Pycnogenol is a patented formulation of Pine Bark Extract. Pycnogenols are found in supplements such as grape seed extract, but pycnogenol itself should not be confused with supplement blends that simply contain pycnogenols, as the health benefits in such supplements are not nearly as impressive as those associated with pycnogenol. Pycnogenol is also known as Pine Bark Extract, Pine Bark Procyanidins or Procyanidins.
The Health Benefits of Pycnogenol
Many people have stated they experience considerable relief from certain medical conditions through the use of pycnogenol. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Painful menstrual periods
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Dangerous blood clots in the lower extremities
- High cholesterol
- Leg cramps
- Hyperactive disorder
Pycnogenol is also recommended as a supplement for use in improving one's athletic performance.
Many people wonder about herbs and their effectiveness due to the fact that many such remedies have not yet been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. However, this does not mean the remedy is not effective, it simply indicates that the favorable evidence supporting its claims has not yet been viewed by any authority on such matters. There are, however, many reports by reputable establishments that back what the manufacturers of pycnogenol state concerning their product. Anyone deciding whether or not to give pycnogenol a try may wish to consider the following:
Evidence for Pycnogenol controlling blood sugar and lowering blood pressure
In 2009, University of Arizona researchers published a study conducted on diabetics in which they produced evidence that the extract of the bark of French maritime pines can lower blood pressure. As previously mentioned, this tree is the source from which pycnogenol is produced.
The researchers monitored the effect of the Pycnogenol by giving the diabetic patients either 125 milligrams of pycnogenol or a placebo once daily for twelve weeks. The average age of those participating in the study was 60. Almost 59% of the individuals taking the pycnogenol supplement achieved normal blood pressure readings, as opposed to only only 2.8 percent of the people who were given the placebo. When high blood pressure is reduced it lowers the patient's risk of a heart attack or stroke, making pycnogenol an invaluable remedy for those with hypertension. Additionally, LDL cholesterol-bad cholesterol-also decreased considerably in those taking pycnogenol, with decreases of 10.6 and 13.7 mg/dL or more after eight and twelve weeks, respectively.
In addition to the benefits associated with hypertension, Pycnogenol appeared to be beneficial in the management of diabetes, as well. Individuals who were given Pycnogenol showed a decrease in their fasting blood sugar levels of 23.8 mg/dL in contrast to a mere 5 mg/dl in those who were given the placebo.
These findings confirmed the suspicion that pycnogenol is beneficial regarding the control and management of blood sugar levels in diabetics, as well as helpful in reducing high blood pressure. The extract appeared to function in a similar way to that of ACE inhibitors--one of the three main hypertension medication drug classes.
A New Treatment for Alzheimer's Disease?
According to research conducted in 1993-2000 at California's Loma Linda University, laboratory mice evidenced remarkable improvement in memory when they were fed small amounts of Pycnogenol. Older mice who were given Pycnogenol experienced such improvement in memory that they scored as high as younger mice when their memories were tested using the same method.
Research conducted at Loma Linda University by Doctor Benjamin Lau resulted in evidence that Pycnogenol helps to prevent damage caused by the primary protein that is responsible for the development of Alzheimer's disease. Additional double blind studies have proved that the supplement is extremely beneficial for improved memory function in the human brain.
Numerous studies are also underway to pinpoint why the supplement appears to be so beneficial in the treatment of asthma, chronic venous insufficiency and retinopathy. Additionally, Pycnogenol contains high levels of antioxidants, similar to levels found in blackberries and mangosteen fruit--some of the most powerful antioxidants on Earth.
As with any dietary supplement, one should check with a doctor before adding pycnogenol to his or her diet. However, based on the aforementioned research, there is significant evidence that using pycnogenol as part of a balanced diet can be beneficial to one's health.