If You Want Better Health, Simply Take Pine Bark Extract
In 1535, two centuries before the cure for scurvy was found in England, the French explorer Jacques Cartier saved the lives of his men who had the dreaded disease by boiling pine bark. Pine bark extract has been a natural remedy for many things around the world. Native Americans have used it as a medicine for centuries. The Chinese used it as well. Today we can get the extract of French Maritime Pine bark in a pill form. There are many brands of pills, but most of the studies on this extract were done with Pycnogenol, the registered trademark brand name. It is dried and pressed into a pill and given a standard amount of multiple compounds that help the function of the body.
- Erectile dysfunction
- High cholesterol
- Memory problems
- Menopause symptoms
- Pain during pregnancy
- Brain injury
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Diabetic ulcers
- Facial hyperpigmentation (Melasma)
- Menopausal symptoms
- Motion sickness
- Traveler’s thrombosis
How can one thing be used for so many things? Is this one of those “magic bullets?” Is it a scam?
Let’s look at the research. Pine bark extract has two primary effects on the body.
- Lowers inflammation
- Improves circulation micro-vessels.
The way it does this is by lowering chemical mediators that cause inflammation, and relaxing blood vessels to allow more blood flow.
Think about it, all the problems listed above are either a problem with blood flow (hypertension, heart disease, menopausal symptoms, retinopathy, and so forth) or a problem with inflammation (asthma, cancer, arthritis, Lupus, and so forth) – or BOTH!
Anti-inflammatory Effects of Pine Bark Extract
Pine Bark Extract for Toxicity
Pine bark extract reduces toxicity in the liver through its antioxidant effects. It has the ability to protect the heart and bone marrow against the toxicity of chemotherapy agents without decreasing the effectiveness of cancer treatments. This is an important finding because it prevents the loss of immunity during chemotherapy. If you feel toxic, have chemical sensitivities, or have problems with detox in the liver, pine bark extract may be useful.
Pine Bark Extract for Cancer
Speaking of chemotherapy, pine bark extract caused breast cancer and ovarian cancer cells to stop growing. Pine bark extract also caused leukemia cells to die and become normal, while reducing the adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in rats.
Pine Bark Extract for Asthma
Inflammation in the lungs can cause the airways to constrict, preventing air flow, making it hard to breathe. We call this “asthma.” There are many reasons for having this condition. Some have allergies, others have chronic infections, and some have genetic abnormalities of enzymes that induce inflammation. No matter what the specific cause, certain anti-inflammatories can decrease the inflammation, allowing for better air flow. People who had asthma and took pine bark extract decreased their need for other anti-inflammatories, such as steroids, or a rescue inhaler. It may work best with allergic type asthma, as it seems to improve allergies as well.
Pine Bark Extract for its Circulation Effects
Pine bark extract works on the circulation itself. Because of this there are many effects. Consider all the problems associated with poor circulation: diabetic ulcers, swelling of the legs, congestive heart failure, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, and so forth. These may appear to be unrelated, but they are all connected by having circulation problems: poor blood flow. Pine bark extract may be able to improve the circulation, and thus the problems that are associated with it.
Pine Bark Extract for Venous Insufficiency
Pine Bark Extract for DVT
DVT stands for Deep-Vein Thrombosis, or clots that fill up the large, deep veins of the legs. This is very important because when the clots come loose and travel up the veins, through the heart and into the lungs they plug the circulation and can cause death. An extract of pine bark was better than aspirin and prescription medications for preventing clots. It also helped the post-DVT syndrome of painful swollen veins, or thrombophlebitis.
Pine Bark Extract for Brain Health
There are small studies that indicate that pine bark extract may be helpful in improving focus. It may work better in adults. This is one of those things that you just have to try and see if there is any improvement. One parent reported to me a significant improvement in ADHD in her child using pine bark extract. On the other hand, there are very promising results for using the extract in traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Pine Bark Extract for Hypertension
Because it relaxes large areas of blood vessels, pine bark extract can lower blood pressure. Besides that, the antioxidant effect lowers inflammation, allowing blood pressure to go down to normal. Studies in spontaneously hypertensive rats suggest a protective effect on microvasculature by pine bark extract thought to be due to antioxidant effects. Small decreases in systolic blood pressure were also observed.
Pine Bark Extract for Eye disease
Pine bark extract does prevent deterioration of the vision in diabetes, as expected, because it both lowers inflammation and improves blood flow. But it also can help prevent macular degeneration.
Pine Bark Extract for Heart Disease
Pine bark extract lowers inflammation and improves circulation, the two things that comprise heart disease. It has been shown to stop atherosclerosis, improve cardiomyopathy (heart muscle weakness), and lower LDL cholesterol.
Pine Bark Extract for Joints
People with arthritis are continually searching for some way to stop the inflammation and pain. There is, however, another important aspect – to repair the damage to the joint. Pine bark extract not only decreases inflammation, but also improves blood flow and induces hyaluronic acid and collagen, the connective tissue repair mechanisms, to prevent degeneration of joints.
Pine Bark Extract for Diabetes
The multiple effects of diabetes on the body are mostly due to inflammation and poor circulation. Since pine bark extract works on both, it is a good supplement for lowering blood sugar, and preventing the complications of neuropathy, kidney failure, and heart disease.
Pine Bark Extract for Erectile Dysfunction
Since pine bark extract improves blood flow, it might be expected to help with erectile dysfunction. One study showed just that. Pine bark extract improved the effectiveness of L-arginine by over 90%. The truth is, there IS a safe way to get the same benefits of the blue pill – WITHOUT side effects – and it even has a few other health benefits along the way…Here is how to get your mojo back.
How Does Pine Bark Extract Work?
As you can see, there are many effects of a good anti-inflammatory, especially if it improves circulation. You may be able to find many other problems that can be helped by this extract.
It contains things that are in food, called bioflavonoids, and procyanidins, which have always exerted an effect on the body. This is why your mom told you to eat your vegetables. One of the compounds, proanthocyanidin can be found in extremely small amounts in grapes, blueberries, cherries, and plums; in the barks of the lemon tree and the Landis pine tree; and in the leaves of the hazelnut tree. So, what we get from pine bark extract is a concentrated extract of what is found in nature. It takes over a thousand grams of French Maritime Pine tree bark to make one gram of pine bark extract. It isn’t just one chemical, but contains a spectrum of nutrients. This can have a powerful effect on the body by suppressing inflammatory mediators, and dilating blood vessels.
But, since anything can be toxic if you get too much of it, can pine bark extract be toxic? The answer is, of course! When you get too much, the effects you want become excessive and cause problems. For example, it’s great to lower the blood pressure, but if you lower it too much, you get dizziness and fatigue. It also can lower blood sugar, so if you are taking diabetes medications, you might get hypoglycemia.
Be careful using this if you have any kind of transplant, or are taking certain medications:
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Diabetes medications
- Medications, herbs, and supplements that affect the blood or clotting
Pine Bark Extract Dosing
Doses range from 50mg to over 400mg. It seems that the most effective dose is between 100mg and 200mg per day. I noticed most of the rat studies were given about 100mg per kilogram, which would be equivalent to about seven grams per day for a human. There doesn’t seem to be an upper limit of toxicity. Several studies showed increasing doses provided increasing benefits, such as the asthma study and the cholesterol study above.
My Analysis of Pine Bark Extract
With forty years of research, and multiple studies showing improvement in function, I see this as a useful adjunct to a program of healing. Some may find they need it long-term, but I don’t think everyone should go out and buy it. Test it on yourself to find if it’s useful. For example, if you have swelling in your ankles, you can take 200mg per day and see if your swelling improves. For those with diabetes, it would be good to take this until you get your blood sugar controlled – down to normal.
Most of the studies are commissioned by the company that has the patent on pine bark extract, and having done a great deal of research, I know “you get what you pay for.” However, as I have seen so many supplements be “a flash in the pan” and not live up to the promises made (i.e. Resveratrol, Protandim and all the nicotinamide derivatives) this one continues to show benefits. I have experience with it, and it works for some.
Just be wise and don’t assume that taking a pill will, by itself, restore you to health. If you have no inflammation, it might not be for you.
One last thing. I have seen that vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts have a greater benefit when taken intermittently. In this case, I have not found any problems with taking it daily, even over long periods, however, there were no studies specifically looking at that. Just consider taking it in the following manner, if you are going to take it long-term:
Take it for two weeks, and off for one week.
You may notice a difference, and want to continue it daily, which seems to be fine. This may allow the greatest benefit with the least likely possibility of harm. 😊