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Pycnogenol is an extract of pine bark, which comes from the inner bark of a pine tree. Nearly every medicinal herb is loaded with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties at least, and pycnogenol is no exception.  But it boasts a number of unique medicinal properties, as well.

Pycnogenol: Why It’s a Great Antioxidant

Many plants contain antioxidants, but pycnogenol is unique in the sense that it helps with regeneration of other antioxidants that have already donated their electrons in the service of regenerating glutathione—specifically, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. These are significant in particular, as Vitamin C is one of the primary water-soluble antioxidants, while Vitamin E is one of the primary fat-soluble antioxidants.

Pycnogenol is also unique in the sense that it helps to increase NAD+, the activated version of Vitamin B3—one of the darlings of the anti-aging world at the moment. Specifically, this means increased ATP production, and increased repair of DNA damage.

Pycnogenol for Venous Insufficiency and Vascular Health

Pycnogenol is perhaps best known for improving endothelial (blood vessel) health and function. This makes it useful for the cardiovascular system in general.

Those who struggle with spider veins, varicose veins, and chronic venous insufficiency may find it helpful. This study shows that those who took pycnogenol for 3-6 months noticed a significant improvement in all of these conditions, with less need for additional treatments such as sclerotherapy.

This study showed that those subject to lower extremity edema while flying, secondary to venous insufficiency, experienced significantly less edema with pycnogenol.

This study shows that venous ulcers healed faster with pycnogenol used as an adjuvant.

Spontaneous or inexplicable bleeding may also experience improvement with pycnogenol. This study suggests that it is beneficial for retinal micro-hemorrhages (though of course if this is occurring, make sure you get a thorough workup to determine the cause).

Pycnogenol for Clotting and Heart Disease

Pycnogenol also has potent anti-clotting effects, inhibiting oxidation of lipids which can cause vascular inflammation, and platelet aggregation.

This study shows that pycnogenol also reduces thromboxane, which tends to constrict blood vessels and is involved in clot formation.

This study shows that pycnogenol is even more effective than aspirin in inhibiting platelet aggregation, without increasing bleeding time (which aspirin, of course, does).

This study showed that patients with a history of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) experienced no recurrence of DVT and significantly greater improvement in edema symptoms, compared to those using compression stockings.

This study shows that for those with Congestive Heart Failure, heart ejection fraction increased by 22.4%, while edema likewise significantly improved, with a combination of pycnogenol and CoQ10.

Pycnogenol for Male Fertility and Sexual Function

Erectile dysfunction is most often vascular in nature. Because of this, it makes sense that pycnogenol would be a good potential treatment option. This study combined pycnogenol (at 120 mg/day) with arginine and showed that ED symptoms normalized for 92.5% of the subjects within three months of treatment—but those subjects who took arginine only, often a go-to supplement for ED, did not improve. (Also, I’d recommend caution for men using Nitric Oxide-enhancing supplements or especially medications for this purpose, due to a potential increased clotting risk).

This study also demonstrated benefit for ED with pycnogenol—but interestingly, it also showed that after 2 and 4 mo, men experienced improvement in sperm quality, count, and sexual satisfaction, as well.

This study shows that pycnogenol’s benefits in sexual health are not limited to men: postmenopausal women struggling with libido, lubrication, and pain also experienced a significant improvement.

Pycnogenol for Asthma and Allergies

There are quite a few studies that demonstrate pycnogenol’s immune modulation properties, helpful for both autoimmunity and allergic responses.

Pycnogenol specifically reduces levels of circulating leukotrienes, which significantly improves pulmonary function and asthma symptoms. This study shows that participants on pycnogenol could reduce or discontinue rescue inhalers. This study, done at 50 mg of pycnogenol twice daily, demonstrates the same thing.

This study also shows that subjects who took pycnogenol 7-8 weeks prior to allergy season experienced significant symptom relief from seasonal allergies.

Pycnogenol for Cognition and Focus

Possibly due to its antioxidant properties, its vasodilation properties, or both, pycnogenol has been studied for improvement in cognitive function, attention, memory, and executive function in otherwise healthy adults, with positive effects after 12 weeks.

It’s demonstrated similar benefits in college and graduate students, and in older adults as well. It’s even demonstrated improvement on the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE) in older adults experiencing cognitive decline after 8 weeks.

On the other end of the spectrum, this study showed that pycnogenol can benefit hyperactivity, attention and concentration in children with ADHD.

The Upshot

Pycnogenol shares many benefits with medicinal herbs in general, but it stands out for cardiovascular benefits, including for male sexual function, cognition and focus, and asthma.