What is Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol is a plant extract taken from the bark of the French maritime pine (pinus maritima), which contains a mixture of bioflavonoids, catechins, flavons and proanthocyanidins. The name Pycnogenol was coined by Masquelier, a French chemist, it comes from pycno - to thicken or condense, gen - to generate and ol - from the chemical name.

What does it do?

Pycnogenol is an antioxidant, it claims to offer protection against free radicals that speed up the ageing process raising the risk of heart disease and cancer. It is also thought to strengthen blood vessel walls, reduce oedema and improve circulation. Pycnogenol may also boost immunity, help relax blood vessels thereby lowering blood pressure, reduce inflammation, help to ease allergies and help both adults and children overcome attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD/ADD). It is claimed to be one of the few dietary antioxidants that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect brain cells, the blood-brain barrier protects the brain from compounds that normally circulate in the blood.

Conditions that Pycnogenol may help with

Cardiovascular disease
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Swelling and inflammation
Tourette syndrome


Safety tests carried out at the Pasteur Institute in Lyon, France confirmed pycnogenol’s safety. We have listed below a few studies on the beneficial effects of pycnogenol, a more comprehensive list can be viewed on the internet at:

The value of pycnogenol for individuals with ADHD/ADD was discovered by default as it was initially taken for other purposes such as allergies, ADHD sufferers claimed to have noticed an improvement in concentration and mental focus. Why Pycnogenol should influence the brain is unknown, however it is theorised that it regulates enzymes that help control two crucial neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals that carry messages among brain cells and are involved in 'excitory' responses. It is also thought that it can help deliver nutrients to the brain, such as zinc, manganese, selenium, and copper, all of which are helpful in ADHD. There has not been much research in this area.

According to Steven Heimann pycnogenol decreases hyperactivity and impulsiveness:
Heimann SW. Pycnogenol for ADHD? J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1999 Apr;38(4):357-8.

James Greenblatt found that pycnogenol increased attention: Greenblatt J. Nutritional supplements in ADHD: J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1999 Oct;38(10):1209-11

Heart disease
Pycnogenol reduces platelet aggregation stimulated by tobacco smoke: Araghi-Niknam M, Hosseini S, Larson D, Rohdewald P, Watson RR. Pine bark extract reduces platelet aggregation. 1096-2190 2000 Mar 21;2(2):73-77

Ann N Y Acad Sci 2001 Apr;928:141-56 Inhibition mechanisms of bioflavonoids extracted from the bark of Pinus maritima on the expression of proinflammatory cytokines. Cho KJ, Yun CH, Packer L, Chung AS.  Bioflavonids can be useful therapeutic agents in treating many inflammatory, autoimmune, and cardiovascular diseases based on its diverse action mechanisms

Pycnogenol’s anti-inflammatory properties may be beneficial in the treatment of arthritis: Cho KJ, Yun CH, Yoon DY, Cho YS, Rimbach G, Packer L, Chung AS. Effect of bioflavonoids extracted from the bark of Pinus maritima on proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 production in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated RAW 264.7. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2000 Oct 1;168(1):64-71

Stefanescu M, Matache C, Onu A, Tanaseanu S, Dragomir C, Constantinescu I, Schonlau F, Rohdewald P, Szegli G. Phytother Res 2001 Dec;15(8):698-704 Pycnogenol(R) efficacy in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus patients.
The results obtained suggest that Pycnogenol(R) could be useful for second line therapy to reduce the inflammatory feature of SLE. (Systematic Lupus erythematosus)

Skin disorders
Bito T, Roy S, Sen CK, Packer. Pine bark extract pycnogenol downregulates IFN-gamma-induced adhesion of T cells to human keratinocytes by inhibiting inducible ICAM-1 expression. Free Radic Biol Med 2000 Jan 15;28(2):219-27 The results of this study indicate the therapeutic potential of Pycnogenol in patients with inflammatory skin disorders.

Rihn B, Saliou C, Bottin MC, Keith G, Packer L. From ancient remedies to modern therapeutics: pine bark uses in skin disorders revisited. Phytother Res 2001 Feb;15(1):76-8
"PBE was shown to downregulate both calgranulin A and B genes which are known to be upregulated in psoriasis and various dermatoses. Thus, PBE could be considered in human dermatoses."

Ageing and Alzheimer
Liu FJ, Zhang YX, Lau BH. Pycnogenol enhances immune and haemopoietic functions in senescence-accelerated mice. Cell Mol Life Sci 1998 Oct;54(10):1168-72

How to obtain Pycnogenol

Health food stores will usually carry pycnogenol. It is always best to compare different brands for relative strength and price.

These are some of the references that have been passed to us; the list is not exhaustive. We have not necessarily read the books, and cannot say how easy it will be to get them.

- Passwater A., Kandaswami C. Pycnogenol : The Super 'Protector' Nutrient ISBN: 0879836482
- Martin W. Pycnogenol, The Bark with the Bite. ISBN: 1884820573
- Elkins R., Tenney L. Pycnogenol Miracle Antioxidant (Woodland Health Series) ISBN: 1885670095

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