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Pycnogenol - The Pine Bark Extract Antioxidant

Pine Bark: Medicinal Botanical

We have all come to learn that medicinal botanicals often can come from exotic plant sources, but pine bark? As strange as it may at first sound, Pycnogenol is a French maritime pine bark extract that a substantial amount of research has shown to be one of the most potent antioxidant dietary supplement ingredients in the marketplace.

Marketed exclusively in the United States by La Grange, Ill.-based Henkel Nutrition and Health Group, Pycnogenol contains an unique complex of more than 40 water-soluble polyphenolic flavonoids and organic acids that possess significant antioxidant properties. As a result, Pycnogenol has been indicated to potentially play important roles in maintaining health and preventing diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancers.

How does Pycnogenol work?

While the various compounds in Pycnogenol work together synergistically, the most noted antioxidant constituents in Pycnogenol are a class of flavonoids called proanthocyanidins. These proanthocyandins, along with other antioxidant compounds in Pycnogenol, search the watery areas of the body and quench free radicals that would otherwise damage the body's cells. Detrimental effects that can occur from out-of control free radicals include damage to proteins and cell membranes, the compromise of cells' natural defenses, and the disruption of cells' genetic DNA. It is also postulated that free radicals are partially responsible for the aging process, as the cumulative effect of years of continual free radical reactions causes cells to become inefficient, damaged, mutated or even to die. Pycnogenol is thought to fight against each of these consequences of free radical formation.

One study also found that Pycnogenol can recycle or regenerate other important antioxidants after they are used up in the process of quenching free radicals. In cell cultures, researchers confirmed that white blood cells stimulated by bacterial proteins increased free radicals and decreased vitamin E levels in endothelial cells (which line blood vessels). The researchers then added Pycnogenol to the cultures and discovered that it protected vitamin E levels in endothelial cells and, in fact, increased vitamin E levels by about 15 percent.'

What does Pycnogenol do?

Although often marketed solely for its antioxidant capabilities, research on Pycnogenol has proven that this supplement extract possesses a range of biochemical activities in the human body. Pycnogenol helps blood vessels relax, thereby helping the body circulate more blood during stressful conditions without increasing blood pressure or making the heart work harder. Additionally, Pycnogenol strengthens capillaries, arteries and veins by binding collagen and protecting it from degradation; fights inflammation; and improves joint flexibility.

Just as numerous studies support the antioxidant behavior of Pycnogenol, research has also given credence to its other benefits. For example, a study showed that Pycnogenol not only directly relaxes (dilates) blood vessels but also counteracts the vasoconstrictions produced by adrenaline and noradrenaline-the hormones secreted in large amounts when the body is under stress. These effects were indicated to involve stimulation of nitric oxide (the important blood vessel protective substance) by endothelial cells.2 This effect of Pycnogenol suggests that it may have a role in preventing the development of atherosclerosis.

Another study showed that Pycnogenol significantly reduced platelet aggregation (which is a rapid response to mediators, such as agents in cigarette smoke, that can put the body at greater risk for cardiovascular disease due to clogging of the arteries).3 Highlighting the originality of this study, US. Patent No. 5,720,956 was granted on the basis of its findings.

Innovative studies currently underway include one examining Pycnogenol's impact on children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Another study that was just recently completed showed that Pycnogenol increased endurance time by 21 percent in both men and women during exercise.4 The researchers speculated that protection of tissues from oxidative damage may help facilitate training efforts, which could explain in part the improvement in endurance.

Where does Pycnogenol come from?

Pycnogenol is obtained exclusively from the bark of 20- to 25-year-old French maritime pine trees. As a result, this branded raw material is an extremely consistent dietary supplement ingredient that is obtained from just one source. In other words, people, from manufacturers down to retail customers, can be assured that they are getting what they paid for. Studied for more than 30 years, there have been no reported side effects from use of Pycnogenol, even at tremendously high doses. For health maintenance, pycnogenol is typically recommended in a dosage of 50 mg to 100 mg daily.

Pycnogenol as a dietary supplement ingredient can be found in an extensive list of manufactured product brands including: Ageless Beauty, Bluebonnet, Country Life, Holista Health, Kal, Linus Pauling, Natml, Natural Factors, Nature's Bounty, Nature's Herbs, Nature's Plus, Nature's Way, NOW, Quantum, Sdld Solgar, Source Naturals, Sundown, Swiss Herbal Remedies and Twinlab.

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