In 1535, a French explorer by the name of Jacques Cartier found himself ice-bound on the St. Lawrence River. Along with the rest of the crew, he developed symptoms of vitamin-C deficiency.
Luckily, the Native Americans told them about a tea prepared from the bark of a certain tree, which miraculously led to complete recovery. So begins my look at the natural supplement, pycnogenol (French Maritime Pine Bark Extract) benefits.
Almost 400 years later, Dr. Jacques Masquelier from France came across Cartier’s account and started to look for the active ingredients from the bark of the tree. He later extracted proanthocyanidins from the European coastal pine tree, which he named “Pycnogenol.”
This key chemical, proanthocyanidin, is also found in high concentrations in apples, cranberries, coca, grapes, and red wine.
Here are the many health benefits believed to be possible with Pycnogenol:
1. Reduces “leaky” blood vessels by making the wall proteins (collagen, elastin) more resistant to damage
2. Helps maintain high vitamin C and E blood levels for their antioxidant effects
3. Inhibits platelet aggregation like low-dose aspirin
4. Reduces hardening in the arteries by increasing nitric oxide production in blood vessels, leading to greater dilatation
5. Reduces muscle contractions
6. Counteracts the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation
7. Stimulates the immune system by boosting T and B cell functions
8. Protects brain cells from toxic chemicals
9. Exerts anti-inflammatory actions
Now let’s dive into the first condition it could help treat. It is “chronic venous insufficiency,” a common disease among people who are obese or elderly and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. This condition is due to the pooling of blood in the veins of the lower legs. Symptoms include swelling in ankles and legs, discolored skin and, if the skin is broken, the development of leg ulcers.
Here is what science says about Pycnogenol:
1. In one study, 10 patients were treated with placebo and 30 patients were treated with Pycnogenol (100 mg twice or three times daily for two months). Pycnogenol significantly improved the heavy feeling as well as the swelling.
2. Forty patients were treated with either 600 mg chestnut seed extract a day or 360 mg Pycnogenol a day over a period of four weeks. Pycnogenol significantly reduced the swelling as well as the feeling of heaviness. Plus, it reduced total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Chestnut seed extract did not do as well.
3. Eighty-six patients were treated either with Pycnogenol at 150 mg or 300 mg daily or the drugs diosmin and hesperidin (“Daflon”)at 1,000 mg daily for two months. The positive improvements in symptoms were greater among those taking Pycnogenol.
4. Twenty-one patients were given Pycnogenol at 150 mg daily and 18 patients received no treatment for a period of eight weeks. Pycnogenol-treated patients had significant improvement in symptoms as well as a reduction in leg swelling as compared to those not receiving treatment.