Pine Bark Extract: Application And Effect

Pine bark extract can be used to treat many ailments. According to clinical studies, these include psoriasis, high blood pressure, and hemorrhoids as well as urinary tract infections, varicose veins, and erectile dysfunction. In addition to the effects of the extract, we also discuss the correct dosage and what to look for when choosing high-quality pine bark extracts.

Pine bark extract in the medicine cabinet

Pine bark extract can be so potent that it’s a good addition to your medicine cabinet – especially if you (or family members) suffer from high blood pressure, psoriasis, erectile dysfunction, back pain, hemorrhoids, or are prone to urinary tract infections.

It is best to choose Pycnogenol for this. It is a very specific pine bark extract that is standardized, which means that it always has a guaranteed active ingredient content.

Pine Bark Extract, Pine Bark Extract, or Pycnogenol?

Pine bark extract is also called pine bark extract because pine is one of over 100 species of pine. However, the pine bark extract is not always made from pine, but much more often from other types of pine.

One of the best-known pine bark extracts is Pycnogenol (a registered trademark). Pycnogenol is manufactured by just one company worldwide (Horphag Research Ltd.), then sold to many dietary supplement manufacturers who can now use Pycnogenol in their products.

The extract is obtained from the reddish bark of the French maritime pine ( Pinus pinaster ) – also known as maritime pine or maritime pine. The fact that the extracts are still mostly referred to as pine bark extracts is probably due to a translation error because the pine is also called pine in English, which in this case was incorrectly translated as pine.

OPC in pine bark extract

The extract of pine or pine bark contains highly interesting plant substances such as polyphenols, which include the so-called oligomeric proanthocyanidins. They are abbreviated to OPC. Another name for OPC is Pycnogenol – hence the name of the aforementioned extract. However, this designation is rarely used in common parlance for OPC, but rather for Horphag Research’s standardized pine bark extract.

OPC is a powerful antioxidant that can have a number of positive effects on human health:

  • OPC reduces oxidative stress caused by free radicals,
  • has an anti-inflammatory effect,
  • improves blood circulation,
  • reduces deposits in the blood vessels and
  • contributes to blood vessel and skin health in general through its collagen-repairing action.

OPC is obtained not only from the pine bark but also from grape seeds. We explain the difference between the two extracts below in the paragraph “OPC from pine bark extract or from grape seed extract”.

What is pine bark extract used for?

The field of application of the pine bark extract is huge – it can be used for complaints that fall into the following areas:

  • eyes
  • joints
  • Vascular health – heart and circulation
  • Women’s Health
  • memory
  • Respiratory
  • skin

There are studies with the pine bark extract on complaints from all the areas mentioned – we would like to go into some of them below. Since Pycnogenol is standardized – which means the extract always contains the same amount of ingredients – it is used particularly often in studies. Studies with other pine bark extracts are rather rare.

Pine bark extract helps with psoriasis

In a scientific study with psoriasis patients, an Italian research team found that supplementation with 150 mg of Pycnogenol daily improves psoriasis symptoms. The patients took 50 mg Pycnogenol  3 times a day.

During the three-month study, the scientists were able to observe faster healing in a third of the patients – with reduced treatment costs at the same time. Redness, hardening, and flaking decreased thanks to the extract. Especially patients with pronounced symptoms responded well to treatment with the pine bark extract.

There are also other dietary supplements and vital substances that you can use specifically for psoriasis. We present them here so that you can put together a holistic therapy concept: Vital substances for psoriasis

Diet also has a huge impact on psoriasis. If you avoid certain foods and increase your intake of other foods, your psoriasis can improve significantly, as you can read in the following article: Healthy eating for psoriasis.

Pine bark extract for edema and varicose veins

A review also suggests that pine bark extract is effective in chronic venous insufficiency. Chronic venous insufficiency manifests itself, for example, in edema in the lower legs as well as cramps and pain.

The 475 subjects in the 15 clinical studies took 100 to 360 mg Pycnogenol per day for one to twelve months, which led to a reduction in edema and other symptoms compared to the control group, which took a placebo.

Even doses of 100 to 150 mg worked significantly better than compression stockings after eight weeks. In addition, these doses reduced varicose and spider veins in women more than compression stockings alone.

A scientific consultant from Horphag Research Ltd. was involved in the analysis. involved.

Pine bark extract for urinary tract infections

Pine bark extract could also help people who suffer from urinary tract infections several times a year to be bothered less often. A 2021 study showed that pine bark extract can reduce the incidence of UTIs.

25 volunteers took 150 mg Pycnogenol per day for two months. The number of urinary tract infections then fell in the pine bark extract group from 3.1 to 1.6, i.e. by almost 50 percent, while in the control group it fell only minimally from 3.2 to 2.9.

In addition, the number of subjects who no longer had urinary tract infections was significantly higher in the pine bark extract group than in the control group. And the oxidative stress was also significantly reduced in the group that had taken the pine bark extract. This is good news because oxidative stress increases the risk of urinary tract infections (and also the risk of numerous other diseases).

Pine bark extract can naturally lower blood pressure

Equally astonishing are the results of a 2020 review. It evaluated 12 clinical studies with a total of 922 participants that examined how taking pine bark extract as a dietary supplement affected blood pressure.

Depending on the study, the participants suffered from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or symptoms of metabolic syndrome. The control groups consisted of completely healthy individuals. The doses taken ranged from 60 to 200 mg of Pycnogenol per day.

In summary, the pine bark extract reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 3.22 and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 1.91 mmHg. However, the effect was only evident if the extract was taken for at least 3 months. Blood pressure was the most likely to remain stable among the healthy subjects, suggesting that pine bark extract does not further lower normal levels.

The results suggest that doses between 100 and 200 mg per day are best for lowering blood pressure. The drop in blood pressure is not great, but in combination with sufficient exercise and a healthy diet, pine bark extract supports the health of the blood vessels and thus the entire cardiovascular system.

If you are unsure what a healthy high blood pressure diet should look like, here is a 7-day high blood pressure meal plan. The diet is specifically composed of foods that have been proven to lower blood pressure.

Pine bark extract and L-arginine increase potency

Pine bark extract also contributes to blood circulation. It can increase blood flow to the male sex organ. Researchers found that pine bark extract, especially in combination with the amino acid L-arginine, can help with erectile dysfunction. For this reason, supplements containing pine bark extract are often available in combination with L-arginine.

The body needs L-arginine to produce nitrogen monoxide, which dilates the vessels, promotes blood flow, and increases physical performance. You can find out why L-arginine and pine bark extract complement each other so well in the article L-arginine plus pine bark extract for erectile dysfunction.

The two preparations should be taken for several months because in studies they only showed an effect from the second month. With the capsules of effective nature, you take 50 mg Pycnogenol (1 capsule) together with 920 mg L-arginine (2 capsules) daily. In the second month, reduce L-arginine to 460 mg per day (1 capsule) – the 50 mg pine bark extract remains unchanged.

Pine bark extract for back pain

Today eight out of ten people suffer from back pain. For many, eliminating the causes is a difficult matter, as they are often related to lifestyles that cannot be easily changed (e.g. frequent occupational sitting or heavy physical work). Of course, taking painkillers regularly is not a solution either.

The results of an Italian study from 2021 make you sit up and take notice: A total of 82 test subjects with back pain took part in the study. 23 of them took 200 mg Pycnogenol (4 x 50 mg) per day for one week, were supposed to do the light physical activity once during this week, and then be quiet or relaxed for three days. The control group of 59 people did the same but without taking the pine bark extract.

The three-week follow-up phase showed that the back pain in the pine bark extract group decreased more quickly and that their physical performance was significantly higher than that of the control group. The control group also had to resort to medication such as ibuprofen more often.

A 2006 study suggested that 30 mg of Pycnogenol per day for two months could help with back pain in 80 third-trimester pregnant women with low back pain.

OPC from pine bark extract or from grape seed extract

The OPC contained in the pine bark extract and in the grape seed extract differs in its composition, as a study has shown. However, based on this, one cannot conclude that either extract is better or worse.

Occasionally one reads on the Internet that grape seed extract contains 92 to 95 percent OPC and pine bark extract 80 to 85 percent.

In any case, the complaints for which studies with the two extracts are available are relatively similar. For example, grape seed extract showed effects in neurodermatitis – pine bark extract in psoriasis. In addition, both extracts have a protective effect on the blood vessels and thus on the heart.

Since everyone is different, it may well be that one or the other extract works better for you. The two preparations do not differ in price – depending on the manufacturer, there are both cheap and expensive products.

Take pine bark extract

Pine bark extract is available in capsule or dragee form. When buying, make sure that no additives (stabilizers, release agents, titanium dioxide, etc.) are included. The capsules differ in dosage depending on the manufacturer and range from 30 mg to 500 mg per capsule and/or day.

The above studies offer you indications of how high the daily dose for your symptoms could be – 150 mg Pycnogenol per day was often used. Then it is best to look for a provider whose capsules you can easily take the respective daily dose without having to do a lot of math – for example, a preparation with 50 mg, of which you then take one capsule three times a day.

In the studies, the daily doses were often divided into several individual doses. The manufacturer of Pycnogenol recommends taking the supplement with meals, preferably breakfast if only one capsule per day is taken.

Most pine bark extract suppliers use Pycnogenol. High-quality preparations with Pycnogenol often cost a little more than preparations with other pine bark extracts. However, since most of the studies have been conducted with Pycnogenol, it makes sense to take it.

Incidentally, if a product is labeled with “Pine bark extract from the French maritime pine”, this does not mean that it actually contains Pycnogenol – this is just a marketing measure.

You can also buy pine bark extract already combined with L-arginine. As described in the paragraph “Pine bark extract and L-arginine increase potency”, this combination is suitable for erectile dysfunction.

Furthermore, capsules with pine bark extract sometimes also contain vitamin C, which also helps to protect the cells from oxidative stress. Taking vitamin C at the same time can increase the antioxidant potential of pine bark extract.

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