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Pycnogenol

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated May 22, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Pycnogenol is the trade name for an extract of the French maritime pine tree (Pinus maritima). A natural source of several antioxidants, Pycnogenol is often marketed as a supplement for heart and circulatory health.

Health Benefits of Pycnogenol:

Studies suggest that pycnogenol may be of some benefit in treating the following conditions:

1) Menstrual Pain

In a 2008 study of 116 women (ages 18 to 48), researchers found that those prone to severe pain during menstruation experienced a significant decrease in pain and required less pain-relieving medication while taking Pycnogenol.

More remedies for menstrual cramps.

2) Asthma

Pycnogenol may be useful as an adjunct therapy in the management of childhood asthma, according to a study published in 2004. After three months of following 60 children with mild-to-moderate asthma, researchers determined that those taking Pycnogenol had significantly more improvement in lung function and asthma symptoms (compared to study members assigned to a placebo).

See Natural Remedies For Asthma.

3) Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Several studies show that Pycnogenol may reduce swelling and pain in people with chronic venous insufficiency, a condition in which the veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs to the heart.

Pycnogenol is just one natural remedy for chronic venous insufficiency. Also learn about Grape Seed Extract, Butcher's Broom, Horse Chestnut, and Rutin.

4) Diabetes

Pycnogenol may help control some cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes, suggests a small study published in 2008. For 12 weeks, 48 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure took either a daily Pycnogenol supplement or a placebo pill. By the study's end, those taking Pycnogenol showed improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels.

A more recent study, published in 2009, shows that Pycnogenol may improve vision in people in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy (a leading cause of blindness among people with diabetes).

Find out other Natural Treatments For Diabetes and learn strategies for preventing diabetes.

Why Do People Use Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol is typically used to treat the following conditions:

Some proponents of Pycnogenol also claim that the supplement can aid in the prevention of cancer.

Safety

Although pycnogenol is generally considered safe, it may interfere with the action of certain drugs used in chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Pycnogenol may also cause irritability and lower energy levels, especially when used in treatment of ADHD.

As with any dietary supplement, you should consult your physician prior to using Pycnogenol to treat any kind of health condition.

Sources

Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Vinciguerra G, Ricci A, Gizzi G, Ippolito E, Fano F, Dugall M, Acerbi G, Cacchio M, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Stuard S, Corsi M. "Comparison of Pycnogenol and Daflon in treating chronic venous insufficiency: a prospective, controlled study." Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2006 12(2):205-12.

Koch R. "Comparative study of Venostasin and Pycnogenol in chronic venous insufficiency." Phytother Res. 2002 16 Suppl 1:S1-5.

Lau BH, Riesen SK, Truong KP, Lau EW, Rohdewald P, Barreta RA. "Pycnogenol as an adjunct in the management of childhood asthma." J Asthma. 2004;41(8):825-32.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "About Herbs: Pine Bark Extract". December 28, 1009.

Petrassi C, Mastromarino A, Spartera C. "PYCNOGENOL in chronic venous insufficiency." Phytomedicine. 2000 7(5):383-8.

Steigerwalt R, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Di Renzo A, Grossi MG, Ricci A, Dugall M, Cacchio M, Schönlau F. "Pycnogenol improves microcirculation, retinal edema, and visual acuity in early diabetic retinopathy." J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2009 25(6):537-40.

Suzuki N, Uebaba K, Kohama T, Moniwa N, Kanayama N, Koike K. "French maritime pine bark extract significantly lowers the requirement for analgesic medication in dysmenorrhea: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study." J Reprod Med. 2008 53(5):338-46.

Zibadi S, Rohdewald PJ, Park D, Watson RR. "Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors in subjects with type 2 diabetes by Pycnogenol supplementation." Nutr Res. 2008 28(5):315-20.

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