These trees, which grow exclusively in Europe, are rich in bioflavonoids and antioxidants, particularly compounds known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins. Highly touted for their antioxidant and properties, oligomeric proanthocyanidins are considred to be essential to health. They work in conjunction with vitamin C, each protecting the other from free radical damage.
In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, pycnogenol is a natural anti-inflammatory agent as well. It also helps the body produce a compound known as endothelial nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels.
Further, pycnogenol molecules bind to elastin and collagen, making it a useful ingredient in skincare products. Pycnogenol can help to improve skin elasticity, and it also protects skin from sun damage due to its antioxidant properties.
The healing properties of pine bark have been well known for centuries. In the 1500′s, local natives gave remedies made from pine bark to the French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew to help them recover from scurvy.
Pycnogenol has been studied extensively for its ability to protect cells from damage due to oxidative stress, the primary function of antioxidants. It is believed to be much more effective than vitamin C because it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier makes pycnogenol one of the most powerful antioxidants available. It works best when it is used in combination with other antioxidants and minerals, particularly vitamins C, E and A as well as zinc, manganese and selenium.
Pycnogenol is widely used to strengthen the circulatory system. It can prevent the development of a disorder known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), and it is thought to prevent cardiovascular disease as well.
Pycnogenol may also help lower the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can cause blindness in diabetic patients.
It also helps to keep blood platelets from clotting which can lead to onset of stroke.
Further, the ability of pycnogenol to prevent the release of histamines makes it useful in alleviating symptoms of allergies and helping to heal stress-related ulcers.
Pycnogenol is made by a process that follows the standards of good agricultural practice (GAP) and good manufacturing practice (GMP) – the “gold stars” of the supplement industry. Pine trees used to produce pycnogenol must be grown without pesticides, and no additives or solvents are added during the manufacturing process. Pycnogenol is certified both Kosher and Halal, and the FDA has classified it as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).
The safety and efficacy of pycnogenol have been verified by more than 170 published studies. Pycnogenol is usually taken in capsule or tablet form, with dosages ranging from 60 to 360 mg per day.
The lower range is considered a “maintenance dose” while people taking this product for specific conditions will usually take a higher dose. Pycnogenol is usually well tolerated, and no significant adverse effects have been reported by people who use it.