Pine Bark Extract: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

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Test-tube and animal studies from the past few decades have found encouraging results to support the health-promoting benefits of pine bark extract.

Many studies have been conducted on the trademark brand of French maritime pine bark extract known as Pycnogenol. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, researchers are beginning to investigate it as a possible therapeutic option for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the disease COVID-19 (11, 12, 23).

Still, rigorous research on the effectiveness of pine bark extract in humans is lacking, and more randomized controlled-trial studies are needed. So, it’s too soon to say how safe and effective pine bark extracts are for treating specific illnesses (24, 25).

As more research is conducted, we’ll gain a better understanding of the best ways to use pine bark extract.

Nevertheless, the extract continues to show potential. Here are some of the initial benefits of pine bark extract purported today.

May reduce inflammation

It appears that French maritime pine bark exerts much of its anti-inflammatory capabilities by influencing your body’s cellular pathways that regulate inflammation and your immune system (21, 23, 26, 27).

Researchers are still investigating how this could benefit conditions like chronic heart disease, diabetes, traumatic brain injuries, and more (28).

The apparent ability of pine bark to alleviate inflammation has also led to studies on its potential as a therapeutic treatment for chronic airway inflammation conditions, like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (26, 27, 29).

For example, animal and test-tube studies have shown positive results for Pyconogenol’s ability to improve inflammation in airway cells (26, 27 30).

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A few older studies including humans found similar effects of Pycnogenol’s ability to alleviate asthma symptoms — though these studies were too small to make definitive conclusions about pine bark’s effectiveness as an herbal supplement (31, 32, 33).

One study including 76 asthma patients found that taking 100 milligrams of Pycnogenol daily for 6 months, in combination with inhaled corticosteroid medications, significantly improved coughing and wheezing and decreased dependency on the corticosteroids (31).

Further, human and animal studies have found that procyanidin-rich pine bark extracts may ease short- and long-term bone and joint inflammation associated with arthritis. However, larger randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm these findings (34, 35, 36, 37).

May support heart health

Because pine bark is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-like, it may support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system in a number of ways (38, 39, 40, 41).

These include limiting the buildup of fat, reducing oxidative stress and the likelihood of blood clots, and improving venous function (42, 43, 44, 45).

Plus, it’s possible that pine bark may offset certain negative side effects of chronic diseases like diabetes and metabolic syndrome (46, 47).

One small 2016 study including 24 adults with high blood pressure found that taking 150 milligrams Oligopin pine bark daily for 5 weeks improved HDL (good) cholesterol measures and lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 6.36 mmHg (48).

Another small 2012 study including 23 adults with coronary heart disease associated taking 200 mg of Pycnogenol per day with improved blood flow through the arteries and lower levels of isoprostane — a measure of oxidative stress. No changes to blood pressure were noted (49).

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Meta-analysis studies on Pycnogenol and blood pressure have found similar results (50, 51, 52).

Meanwhile, other studies have found pine bark extract to be less effective at reducing heart disease risk (53, 54).

Recent meta-analysis studies have determined that there’s not enough evidence to support a link between Pycnogenol and blood pressure (55).

So, although pine bark extract appears to support the mechanisms of heart health, it’s still unclear how safe and effective it is as a treatment for specific conditions.

Other potential uses

Pine bark extracts are also being investigated for a multitude of other uses in human, animal, and test-tube studies. These include:

  • healthy aging (12, 56)
  • wound healing (20, 57)
  • menopause (58, 59, 60)
  • bone loss (61, 62, 63, 64)
  • Alzheimer’s disease (18, 65)
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (66, 67)
  • skin health (68, 69, 70, 71)
  • athletic performance (72)
  • improved cognition (73, 74, 75, 76)
  • erectile dysfunction (77, 78, 79, 80)

That said, there’s not yet enough evidence to fully support these uses.

SUMMARY

Pine bark extract is being studied as a therapeutic option to treat many different conditions. Its abilities to reduce inflammation and act as an antioxidant make it a strong candidate to treat chronic diseases.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>