Health Benefits of Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol is the US trademarked name for an antioxidant made from Mediterranean tree bark. The specific tree from which the bark is extracted is called a maritime pine. It is found primarily in southwestern France and is used to help people with asthma, allergies, hay fever, and other health conditions. 

But what are its health benefits? Are there any risks to taking it? Learn about this tree-based pill and how it might be able to help you.

Health Benefits

Known for its antioxidant properties, Pycnogenol® offers a wide range of potential health benefits. It has been studied for its effects on everything from mental function to treating high blood pressure. Some health benefits of Pycnogenol® include: 

Helping People With Asthma

Asthma is caused by inflammation in the lungs, which makes it hard to breathe. In some people lung inflammation is caused by leukotrienes — chemicals that are released by the body after a person encounters allergens.

Some people who have asthma have higher levels of leukotrienes in their blood. Studies have found that when taken along with an inhaler, Pycnogenol® can reduce leukotrienes, helping to relieve lung inflammation and limit frequency of inhaler use. 

Helps Relieve Arthritis Symptoms

Many people develop osteoarthritis as they age. Commonly called arthritis, osteoarthritis is caused when the cartilage on your joints begins to wear down. This can cause pain, especially in areas of the body that are used repeatedly, like your hands, fingers, and knees. Pycnogenol has been shown to help relieve the pain associated with osteoarthritis by keeping blood chemicals from attacking the cartilage.    

Improves Symptoms Associated With Menopause

A number of women experience physical discomfort due to symptoms of menopause. Studies have shown that the tree bark can help decrease common symptoms including hot flashes, mood swings, irregular periods, and others.  

Improves Heart Health

Pycnogenol® can help control blood pressure, which helps improve overall heart health. Blood pressure is an important measure of how much blood is pumping from your heart to the rest of your body. Too much pressure signals that your heart might be working too hard. It can then lead to heart problems like stroke or heart attack.

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In one study, people with high blood pressure were examined to see how the supplement impacted their blood pressure. The study showed that many people who participated had a drop in their systolic blood pressure after taking Pycnogenol.

Systolic blood pressure measures how much blood is pumping from your heart to your arteries. You can find out your systolic blood pressure by looking at the top number of a blood pressure test. A high number signals high blood pressure.

Health Risks

Any medication that you take, including herbal supplements, comes with certain risks. Herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so they may not be up to the same safety standards as medications that have gone through clinical testing and drug trials. Some risks associated with Pycnogenol include: 

Limited Studies

Pycnogenol and other maritime tree barks have not been studied as extensively as traditional medicine. For people who have symptoms that are more severe, traditional medicine is probably more effective. If you are thinking of taking Pycnogenol for a serious health condition like asthma or high blood pressure, check with your doctor. 

Autoimmune Interactions

People who have autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis or lupus should talk to their doctor before trying Pycnogenol. This supplement possibly activates the immune system. Therefore, those who have autoimmune conditions could see their symptoms increase after taking it. 

Amounts and Dosage

Since Pycnogenol is used for so many conditions, doses can vary. Typical doses range from 50 milligrams to 450 milligrams per day. People who use the supplement along with their traditional medication usually take smaller doses than those who only take the supplement.   

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 05, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Allergy: "Leukotriene E4 plasma levels in adult asthmatic patients with variable disease severity."

American Heart Association: “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings.”

Iranian Journal of Public Health: "Effect of Pycnogenol Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis."

Journal of Medicinal Food: "Review on Sustained Relief of Osteoarthritis Symptoms with a Proprietary Extract from Pine Bark, Pycnogenol."

Mayo Clinic: “High blood pressure (hypertension).”

Medline Plus: "Maritime Pine." 

Panminerva Medica: "Pycnogenol® improvements in asthma management."

Panminerva Medica: "Supplementation with Pycnogenol® improves signs and symptoms of menopausal transition."

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