pycnogenol (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Cocklebut, condensed tannins, Evelle® (vitamins C and E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, amino acids, glycosaminoglycans, blueberry extract, Pycnogenol®), French maritime pine bark extract, French Pinus maritime bark, grape marc extract, leucoanthocyanidins, Pinus pinaster, Pinus maritima, oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs), Pinaceae (family), proanthocyanidins, PYC, pygenol, stickwort, Zinopin® (Pycnogenol® and Standardized Ginger Root Extract (SGRE)).
Pycnogenol® is the patented trade name for a water extract of the bark of the French maritime pine (Pinus pinaster ssp. atlantica), which is grown in coastal southwest France. Pycnogenol® contains oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) as well as several other bioflavonoids: catechin, epicatechin, phenolic fruit acids (such as ferulic acid and caffeic acid), and taxifolin. Procyanidins are oligometric catechins found at high concentrations in red wine, grapes, cocoa, cranberries, apples, and some supplements such as Pycnogenol®.
There has been some confusion in the U.S. market regarding OPC products containing Pycnogenol® or grape seed extract (GSE) because one of the generic terms for chemical constituents ("pycnogenols") is the same as the patented trade name (Pycnogenol®). Some GSE products were formerly erroneously labeled and marketed in the U.S. as containing "pycnogenols." Although GSE and Pycnogenol® do contain similar chemical constituents (primarily in the OPC fraction), the chemical, pharmacological, and clinical literature on the two products are distinct. The term Pycnogenol® should therefore only be used to refer to the specific proprietary pine bark extract. Scientific literature regarding this product should not be referenced as a basis for the safety or effectiveness of GSE.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Pycnogenol® may offer clinical benefit to both children and adults with asthma. Additional study is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Chronic venous insufficiency:
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a syndrome that includes leg swelling, varicose veins, pain, itching, skin changes, and skin ulcers. The term is more commonly used in Europe than in the United States. Pycnogenol® used in people with chronic venous insufficiency is reported to reduce edema and pain. Pycnogenol® may also be used in the management of other CVI symptoms.
Due to conflicting study results, it is unclear if Pycnogenol® has significant antioxidant effects in humans. Further research is necessary.
Attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
Pycnogenol® has been used in adult patients with ADHD to improve concentration, but does not appear to be more effective than placebo. Further research is necessary in this area before a firm conclusion can be reached.
Cramps (muscular pain):
Pycnogenol® may effectively prevent cramps, muscular pain at rest, and pain after/during exercise in normals, in athletes prone to cramps, in patients with venous disease, in claudicants, and in diabetics with microangiopathy. Further high quality trails are needed to make a firm recommendation.
Supplementation of Pycnogenol® with conventional diabetes treatment may lower glucose levels and improve endothelial function. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Supplementation with Pycnogenol® may improve symptoms associated with diabetic microangiopathy. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation):
Preliminary human data shows that Pycnogenol® may have a potential analgesic (pain relieving) effect on menstrual pain. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Edema (in patients with high blood pressure):
Edema occurs when fluid builds up in body tissues causing swelling. Some drugs used to treat high blood pressure may cause edema. Early research suggests that Pycnogenol® may help treat edema linked to calcium antagonist (nifedipine) or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. More research is needed in this area.
Pycnogenol®, in combination with L-arginine, may cause an improvement in sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction. It is not known what effect each of the individual compounds may have directly on this condition. Further research is needed.
Gingival bleeding / plaque:
Chewing gum containing Pycnogenol® is reported to minimize gingival bleeding and plaque formation. Pycnogenol® has also been added to toothpaste for a potential antioxidant effect. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
High blood pressure:
Use of Pycnogenol® may reduce the need for nifedipine and decrease systolic blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Pycnogenol® may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL/"bad cholesterol") levels and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL/"good cholesterol") levels. However, some studies have reported decreases in total cholesterol and LDL levels with no change in HDL. Due to conflicting data, further studies are necessary.
Human studies report that Pycnogenol® may improve sperm quality and function in sub-fertile men. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Melasma (or chloasma) is a common disorder of hyperpigmentation of the skin predominately affecting sun-exposed areas in women. Formations of tan or brown patches/spots may occur. Pycnogenol® has been reported to decrease the darkened area and the pigment intensity of melasma and improve symptoms of fatigue, constipation, body pains, and anxiety. Further research is needed before a clear recommendation can be made.
Early research suggests that Pycnogenol® may help reduce menopausal symptoms without causing side effects. Additional research is needed to determine if this treatment is safe and effective.
A combination of pine bark extract containing vitamin C and vitamin E may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. However, the effects of pine bark extract alone are unknown because other supplements were also used. More research with Pycnogenol® alone is needed.
One human study reports reduced platelet aggregation in smokers. Further research is needed before a clear conclusion can be reached.
Prevention of blood clots/edema during long airplane fights:
Preliminary human study suggests that Pycnogenol® treatment may be effective in decreasing the number of thrombotic events (DVT and SVT) in moderate-to-high risk subjects during long-haul flights. Edema (swelling) may also be reduced. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Several studies report benefits of Pycnogenol® in the treatment and prevention of retinopathy, including slowing the progression of retinopathy in diabetics. Better-quality research is needed before a firm conclusion can be reached.
Pycnogenol®, taken by mouth, may reduce erythema (redness of the skin) caused by solar ultraviolet light. Further study is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Venous leg ulcers:
Pycnogenol® may be useful for reduction of leg ulcers. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.