
- Swelling (edema). Early research suggests that taking 100 mg of pycnogenol before a flight, 6 hours after the flight, and once the next day reduces swelling and ankle swelling.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED). Limited research suggests that pycnogenol, used alone or in combination with L-arginine, might improve sexual function in men with ED. It seems to take up to 3 months of treatment for significant improvement.
- Heart failure. Early research suggests that taking a specific combination of pycnogenol and coenzyme Q10 (PycnoQ10) for 12 weeks improves some symptoms of heart failure.
- Hemorrhoids. Early research suggests that taking pycnogenol by mouth, alone or in combination with a pycnogenol cream, improves quality of life and symptoms of hemorrhoids.
- High cholesterol. Pycnogenol seems to lower "bad cholesterol" (low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol).
- High blood pressure. Pycnogenol seems to lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) but does not significantly lower diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).
- Leg cramps. There is some evidence that taking 200 mg of pycnogenol daily might decrease leg cramps.
- Menopausal symptoms. Early research shows that taking pycnogenol by mouth decreases menopausal symptoms, including tiredness, headache, depression and anxiety, and hot flashes.
- Migraine. Early research suggests that taking pine bark extract (Enzogenol) by mouth in combination with vitamins E and C, daily for 3 months reduces the severity and likelihood of developing a migraine headache.
- Osteoarthritis. There is mixed evidence about the effectiveness of pycnogenol for osteoarthritis. Pycnogenol might reduce overall symptoms, but it does not seem to reduce pain or improve the ability to perform daily tasks
- Pain in late pregnancy. Early research suggests that taking 30 mg of pycnogenol daily reduces lower back pain, hip joint pain, pelvic pain, and pain due to varicose veins or calf cramps in the last 3 months of pregnancy.
- Pelvic pain in women. There is early evidence that pycnogenol might help reduce pelvic pain in women with endometriosis or severe menstrual cramps.
- Improving symptoms of lupus (SLE). Early research suggests that taking pycnogenol reduces symptoms of SLE in some patients.
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Early research suggests that taking 100-150 mg of pycnogenol daily for 34 days reduces tinnitus symptoms.
- Stroke prevention.
- Muscle soreness.
- Other conditions.
Pine bark extract (PYCNOGENOL) Side Effects & Safety
Pycnogenol is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in doses of 50 mg to 450 mg daily for up to one year, and when applied to the skin as a cream for up to 7 days or as a powder for up to 6 weeks. Pycnogenol can cause dizziness, gut problems, headache, and mouth ulcers.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Early research suggests that pycnogenol is POSSIBLY SAFE when used in late pregnancy. However, until more is known, pycnogenol should be used cautiously or avoided by women who are pregnant.
There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking pycnogenol if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Pycnogenol is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth, short-term.
"Auto-immune diseases" such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Pycnogenol might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it's best to avoid using pycnogenol.
Bleeding conditions: In theory, high doses of pycnogenol might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding conditions.
Diabetes: In theory, high doses of pycnogenol might decrease blood sugar too much in people with diabetes.
Surgery: Pycnogenol might slow blood clotting. There is some concern that it might increase the chance of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using pycnogenol at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants) interacts with PYCNOGENOL
Pycnogenol seems to increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system pycnogenol might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
Pine bark extract (PYCNOGENOL) Dosing
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For allergies: 50 mg twice daily.
- For asthma in children: 1 mg per pound of body weight given in two divided doses.
- For poor circulation: 45-360 mg daily, or 50-100 mg three times daily.
- For diseases of the retina, including those related to diabetes: 50 mg three times daily.
- For mild high blood pressure: 200 mg of pycnogenol daily.
- For improving exercise capacity in athletes: 200 mg daily.