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What is Pine Bark Extract? Benefits, Uses and More

What is Pine Bark Extract? Benefits, Uses and More

Are there pine bark extract benefits? 

Pycnogenol has been getting some media attention lately due to the potential health benefits associated with pine bark extract, which may range from improving circulation and reducing the effects of tinnitus to alleviating or preventing joint pain.

But what is Pycnogenol? How are pine bark extract benefits connected to it? And, what is pine bark anyway?

Pine bark extract is a superfood with a long history in healing.

A conifer originally from the forests of the south of France and found in the northern hemisphere across the globe, the maritime pine tree has been part of traditional herbal medicine for a few hundred years.  The exact history of the pine bark extract benefits is not widely known. However:

Pine bark extract has long been attributed as the “miracle cure” that saved French explorer Jacques Cartier, and his crew, in 1536 from scurvy.

Scurvy is caused by significant vitamin C deficiency, and one of the first documented uses of pine bark extract was recorded by Cartier. The explorer and his crew were severely ill due to limited food supply and made it to Canada in deplorable conditions.

In what is now the City of Quebec, Cartier's crew was cured by ascorbic acid (vitamin C) found in pine bark extract through a remedy prepared by the Iroquois first nation. The pine bark extract benefits, we now know, are not limited to high Vitamin C content; it’s also rich in amino acids necessary for protein synthesis - arginine and proline, among other compounds.

Naturally, the combined health benefits of this superfood helped restored the severely malnourished crew in what they felt was record time.

The explorers dubbed it the “Tree of Life,” after their brush with death. And then brought it to Europe, where people started using it for more varied healing purposes.

Pycnogenol is the standardized formula used in modern medicine that contains the active ingredient responsible for the most well-known pine bark extract benefits: proanthocyanidins. Nevertheless, more studies are being performed on the plant to understand its healing properties better.

While it is certainly not a “miracle cure” -although for the crew it understandably was- in this article, we will demystify the health benefits of pine bark extract, what this superfood is, and how it can help you live a healthier life when added naturally to your diet. 

What is Pine Bark Extract

Pinus pinaster is a pine tree species native to the northern hemisphere of the world, often found in France, Canada, Finland, and other conifer environments. Pine bark extract is a liquid derived, as the name indicates, from the bark of the tree.

It’s full of bioflavonoids that may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the human body. Available in the USA under the trade name Pycnogenol, it’s now used as a nutritional and medicinal supplement due to its potential healing properties.

The Many Names of Pine Bark Extract

You may have heard of pine bark extract benefits recently, but this medicinal superfood goes by many names:

  • Écorce de Pin or Écorce de Pin Maritime
  • Extrait d'Écorce de Pin 
  • French Marine or Maritime Pine Bark Extract
  • Leucoanthocyanidins
  • Maritime Bark Extract 
  • Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPC, OPCs, and PCOs)
  • Pine Bark or Pine Bark Extract
  • Pinus pinaster (scientific name)
  • Pinus maritima 
  • Proanthocyanidins Oligomériques, 
  • Pycnogenol 
  • Pygenol, or 
  • Tannins Condensés

How Pine Bark Extract Works

Pine bark extract compounds have the power to override harmful substances called free radicals, which are natural byproducts of your body’s energy management. These free radicals are loose electrons molecules that attach themselves to healthy ones, damaging tissue, leading to wrinkles, knee pain, and chronic disease. 

They are neutralized by antioxidant forces, also produced by the body. At times, the organism may not have enough of its own antioxidant defenses, and this results in oxidative stress, inflammation, and disease. Fortunately, you can replenish your body’s antioxidant stock with food. 

The pine bark extract benefits come from its high antioxidant content, present in the form of proanthocyanidins. 

These are flavonoids that research shows could  have cardiovascular benefits, reduce the production enzymes that break down cartilage, vasorelaxant activity, boost the immune system, and more. The active ingredients in pine bark extract may also be found in grape seed, peanut skin, and witch hazel bark.

Pine Bark Extract Benefits for Overall Health

#1 Good Source of Antioxidants:

Studies suggest that pine bark extract has outstanding antioxidant content, with approximately 65-75% procyanidin compounds, the chain-like structures that provide the antioxidation powers and inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes. Pine bark extract benefits the immune system, skin, internal organs, and joints by helping to preserve healthy structures.

#2 May Support Cardiovascular Health:

A growing body of evidence suggests that pine bark benefits cardiovascular health in multiple ways. In addition to its potent antioxidant activity, it could improve blood flow through vasodilatory action. 

Additionally, it may reduce platelet activity, lower high blood pressure, reduce artery constriction, lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increases high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. Researchers conclude that it “counteract all-important cardiovascular risk factors simultaneously.”

#3 Could Support Joint Health

Some small studies have found Pycnogenol and pine bark extract benefits the 300 to 400 joints in the body, potentially alleviating the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis. A 2007 trial hosted by the University of Arizona found that these substances reduced osteoarthritis-related pain by 43% and stiffness by 25%. 

Further research found that:

  • It reduces joint pain with antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and chondroprotective effects.
  • Healthy phenolic acids that support joint health (catechin and taxifolin) are quickly absorbed by the body.
  • It’s a safe and effective alternative to steroidal pain management treatments.
  • Reduced gastric complications and hospital admissions of osteoarthritis patients

#4 Could Fight Off Colds and Viral Infections

Due to its high antioxidant capacity and ability to enhance the immune system’s defenses, it may help to reduce the frequency of respiratory infections. In a registry study, Pycnogenol (pine bark extract) decreased the symptoms of common colds and shortened its course significantly in 70 subjects, while also preventing complications.

#5 May Reduce Inflammation

A small study suggests that pine bark extract benefits the body at all internal levels, inhibiting the proliferation and production of cytokines IL-1 and IL-. These cytokines, pro-inflammatory molecules that occur naturally in the body, are the culprits behind many adverse effects of chronic inflammation.

A more recent investigation concluded that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential of pine bark extract, honey, aloe vera, and papain, have the ability to inhibit the expression of inflammatory genes. 

# 6 Might Improve Brain Function

A review of over 100 research trials found that pine bark extract benefits brain function, cognitive abilities, and prevents cerebral aging. Pycnogenol, the standardized plant-based supplement, could have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties that directly affect brain health.

While assessing the efficacy of Pycnogenol, researchers found that patients 55 or older, who took pine bark extract supplement for a year, showed superior results in memory and cognitive tasks compared to placebo groups.

#7 Could Make Your Skin More Radiant

As mentioned before, the potent antioxidant content is one of its most remarkable features.  One of the unexpected pine bark extract benefits is that it can improve the appearance of wrinkles and potentially prevent sun damage

Investigators claimed that may even help repair your skin,post-sunburn.  Additional Pycnogenol supplementation could reduce hyperpigmentation and improve the skin’s immune defenses.

#8 Might Improve Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus is an ear condition marked by persistent, continuous, and irritating noise or ringing in the ears, that could be caused by both high and low blood pressure or circulatory conditions.

A pilot evaluation showed that pine bark extract or Pycnogenol could be an effective form of treatment for tinnitus by improving cochlear blood flow. Noticing that the higher and more prolonged the intake the better the outcome, as it is a  slow-acting substance. 

How to Get the Health Benefits of Pine Bark

Pycnogenol and pine bark extract benefits may be found in various herbal supplements and natural food stores, but if you want to find it in foods you can choose to add a healthy dose of peanut with the skin, grapes with the seed, grape seeds sprinkled on your salad, and witch hazel.

Organifi will soon be launching a joint health supplement, and we could not pass this ingredient up!

Bottom Line:

There are many more pine bark extract benefits that are not included in this list and more research is being conducted on the plant to make it more readily available. Nevertheless, it’s a superfood with remarkable health benefits for joint pain relief, skin, and neuroprotective pathways.

Bear in mind that even though both natural pine bark extract and Pycnogenol supplements are safe to consume, they could interact with current medication you are on. Consult with your doctor before making any decisions and stop if you believe you are seeing adverse side effects. 

Are you ready to add Pycnogenol to your diet? Tell us if you knew already the benefits of pine bark and if you found this useful share with a friend.

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