Pycnogenol is a patented extract of the French maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster). It is standardized to contain 65-75% procyanidins, a class of polyphenols and flavonoids like those found in blueberries, wine, grape skin, citrus, and cocoa. Some research suggests that procyanidins may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. The remaining compounds are phenolic acids, which may also have antioxidant activity. Research into Pycnogenol has revealed some promising results in over 30 health conditions.
How Does Pycnogenol Act in the Body?
There’s some evidence that Pycnogenol acts similar to a sustained-release formulation. According to some researchers, when you take Pycnogenol the following happens -
- Small molecule antioxidants (phenolic acids, catechin, and taxifolin) are quickly absorbed and begin to act in the body within 30 minutes.
- The remaining more complex antioxidants (long chains of procyanidins) reach the gut, where your gut microbiome breaks them down into active metabolites
- The microbiome-produced active compounds appear in blood 6 hours later and remain for at least 14 hours.
Research suggests that Pycnogenol may protect cells in the body against oxidative stress. It also may help regenerate and maintain vitamin C and E levels while also potentially increasing nitric oxide levels, which may relax and protect blood vessels.
Exercise Performance & Recovery
Clinical research suggests that Pycnogenol is possibly effective for improving athletic performance. According to researchers, it may help prevent the rise in free radicals typically seen after exercise, which could cause muscle fatigue and damage.
Pycnogenol (up to 200 mg/day) may improve asthma and reduce inflammatory asthma markers in the blood, leukotrienes, after 4 weeks, according to a randomized placebo-controlled trial of 26 asthma patients
Pycnogenol (100 mg/day) may reduce hay fever symptoms, according to a clinical trial. Another clinical trial also suggests that Pycnogenol may reduce IgE antibodies and asthma symptoms. Importantly, all studies found that Pycnogenol has to be taken at least 5 weeks before the allergy season in order to see potential benefits, with the best results in those who take it 7-8 weeks ahead. One study suggests that Pycnogenol has no effect when given just 3 weeks beforehand, as it possibly requires a lag time to stabilize the immune response.
Cognitive Function & Brain Fog
There’s evidence that Pycnogenol may be a promising nootropic for various groups of people, including middle-aged professionals, students, and people with mild cognitive decline like brain fog. A clinical trial of 60 health professionals found that Pycnogenol (150 mg/day) may improve cognitive function, attention, mental performance and specific professional skills after 12 weeks.
Vein Diseases & Swelling
Pycnogenol (100 mg/day) may reduce leg swelling, spider veins, and cramps according to a study of 133 women with varicose veins who recently gave birth. Researchers suggest that it may have stronger benefits than elastic compression stockings. In the study, women taking Pycnogenol were more satisfied and compliant to the regimen.