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Pycnogenol Benefits and Side Effects

Pycnogenol Extract Supplements

Pycnogenol is a natural extract from French maritime pine bark and offers many favorable pharmacological properties. It works as a powerful antioxidant, anti inflammatory, and also helps the production of nitric oxide to dilate blood vessels. Pycnogenol is primarily composed of procyanidins and phenolic acids. Studies have found pycnogenol to protect against oxidative stress by significantly increasing the intracellular synthesis of of anti-oxidative enzymes, and it also acts as a scavenger of free radicals. Picnogenol also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and also relieves premenstrual symptoms such as abdominal pain. It is also found to help improve cognitive function in animal studies with some anecdotal evidence that improvements are reported in patients taking Pycnogenol supplements. [1]

The French maritime pine bark extract is a herbal medication that has a wide range of benefits for physiological functions, and there is a large body of clinical studies demonstrating these benefits:

  • Pycnogenol is rich in polyphenols that increase plasma antioxidant capacity and also reduces oxidative damage [2] [3]
  • French maritime pine bark extract leads to improvement in erectile function [4], improves sperm quality and function [5], and is an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction used in combination with L-arginine [6]
  • Pycnogenol helps to reduce menstrual pain and also treat climacteric syndrome in peri-menopausal women [7]
  • This pine bark extract is found to be an effective treatment for diabetic ulcers and also speeds up the healing of ulcers [8], and it also helps improve diabetes control, and lowers cardiovascular disease risk factors in subjects with type 2 diabetes [9]
  • French maritime pine bark extract helps accelerate wound healing and also reduces scar formation [10]
  • Picnogenol in chewing gum is found to minimize gingival bleeding and plaque formation [11]
  • French maritime pine bark extract helps reduce ADHD symptoms in children [12]
  • Pycnogenol demonstrated efficacy in management of mild to moderate childhood asthma [13]

Pine Bark Extract Pycnogenol Benefits for Sexual Health

There are numerous studies that have found Pycnogenol to have powerful antioxidant properties. It scavenges free radicals and also increases intracellular synthesis of anti-oxidative enzymes. Studies have also found that picnogenol reduces oxidative damage and also protects against various liver diseases that are caused by oxidative stress [2] Supplementing pycnogenol has been found to increase plasma antioxidant capacity in humans as well. In a study with 25 healthy human subjects, pycnogenol was taken for a 6 week period (150mg per day). The study found that after 6 weeks of supplementation, a significant increase in plasma polyphenol levels was detected; however, after a 4 week washout period after ending the supplementation, the increase in plasma polyphenol was reversed. The antioxidant effects of pycnogenol was demonstrated by a significant increase in oxygen radical absorbance capacity during the trial period. The study also found pycnogenol reduced LDL cholesterol levels and increased HDL cholesterol levels in two thirds of the subjects. [3]

Pycnogenol is also used as an active ingredient in many supplements intended to treat sexual problems and symptoms such as erectile problems in men, and menstrual symptoms in women. Because pycnogenol is known to help the production of nitric oxide, it is often used in combination with L-arginine to improve erectile function in men. In a randomized, double-blind study involving 50 male subjects with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction, the men were treated with a combination of L-arginine and Pycnogenol (Prelox) or a placebo for one month. The results found that the treatment group had their erectile function restored to normal and intercourse frequency doubled with no side effects reported. [4] Another similar study found that for men with confirmed erectile dysfunction, three months of treatment had allowed 92.5% of the men to experience a normal erection, also without any reported side effects. [6]

Pycnogenol has also been found to improve sperm quality in sub-fertile men. One study found that men treated with 200mg of Pycnogenol daily for 90 days had significant improvements in sperm quality and had an increase in functionally normal sperm. Because of these results, the study suggested that this "may allow may allow couples diagnosed with teratozoospermia to forgo in vitro fertilization and either experience improved natural fertility or undergo less invasive and less expensive fertility-promoting procedures, such as intrauterine insemination." [5]

Pycnogenol also has benefits for female sexual issues. Studies have found that French maritime pine bark extract helps reduce menstrual pain. It also helps reduce climacteric symptoms in peri-menopausal women. These studies also confirmed that pycnogenol increased antioxidative status, improved LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio, and no side effects were reported. [7]

Other Pycnogenol Extract Benefits and Side Effects

Pycnogenol has also been found to have benefits for individuals with diabetes. One study found that a combined oral and local treatment of diabetic ulcers resulted in 89% complete healing after 6 weeks - suggesting that Picnogenol offers a treatment for diabetic ulcers and also speeds up ulcer healing. [8] Furthermore, it also helps reduce the cardiovascular disease risk factors in persons with type 2 diabetes. In a study with 48 individuals with type 2 diabetes, pycnogenol or a placebo was supplemented for a period of 12 weeks at 125mg per day. The study found that treatment with pycnogenol supplement achieved blood pressure control in 58% of the participants, significantly improved LDL cholesterol levels, improved diabetes control, lowered cardiovascular risk factors, and reduced the need to use anti-hypertensive medicines (medicines used to treat high blood pressure). [9]

Pycnogenol is known to speed up wound healing, and reduce scar formation. Applications of a gel formulation containing 1% Pycnogenol significantly reduces wound healing time by 1.6 days on average, and application with a gel formula containing 2% Pycnogenol reduces healing time by almost 3 days. The use of pycnogenol on wounds also reduces the size of the scars remaining . [10] Interestingly, Pycnogenol added in experimental gums containing 5mg of Pycnogenol significantly reduced gingival bleeding and also significantly reduces the build up of dental plaque during a 2 week trial period. [11]

French maritime pine bark extract also has benefits for children with ADHD and also helps in management of childhood asthma, some studies have found. In a study with 61 children with ADHD, Pycnogenol was supplemented for 4 weeks. The study found that after just 4 weeks of pycnogenol supplementation, there was a significant reduction in hyperactivity, improved concentration, and also improved the attention and visual-motor coordination in Children with ADHD, while no changes were observed in the placebo group. However, one month after stopping the use of Pycnogenol, there was a relapse of the symptoms. [12] Pycnogenol is also found to help treat childhood asthma. Young subjects aged 6 to 18 who supplemented with picnogenol over a period of 3 months had significant improvements in pulmonary functions and reduction in asthma symptoms. They were able to reduce or even discontinue their use of inhalers more often compared to the placebo group. [13]

As we can see, there is a wide range of health benefits of Pycnogenol supplements. It is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges free radicals, increases antioxidant capacity, and reduces oxidative stress; it is a useful treatment for various sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction in men and menstrual pain in women; pycnogenol has various benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes; it speeds up healing and reduces scar formation; and it also helps reduce ADHD symptoms and asthma symptoms in children.




1. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Apr;40(4):158-68.
A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology.
Rohdewald P.

2. Phytother Res. 2007 Nov;21(11):1015-9.
Ameliorative effects of pycnogenol on carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatic oxidative damage in rats.
Ahn TH, Yang YS, Lee JC, Moon CJ, Kim SH, Jun W, Park SC, Kim JC.

3. Lipids. 2002 Oct;37(10):931-4.
Supplementation with a pine bark extract rich in polyphenols increases plasma antioxidant capacity and alters the plasma lipoprotein profile.
Devaraj S, Vega-López S, Kaul N, Schönlau F, Rohdewald P, Jialal I.

4. Int J Impot Res. 2008 Mar-Apr;20(2):173-80. Epub 2007 Aug 16.
Improvement of erectile function with Prelox: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.
Stanislavov R, Nikolova V, Rohdewald P.

5. J Reprod Med. 2002 Oct;47(10):821-4.
Improvement in sperm quality and function with French maritime pine tree bark extract.
Roseff SJ.

6. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003 May-Jun;29(3):207-13.
Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine.
Stanislavov R, Nikolova V.

7. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2007;86(8):978-85.
A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Pycnogenol on the climacteric syndrome in peri-menopausal women.
Yang HM, Liao MF, Zhu SY, Liao MN, Rohdewald P.

8. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2006 Jul;12(3):318-23.
Diabetic ulcers: microcirculatory improvement and faster healing with pycnogenol.
Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi BM, Ledda A, Di Renzo A, Stuard S, Dugall M, Pellegrini L, Gizzi G, Rohdewald P, Ippolito E, Ricci A, Cacchio M, Cipollone G, Ruffini I, Fano F, Hosoi M.

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

10. Phytother Res. 2004 Jul;18(7):579-81.
Pycnogenol accelerates wound healing and reduces scar formation.
Blazsó G, Gábor M, Sch?nlau F, Rohdewald P.

11. Phytomedicine. 2002 Jul;9(5):410-3.
PYCNOGENOL chewing gum minimizes gingival bleeding and plaque formation.
Kimbrough C, Chun M, dela Roca G, Lau BH.

12. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;15(6):329-35. Epub 2006 May 13.
Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol.
Trebatická J, Kopasová S, Hradecná Z, Cinovský K, Skodácek I, Suba J, Muchová J, Zitnanová I, Waczulíková I, Rohdewald P, Duracková Z.

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


May 2010