Pycnogenol

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

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

Pycnogenol is the registered trademark name for a French formula. The active ingredients in pycnogenol can also be extracted from other sources, including peanut skin, grape seed, and witch hazel bark.

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 small/preliminary 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. Some small studies suggest it may also protect against coronary artery disease and blood clots.

There's good evidence that pycnogenol helps with eye damage caused by diabetes.  There is limited evidence that it could be used in treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

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

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

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 well-tolerated for use in adults for up to 6 months. It may cause side effects such as:

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

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.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate dietary supplements; however, it treats them like foods rather than medications. Unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them on the market.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carmen Patrick Mohan on May 22, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Cancer Society: "Pine Bark Extract."

Fundukian, L.J. editor, The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, third edition, 2009.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center web site: "About Herbs: Pine Bark Extract."

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database web site: "Pycnogenol."

Rakel, D. Integrative Medicine, 3rd edition,  Saunders, 2012.

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