Pycnogenol (Pinus pinaster ssp. atlantica)

background

French maritime pine bark extract grows in southwest France. It is a source of nutrients believed to contribute to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-building, and heart health benefits.
Pycnogenol® is the registered trade name for a patented water extract of French maritime pine bark. The product contains antioxidants such as catechins, which are found in high concentrations in red wine, grapes, cocoa, cranberries, and apples. Consumption of these nutrients has been suggested as a reason for why the French have lower rates of heart disease and diabetes despite relatively high-fat diets.
There has been some confusion in the United States market regarding products containing Pycnogenol® or grape seed extract (GSE). This is because the generic term "pycnogenols," referring to a chemical found in the product, is the same as the patented trade name Pycnogenol®. In addition, some grape seed extract products have been incorrectly labeled and marketed in the United States as containing "pycnogenols." Although grape seed extracts and Pycnogenol® do contain similar chemical parts, the two products are distinct from one another.
Pycnogenol® has been studied for inflammation, skin problems (including rashes and chronic disorders), allergies, asthma, heart and circulation issues, high blood pressure, and blood vessel disease. When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, some sources claim that supplementing with Pycnogenol® may improve body mass index and heart health. Despite positive findings, further research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of French maritime pine bark extract.
In 2000, J&R Research (manufacturer of Pycnogenol®) settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), agreeing to stop advertising Pycnogenol® as an ADHD treatment. Supplements that make health benefit claims are considered drugs under U.S. law and are strictly regulated. Although recent studies suggest that Pycnogenol® may help improve attention, the product lacks approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for ADHD or any other condition.

Related Terms

4-Beta-D-glucoside, arbre d'or (French), bioflavonoid, borovice hvězdicovitá (Czech), caffeic acid, catechin, condensed tannins, epicatechin, ferulic acid, Flavangenol®, free glucose, French maritime pine bark extract, French Pinus maritime bark, gallic acid, L-(feruloyl)-beta-D-glucose, L-(p-coumaroyl)-beta-D-glucose, maritime pine tree bark, merimänd (Estonian), oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, OPCs, PCOs, p-coumaric acid, phenolcarbonic acids, phenolic acids, phenolic fruit acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, pi marítim (Catalan), pi pinastre (Catalan), pin de Bordeaux (French), pin de Corte (French), pin des Landes (French), pin maritime (French), pin mésogéen (French), Pinaceae (family), pinastro (Italian, Spanish), pinheiro-bravo (Portuguese), pino costiero (Italian), pino gallego (Spanish), pino marítimo (Spanish), pino marittimo (Italian), pino resinero (Spanish), pino rodeno (Spanish), pino rubial (Spanish), Pinus pinaster, Pinus maritima, polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, procyanidins, procyanidolic oligomers, protocatechuic acid, PYC, pygenol, Pygenol®, strandfyr (Danish), Strandkiefer (German), taxifolin, terpentintall (Swedish), vanillic acid, vanillin.
Examples of combination products: Evelle® (vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, amino acids, glycosaminoglycans, blueberry extract), GlucAffect™ (Pycnogenol®, Madeglucyl™, Silbinol®, Glucohelp, salacia, fish oil), Mirtogenol® (Mirtoselect® and Pycnogenol®), Prelox® (L-arginine aspartate and Pycnogenol®), PycnoQ10® (Pycnogenol® and coenzyme Q10), Zinopin® (Pycnogenol® and standardized ginger root extract).
Note: Pinus pinaster is sometimes confused with Pinus halepensis or Pinus brutia.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
Asthma (Grade: B)
Pycnogenol® may benefit both children and adults with asthma. More study is needed before a strong conclusion can be made.
Circulation problems (Grade: B)
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a circulation disorder that causes symptoms such as leg swelling, varicose veins, pain, itching, skin changes, and skin ulcers. French maritime pine bark extract has been reported to reduce CVI symptoms such as swelling and pain. Further research is needed.
Heart disease prevention (Grade: B)
Early research suggests that French maritime pine bark extract may help decrease heart disease risk. However, a lack of effect on blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation has been reported, though positive effects have been found for other factors. More studies are needed in order to make firm conclusions.
ADHD (Grade: C)
Pycnogenol® has been studied in both adults and children with ADHD. Although some positive effects have been found, results are conflicting. More research is needed in this area.
Allergy (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that French maritime pine bark extract during allergy season may decrease allergy symptoms and reduce the need for over-the-counter drugs. More research is needed to determine effects, timing, and dosages.
Antioxidant (Grade: C)
Early study suggests that French maritime pine bark extract may improve antioxidant status in children. However, some conflicting evidence exists in adults. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Blood clots (smokers) (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may reduce blood clots in smokers. However, available research has generally been of low quality. Further high-quality research is needed.
Blood clots (veins) (Grade: C)
Pycnogenol® with or without compression stockings has been suggested for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the veins) and for management of swelling. However, there is a lack of research in this area. Further study is needed to make firm conclusions.
Cognitive function (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that Pycnogenol® may improve cognitive function in healthy, elderly people. More research is needed to confirm this effect.
Heart failure (Grade: C)
A combination of Pycnogenol® and coenzyme Q10 (PycnoQ10) has been studied in people with heart failure. Studies on French maritime pine bark extract alone are lacking. Future research is needed in this area.
Diabetes (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract applied to the skin in combination with conventional diabetes treatment may lower blood sugar levels, manage symptoms such as ulcers, and improve blood vessel function in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, further research is needed.
Diabetes (blood vessel disease) (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that French maritime pine bark extract may improve symptoms of diabetic blood vessel disease. Further study is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Diabetic eye disease (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may treat, prevent, and slow the progression of retina damage in people with diabetes. Improved vision and reduced swelling have been reported. More evidence is needed to confirm these results.
Erectile dysfunction (Grade: C)
Pycnogenol®, in combination with L-arginine, may improve erectile dysfunction. Further research is needed.
Glaucoma (Grade: C)
Evidence suggests that a combination treatment containing French maritime pine bark extract may reduce eye pressure, an important glaucoma risk factor. Evidence on the effect of French maritime pine bark extract alone is limited. Further research is needed.
Gum disease (bleeding and plaque) (Grade: C)
Chewing gum containing French maritime pine bark extract may reduce gum bleeding and plaque formation. However, evidence is limited. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Hemorrhoids (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that French maritime pine bark extract may reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids when taken by mouth or applied to the skin. Further research is needed.
High blood pressure (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may reduce blood pressure and reduce the need for conventional medication in people with high blood pressure. However, results are conflicting. More study is needed before a conclusion can be made.
High cholesterol (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may lower levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and increase levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol. However, there are mixed results. Further research is needed.
Kidney function (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may have a protective effect on kidney function. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Male infertility (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may improve sperm quality in men with fertility problems. Other research on Pycnogenol® in combination supplements showed similar results. However, more research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Menopause (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may improve menopause symptoms and cholesterol levels in menopausal women. However, results are conflicting. More research is needed.
Menstrual pain (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may relieve menstrual pain. However, further research is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.
Migraine (Grade: C)
A combination product containing pine bark extract, vitamin C, and vitamin E may improve migraines. However, it is not possible to determine the effect of Pycnogenol® alone based on these results. More research is needed before conclusion can be made.
Muscle cramps (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may improve muscle cramps in healthy people and in those with diabetic blood vessel disease. More research is needed in this area.
Osteoarthritis (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may reduce symptoms and inflammation in people with osteoarthritis. However, evidence is limited. More research is needed.
Pelvic pain in pregnancy (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may reduce pain during the third trimester of pregnancy. Further study is needed.
Prevention of blood clots during long airplane flights (Grade: C)
Early studies suggest that French maritime pine bark extract treatment may prevent blood clots in the veins during long flights. Swelling may also be reduced. Further research is needed to in this area.
Ringing in the ears (Grade: C)
Supplementing with French maritime pine bark extract may benefit people who have ringing in the ears. However, further study is needed in this field.
Skin aging (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that French maritime pine bark extract may improve skin hydration and elasticity. Higher-quality research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Skin diseases (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may benefit people who have skin diseases, including pigmentation problems. Further research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Skin pigmentation disorders (Grade: C)
Melasma is a disorder in which dark patches form on skin that is exposed to sunlight. French maritime pine bark extract may reduce skin darkening and improve the associated symptoms of fatigue, constipation, body pains, and anxiety. Further research is needed before a clear conclusion can be made.
Sunburn (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract, taken by mouth, may reduce skin redness caused by sunlight. More research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
Swelling (Grade: C)
There is some evidence of swelling improvement in people supplemented with French maritime pine bark extract. However, more research is needed before any conclusion can be made.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (chronic inflammation) (Grade: C)
French maritime bark extract may be useful as a second line therapy to reduce inflammation associated with SLE. More research is needed in this field.
Urinary tract infections (Grade: C)
A combination treatment containing French maritime pine bark extract may help reduce symptoms of lower urinary tract infection. More research is needed on the possible benefit of pine bark extract alone.
Venous leg ulcers (Grade: C)
French maritime pine bark extract may benefit people who have venous leg ulcers (a type of wound common in older people). Research to date, however, has been limited. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.