Pycnogenol, a form of pine bark extract that you may have never heard of, may be a missing link in your health regimen that fights aging and gives your general well-being a boost. In fact, Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of The Blaylock Wellness Report, believes it should be a part of everyone's anti-aging strategy. "I would put it with the giants of nutrition," he tells Newsmax Health.
Pine bark extract contains procyanidins, a form of catechins, similiar to those found in green tea, cocoa, and grape seed extract. Pycnogenol is a patented form of pine bark extract using the bark of the maritime pine that grows in France.
Pycnogenol has a unique combination of powerful antioxidant components in addition to procyanidins, including bioflavonoids and phenolic acids, that neutralize disease-causing free radicals in the body.
Experts believe Pynogenol counteracts aging in two ways. First, it stimulates the antioxidant ability of cells. Second, it neutralizes free radicals as they travel through the blood stream. The extract has been shown to be safe and effective in more than 400 clinical studies and scientific publications.
Here are four specific ways pycnogenol may improve your health:
• Fights metabolic syndrome. An Italian study published in Phytotherapy Research found that supplementing a healthy diet with Pycnogenol reduced the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome.
When the study began, all study participants had all five risk factors for metabolic syndrome as defined by the American Heart Association. Patients were divided into two groups and were given either 50 milligram tablets of Pycnogenol three times a day or placebo tablets. Almost 90 percent of the patients in the Pycnogenol group showed significant improvement in all five categories, including obesity and high blood pressure, after three months of supplementation, and improvement continued at six months. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
"We found that Pycnogenol can aid people struggling with metabolic syndrome to control blood lipids, sugar and blood pressure," said lead researcher Dr. Gianni Belcaro. "Results show that those who supplemented healthy diet and moderate exercise with Pycnogenol were able to improve heart health and lose weight, reaching an almost normal body mass index.
"This study provides evidence that daily supplementation with Pycnogenol may offer a natural approach to help achieve healthy blood pressure, improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels and ultimately, greater cardiovascular health," Gianni said.
• Rejuvenates skin. Numerous studies found that Pycnogenol can protect skin and deter wrinkles by blocking the damaging effects of UV light. One study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine showed that taking 75 to 125 milligrams a day protected volunteers from sunburn after exposure to UV light, protecting skin not only from wrinkles but also lowering the risk of skin cancer.
A human double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, found that after six weeks of supplementing with Pycnogenol, skin elasticity was significantly increased and roughness reduced. Another study found that six weeks of supplementation at a daily dose of 75 milligrams, increased skin hydration by 21 percent.
• Eases osteoarthritis pain. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Phytotherapy Research found that giving patients 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol daily for three months decreased symptoms of osteoarthritis by 56 percent when compared to 9.6 percent in the placebo group, and the use of painkillers decreased 58 percent in the supplement group compared to 1 percent in the placebo group. A second study examining the supplement's effects on knee arthritis found similar results.
• Manages erectile dysfunction. Pycnogenol helps treat erectile dysfunction by increasing amounts of nitric oxide (NO) in the blood. NO causes the smooth muscles of arteries in the penis to dilate, allowing blood to flow and engorge it with blood. Japanese studies have found that a combination of Pycnogenol and the amino acid L-arginine, which also increases NO, improved both erections and satisfaction with intercourse in men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction and also increased testosterone levels.
You don't have to be searching for the Fountain of Youth to find Pycnogenol helpful. At least four studies have explored the value of Pycnogenol in treating attention-deficit/ hyperactive disorder (ADHD). The most detailed one, which was published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, supplemented children with Pycnogenol (1 mg/kg) or a placebo once a day for four weeks. Those taking the supplement showed a significant reduction in hyperactivity along with improved attention and concentration.
Dr. Blaylock adds even more benefits of Pycnogenol. "It is superior in reducing the signs and symptoms of varicose veins, inhibits oral and all other cancers, and protects against kidney and auditory nerve damage by antibiotics," he says. "In addition, it inhibits atherosclerosis and stabilizes atherosclerotic plaque, the main cause of a heart attack."