Pine bark extract health benefit, dosage, safety, side effects, review by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
February 14, 2014

Pine bark extract has been used in folk medicine all around the world. It has potent antioxidants and compounds that help dilate blood vessels. Pine bark extract is made from the bark of a European coastal pine tree Landes or maritime pine. The scientific name is Pinus maritima. One such product is patented by a French researcher under the name Pycnogenol. In addition to the this brand, there are several other pine bark extract supplements that are sold over the counter (ex. trademarked products Flavangenol, Enzogenol, Oligopen) and many generics, and each of them is slightly or moderately different in their composition due to various factors including the manufacturing and extraction processes. It is difficult to predict or know for certain which are more effective for various medical conditions. I am not aware of any comparison studies.

Pine bark extract, 30 mg per each pill

Pycnogenol is a natural product made from the bark of the European coastal pine, Pinus maritima. It is rich in proanthocyanidins, a special class of water-soluble antioxidant flavonoids, which are excellent free radical scavengers.

Pine Bark Extract supplement 100 mg per capsule


Buy Pine bark extract

Pycnogenol versus generic pine bark extract or other brands
Each raw material supplier that makes PBE does so using different bark material and extraction process. It is very, very difficult to know which company's product will be more effective for various medical conditions or as an antioxidant. The company that makes Pycnogenol has spent a lot of money developing their own version and has done a lot of effort with research over many years. They should be commended for this. However, it is possible that a much less expensive extract could be just as effective. Here are some other trademarked products sold over the counter.

Enzogenol
Food Chem Toxicol. 2012. Production, composition and toxicology studies of Enzogenol Pinus radiata bark extract. ENZO Nutraceuticals Limited, North Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand.  Enzogenol pine bark extract is a dietary supplement and food ingredient produced by water extraction of Pinus radiata. We present production method, composition, and safety data from rat and dog toxicological and human clinical studies. The dry powder contains proanthocyanidins (>80%), taxifolin (1-2%), other flavonoids and phenolic acids (up to 8%), and carbohydrates (5-10%).

J Med Food. October 2013. Antioxidant and pro-apoptotic effects of marine-derived, multi-mineral aquamin supplemented with a pine bark extract, Enzogenol, and a green tea extract, Sunphenon.

Flavangenol - Procyanidin B1 is one of the major components.
Oligopin by DolCas Biotech, llc.

Anti-inflammatory effects
Food Chem Toxicol. 2013. Anti-inflammatory properties of fruit juices enriched with pine bark extract in an in vitro model of inflamed human intestinal epithelium: the effect of gastrointestinal digestion. Enrichment of fruit juices with pine bark extract (PBE) could be a strategy to compensate for phenolic losses during the gastrointestinal digestion.

Arthritis and osteoarthritis
J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2011. Effects of flavangenol, an extract of French maritime pine bark on collagen-induced arthritis in rats.

Hypertension
Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients.
Life Sciences. 2004.
A placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel group study was performed with 58 patients to investigate effects of French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol, on patients with hypertension. Supplementation of the patients with 100 mg pine bark extract over a period of 12 weeks helped to reduce the dose of the calcium antagonist nifedipine in a statistically significant manner. The intake of pine bark extract decreased endothelin-1 concentrations significantly compared to placebo while concentrations of 6-keto prostaglandin F1a in plasma were significantly higher compared to placebo. Values for nitric oxide (NO) in plasma increased in both groups, but the differences were not significant. Angiotensin II concentrations in plasma were lowered in the placebo group to a larger extent than in the pine bark extract group. Heart rate, electrolytes and blood urea nitrogen were not changed during treatment in both groups of patients. Unwanted effects observed in both groups were of mild and transient nature, such as gastrointestinal problems, vertigo, headache and nausea.

Impotence or erectile dysfunction
BJU Int. 2010. Investigation of a complex plant extract for mild to moderate erectile dysfunction in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-arm study. Vascular Laboratories and Physiology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Gabriele D'Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy.
To assess the effects of a complex plant extract (Prelox a formulation of pine bark extract and l-arginine aspartate; Horphag Research UK Ltd, London, UK) on erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, as sexual desire typically persists in ageing men, while their erectile and endothelial function gradually declines. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study we assessed the effects of Prelox in 124 patients (aged 30-50 years) with moderate ED over an investigational period of 6 months. Our study shows that Prelox is effective for improving erectile function, and that this effect persists on continuous therapy for up to 6 months. Moreover, there is some evidence that erectile function continues to improve the longer the therapy is used.

Pine bark extract for menopause symptoms
Dr. Han-Ming Yang of Ham-Ming Hospital in Taiwan have found an extract of pine-tree bark -- under the brand-name Pycnogenol -- reduced menopause symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and vaginal dryness when given over a period of several months.  Pine bark extract may improve blood flow by enhancing blood vessel dilation. The dosage of pine bark extract was 100 mg twice a day.
The Pycnogenol capsules were provided by the product manufacturer, Switzerland-based Horphag Research. Blood tests indicated improvement in antioxidant levels. Scandinavian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2007.

Sarcopenia
Phytother Res. 2012. A Natural Antioxidant Pine Bark Extract, Oligopin, Regulates the Stress Chaperone HSPB1 in Human Skeletal Muscle Cells: A Proteomics Approach.

Sexual effect
BJU Int. 2010. Investigation of a complex plant extract for mild to moderate erectile dysfunction in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-arm study. Vascular Laboratories and Physiology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Gabriele D'Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy.
To assess the effects of a complex plant extract (Prelox , a formulation of pine bark extract and l-arginine aspartate; Horphag Research UK Ltd, London, UK) on erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, as sexual desire typically persists in ageing men, while their erectile and endothelial function gradually declines. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study we assessed the effects of Prelox in 124 patients (aged 30-50 years) with moderate ED over an investigational period of 6 months. Our study shows that Prelox is effective for improving erectile function, and that this effect persists on continuous therapy for up to 6 months. Moreover, there is some evidence that erectile function continues to improve the longer the therapy is used.

Skin health
Clin Interv Aging. 2012. Oral administration of French maritime pine bark extract Flavangenol improves clinical symptoms in photoaged facial skin.

Phytother Res. 2012. Protective effects of pine bark extract on hexavalent chromium-induced dermatotoxicity in rats.

Sperm health
Phytother Res. 2013. Ameliorative Effects of Pine Bark Extract on Spermatotoxicity by α-Chlorohydrin in Rats.

Side effects, is it safe?
Could blood thinning be a potential adverse effect?

Research study
Inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2 activity by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol).
Biomed Pharmacother. 2005.
There is evidence from several studies that supplementation with French maritime pine bark extract improves inflammatory symptoms in vivo. However, the molecular pharmacological basis for the observed effects has not been fully uncovered yet. Direct inhibitory effects of plant extracts or components upon cyclooxygenase (COX) activity have been repeatedly reported, but the question remained whether sufficiently high in vivo concentrations of bioactive compounds could be achieved in humans. The purpose of the present study was to determine a possible inhibition of the enzymatic activity of COX-1 and COX-2 by serum samples of human volunteers after intake of French maritime pine bark extract. This methodology considered that the serum samples would contain any bioavailable active principle. Therefore, we obtained blood samples before and after 5 days administration of 200 mg pine bark extract to five healthy humans. The plasma moderately inhibited both COX-1 and COX-2 activities ex vivo. In a second approach, 10 volunteers received a single dose of 300 mg pine bark extract. Only 30 min after ingestion of the pine bark extract the serum samples induced a statistically significant increase in the inhibition of both COX-1 and COX-2. This suggests a strikingly rapid bioavailability of bioeffective compounds after oral intake of the extract. Thus, we provide evidence that pine bark extract exerts effects by inhibition of eicosanoid generating enzymes which is consistent with reported clinical anti-inflammatory and platelet inhibitory effects in vivo. The next challenge is to identify the active principle(s) that are rapidly bioavailable in human plasma.

Inhibitory effect of pine extract on alpha-glucosidase activity and postprandial hyperglycemia.
Nutrition. 2005.
This study investigated the inhibitory effect of pine bark extract and needle extract on carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzymes and the hypoglycemic effect in diabetic mice. Pine bark and needle were dried and then placed in ethanol, and the extracts were assayed for the measurement of inhibition mode of pine bark extract against alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. We also investigated the effect of long-term treatment with extracts on levels of postprandial blood glucose, body weight, food efficiency ratio, and gene expression of glucose transporter-4 in quadriceps muscle in diabetic mice. The pine bark extract showed competitive inhibition against salivary alpha-amylase and the combination of non-competitive and uncompetitive inhibition against yeast alpha-glucosidase. Pine bark extract can be used to suppress postprandial hyperglycemia of diabetic patients. It also can be applied for control of obesity by decreasing the food efficiency ratio, especially carbohydrates.

See also pine nut oil supplement information.