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“If I was stranded somewhere on a desert island, Pycnogenol is one of the supplements I would want to have with me, simply because it has so many benefits,” says Fred Pescatore, MD, an integrative medicine pioneer and author of The A-List Diet and other health books.
“It helps with collagen and elastin, which keeps the blood vessels going, and it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant,” he elaborates. “When you can work on those things, you have a lot of bases covered in your body.”
Other benefits include improved health of the skin, joints, and brain, and better circulation, especially in the tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the skin and extremities of our bodies.
How Pycnogenol Works
Pycnogenol binds with collagen and elastin, says Pescatore, strengthening and protecting these building blocks of skin and other tissues from being broken down as we age and are exposed to UV rays, environmental toxins, and chemicals in food and water.
In addition to providing structure to skin, collagen and elastin provide structure to blood vessels, keeping them strong and open. This, says Pescatore, increases the natural production of nitric oxide, the gas in our bodies that keeps blood vessels dilated.
“Pycnogenol helps the blood vessels expand and contract the way they’re supposed to, and it helps cognitive function by bringing oxygen flow to the brain,” says Pescatore. In joints, collagen and elastin provide cushioning.
Pycnogenol also increases our natural production of hyaluronic acid, which helps to retain moisture in the skin, reduce wrinkles, and keep joints lubricated. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities also improve respiratory health.
Benefits of Pycnogenol
All of these mechanisms translate into a variety of benefits, including the following six health advantages:
1. Skin Health
Studies have shown that by increasing levels of hyaluronic acid, elastin, and collagen, Pycnogenol improves hydration and elasticity in skin, creating a smoother, more youthful appearance. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties reduce the effects of UV and other environmental damage. In addition, Pycnogenol reduces skin problems that occur with seasonal changes.
2. Joint Health
A review of studies concluded that Pycnogenol is well absorbed in the blood and in the fluid that cushions joints. Plus, it provides anti-inflammatory substances that counteract joint discomfort for about 14 hours after the supplement is taken. Studies show that it protects joint cartilage from degradation, relieves pain and stiffness, and enhances mobility. People taking Pycnogenol for joint pain have reduced their use of medications.
3. Memory and Mental Performance
Pycnogenol can enhance memory, attention, and overall mental performance in adults at all stages of life. In a study of people over age 55, the supplement enhanced overall mental performance and ability to function independently. Among health professionals between the ages of 35 and 55, the supplement improved alertness and contentedness and reduced anxiety. And among college students between the ages of 18 and 27, those who took Pycnogenol experienced improved mood and also got higher test scores.
4. Menopausal Symptoms
A study of women who experienced uncomfortable menopausal symptoms tested the effects of daily Pycnogenol for eight weeks. The supplement significantly reduced hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness. The women taking Pycnogenol also experienced improvement in fatigue, sleep, concentration, memory, dizziness, and mood, including less irritability.
5. Circulation and Jet Lag on Long Flights
Water retention can cause feet and legs to swell, and some people have a higher risk of blood clots during long flights. Pycnogenol can counteract these issues by enhancing circulation. A study of 295 people who flew for more than eight hours found that Pycnogenol reduced swelling more effectively than compression stockings, while also reducing risk for blood clots and jet lag.
6. Other Benefits of Pycnogenol
Studies show that Pycnogenol is also beneficial in reducing symptoms of fibromyalgia, asthma, Raynaud’s syndrome, diabetic retinopathy, chronic venous insufficiency, enlarged prostate, and erectile dysfunction. It’s possible that Pycnogenol may also help correct circulatory problems that can linger after recovery from Covid-19, but so far, this theory hasn’t been clinically tested.
How to Take Pycnogenol
Available as both a standalone supplement and in combination formulas, Pycnogenol is a patented extract of French maritime pine bark, so it’s always listed as “Pycnogenol” on product labels. There are other pine bark extracts available, but their exact make-up and benefits are not identical to Pycnogenol.
Pescatore generally recommends taking 100 mg of Pycnogenol daily with a meal to prevent stomach upset. Higher dosages may be beneficial in some situations. These are dosages used in studies of various conditions:
- Skin health: 100 mg daily
- Joint health: 50 mg taken 3 times daily
- Memory and mental performance: 150 mg daily
- Menopause symptoms: 100 mg daily
- Leg swelling and jetlag on long flights: 200 mg 2–3 hours before the flight, 200 mg 6 hours later, and 100 mg the next day
- Fibromyalgia: 150 mg daily
- Asthma: 50 mg taken twice daily
- Raynaud’s syndrome: 50 mg taken twice daily
- Diabetic retinopathy: 50 mg taken 3 times daily
- Chronic venous insufficiency: 150–300 mg daily
- Enlarged prostate: 150 mg daily
- Erectile dysfunction: 120 mg daily
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