"If I was adding one nutraceutical to a good diet, Pycnogenol would be the choice," says Steven Lamm, MD, medical director of the NYU Center for Men's Health. "It's a natural substance that has properties that can help in a multiplicity of areas." More than 100 published clinical trials have documented a wide variety of benefits, from fewer menstrual cramps and wrinkles to improvements in ADHD, ED, heart function, and exercise performance.
A trademarked natural substance found in many brands of supplements, Pycnogenol is extracted from French maritime pine bark. Lamm points out that it can do many things because it has four key qualities: "It's a powerful antioxidant, acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, helps generate collagen and hyaluronic acid, and aids in the production of endothelial nitric oxide, which helps to dilate blood vessels."
Reversing Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is considered to be at the foundation of heart disease and diabetes, and is difficult to treat because it is a combination of five risk factors: elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, harmful cholesterol, and triglycerides, along with a large waist, characterized by belly fat.
In England, Pycnogenol was tested among 130 people who had been diagnosed with the condition. All of the participants, who were between the ages of 45 and 55, followed a healthy diet and exercise program, but half also took daily Pycnogenol supplements. Those taking the supplements had significantly more improvement in all of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. For example, after three months of taking Pycnogenol, the average decrease in waist size was approximately 3 inches for men and 2.5 inches for women, as opposed to no significant decrease in those not taking the supplement.
Also after three months, only two of 64 people taking Pycnogenol still had all five risk factors, compared to 34 of 66 people who did not take the supplement. The authors of the study, which was published in Phytotherapy Research, stated: "We conclude that the underlying causes of metabolic syndrome may be improved or corrected with Pycnogenol, a safe, natural, and side-effect-free alternative to the use of pharmaceutical compounds."
In addition to improving asthma, high cholesterol, and a host of other conditions (see "Pycnogenol Supplements: How Much to Take," p. 20), here are some of Pycnogenol's documented benefits:
- For people with circulatory problems, the supplement was as effective as compression stockings in reducing swelling and discomfort. (A combination of the two produced the best results.)
- By improving circulation, Pycnogenol also reduced retinopathy in diabetics, decreasing edema and improving vision. Results were verified with standard vision tests.
- Among post-menopausal women, scans and biopsies showed that Pycnogenol supplements reduced dryness and boosted elasticity of skin by increasing natural hyaluronic acid and collagen production.
There are no known interactions between Pycnogenol and medications, according to a review of research by the American Botanical Council. However, Lamm suggests that someone who is taking not one, but a combination of, multiple blood-thinning and anti-clotting medications, or taking immune suppressing medication, work with a knowledgeable health-care professional before taking any supplements.
How Much to Take
As a rule of thumb, Lamm recommends taking 50-100 mg of Pycnogenol daily. For
specific conditions, these are some other daily dosages found to be effective in studies:
ADHD: 1 mg per kilogram of body weight.
Asthma: 1 mg per pound of body weight.
Blood pressure reduction: 100-200 mg.
Cholesterol lowering: 120-150 mg.
Chronic venous insufficiency: 150-360 mg.
Cold symptoms: 50 mg with 15 mg zinc and 100 mg vitamin C, twice daily.
Coronary artery disease: 200 mg.
Diabetes: up to 200 mg.
Endometriosis: (in conjunction with birth control pills) 50 mg every 12 hours.
Erectile dysfunction: 120 mg, or a combination formula per directions (sold as Life Extension Prelox Natural Sex for Men).
Exercise/fitness improvement: 150 mg.
Postpartum Hemorrhoid relief: 150 mg.
Jet lag: 50 mg three times daily for five days, starting two days before flying.
Male fertility: 200 mg.
Metabolic syndrome: 50 mg three times daily.
Memory improvement: 150 mg.
Menopause symptoms: 100 mg.
Muscle cramps: 200 mg.
Osteoarthritis: 100-150 mg.
Perimenopause: 200 mg.
Psoriasis: 50 mg three times daily.
Retinopathy: 50 mg three times daily.
Seasonal allergies: 50 mg, morning and evening, starting at least 5 weeks before allergy season.
Sun protection: approximately 0.75 mg per pound of body weight.
Country LifePycnogenol 100 mg contains 100% pine bark extract-no gluten, allergens, or fillers of any kind.
Source NaturalsPycnogenol Supreme adds 500 mg of vitamin C plus 25 other plant-derived antioxidants.
NOW FoodsPycnogenol 60 mg is formulated with pine bark extract, acerola powder, and rutin for powerful antioxidant protection.
Pycnogenol is extracted from the bark of pine trees (like the one shown here) grown exclusively in Les Landes de Gascogne forest in southwest France.
Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997. She specializes in covering research and expert knowledge that empowers people to lead better lives. She is the author of numerous books, including Hormone Harmony and The User's Guide to Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine.