One of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet is something you may not have heard of. Learn about the pine bark extract benefits and why not all all are equal.
If you want to have a long life and prevent disease, eat a diet that includes lots of veggies. Vegetables contain antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals that trigger premature aging.
However, eating your leafy greens and cruciferous veggies might not be enough.
There are thousands of additives in the food supply and well over two million tons of proven cancer-causing toxins released into the air every year. (SOURCE)
In light of these sobering statistics, consider supplementing your diet with super antioxidants.
What are super antioxidants? Super antioxidants are natural substances that not only prevent free radical damage, they offer numerous other health benefits.
Pine bark extract just might be one of the most potent antioxidants. Also known as Pycnogenol, this natural substance can help improve energy.
Studies demonstrate the benefits of this extract include lowering fat in the blood. Moreover, it may also normalize blood pressure.
And although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still a mystery, preliminary research suggests pine bark may protect the brain.
In addition, it may improve blood sugar levels and lessen hyperactivity in children.
That’s not to say if you have a rambunctious child, start dosing him or her with Pycnogenol.
Although, if pine bark extract sounds intriguing because of this benefit, consider making an appointment with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath.
Another reason not to start taking Pycnogenol right away is that not all extracts are created equal. More on this topic below.
However, first, let’s learn about what makes the extract a unique supplement…..
What’s in pine bark extract that makes it so healthy?
Pine bark extract contains flavonoids. Flavonoids are a certain type of antioxidant. But that doesn’t explain why this extract can help with so many ailments.
In fact, several foods and drinks contain flavonoids. Tea, citrus fruit and berries, legumes, apples and even wine all contain flavonoids.
However, French maritime pine bark extract contains a specific type of flavonoid called oligomeric proanthocyanidins, or OPCs for short.
A French researcher, Jacques Masquelier, discovered these OPCs in the mid-20th century.
A specific pine tree that grows on the coast of southwest France is especially rich in OPC.
Masquelier remains at the center of a controversy over pine bark extract quality. This, despite the fact that he’s been dead for nearly a decade. (He passed away in 2009.) More on this controversy later.
For now, let’s get back to why researchers are down with OPC….
Interestingly, Masquelier discovered OPCs in peanuts. (OPCs are also in grape seeds.) Somehow, he later determined that these compounds were most potent in the inner bark of Pinus Pinaster, a species of pine tree in his native France.
OPCs are perhaps most prized by natural health advocates for its benefits on the circulatory system. Most notably, Pycnogenol strengthens blood vessels. Moreover, it dilates blood vessels. Consequently, tiny blood vessels open up. This allows for better blood flow to the tissues and organs.
Who benefits most taking pine bark extract and how does it work?
Anybody who has a history (or family history) of stroke, heart disease, edema, and high blood pressure. To be sure, you can also supplement with other super antioxidants. A couple that come to mind are turmeric and resveratrol.
You can also easily sip a cup of matcha green tea for a big dose of catechins. Catechins are another type of antioxidant. However, if you have circulation issues or heart problems, the OPCs in pine bark extract seem to especially benefit circulation and repair body tissue. And here’s how Pycnogenol does this….
The human body contains thousands of different proteins. But the most abundant is collagen. Collagen comprises about 30% of human protein.
Collagen is what provides strength and elasticity to your skin, hair, nails, teeth, joints and every other piece of tissue in your body. The problem is, as you age, your collagen breaks down.
However, the OPCs in pine bark extract latch onto collagen in the blood vessels. Consequently, this makes your tiny vessels stronger and stretchier. As a result, your blood pressure lowers because blood is better able to travel through the vessels and capillaries.
Moreover, pink bark extract increases nitric oxide. Not to be confused with nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas, nitric oxide, is a gas in human blood that helps blood vessels open up (dilate).
Ever taken a long flight without getting up to stretch? Doing so puts you at risk for a potentially-lethal condition, deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
If you develop DVT, you’re at risk for blood clots in the legs. These clots can break off and travel. Clots can lodge in the lungs or heart. But Pycnogenol comes to the rescue in cases of DVT. In fact, according to this study, the extract from pine bark helps relieve swelling from long flights.
Pine bark extract side effects
According to WebMD, pine bark extract is “possibly safe” when taken as a supplement (capsule) for up to one year. There’s also skin creams that contain the extract. WebMD says creams with it are safe to take for up to 7 days in a row.
However, WebMD does not list any potential side effects if you take it for longer than a year in the form of capsules or a week with the creams. In addition, WebMD also mentions that the extract powder can be taken for up to six weeks. Again, it’s not clear what will happen if it’s taken for longer.
Listed adverse effects on WebMD for Pycnogenol, a U.S. registered trademark of pine bark extract, include dizziness, gut problems, headache, and mouth ulcers.
In addition, WebMD advises not taking Pycnogenol if you have an autoimmune disease. It’s also not recommended for those with bleeding disorders, diabetes as well as for people about to have surgery.
Pine bark extract dosage
Supplementation of 100 mg French maritime pine bark extract over a three month period may help normalize blood pressure, according to this study. The same dosage taken twice a day may help alleviate menstrual disorders, another study finds.
It’s difficult to say exactly what dosage you should take. Consult with a health professional to first make sure Pycnogenol is safe for you. If so, a proper dosage will be recommended. Or, if you’re going to buy French maritime pine bark extract online, simply follow the instructions for the recommended dosage.
Pine bark extract vs pycnogenol
Now, then, it’s time to finally revisit the controversy surrounding its founder, Dr. Jacques Masquelier.
According to science writer, John Russo, Jr., Dr. Masquelier trademarked pine bark extract under the name Pycnogenol in France.
However, the company that was supposed to distribute his brand trademarked the name without his approval in the U.S. Moreover, the broker, according to Russo, switched the extraction company. This, too, was done without Masquelier’s approval.
As a result, Dr. Masquelier claimed that what was being sold in the U.S. was not the same high-quality pine bark extract his company was selling.
In fact, Russo reports Masquelier warned that without proper extraction, the OPCs transform from a super antioxidant to a dangerous one!
How do you know if you’re buying the highest-quality pine bark extract? That’s a tough question.
You really have to do your due diligence. On the other hand, one sure bet is to buy OPC extracts directly from the source, on the inventor’s eponymously named website, Masquelier.com. (The Masquelier brand of OPC extracts are also available on Amazon.)