Antioxidants - Pycnogenols

What are pycnogenols? Pycnogenols (pik-nod-je-nols) are a powerful combination of antioxidant molecules, reputed to be 50 times as powerful as vitamin E. Antioxidants help to halt the chemical degeneration in the body that initiates most diseases. The 'super antioxidant' pycnogenols are derived from natural plant sources and are sometimes known by other names such as procyanidins, proanthocyanidins, or oligomeric procyanidins ' OPCs for short.

The first pycnogenols were extracted in 1947 by French chemist Jack Masquelier from the red skin of peanuts, although there is evidence of their use among native Americans and other primitive peoples. Dr Masquelier also detected them in other plant sources, red wine and tea. Today, extracts mostly come from grape seeds and pine bark. The term Pycnogenol has also become a registered trademark for a leading brand of pycnogenols extracted solely from the bark of the French maritime pine tree 'Pinus pinaste' which grows in South West France.

What are they good for?

  • Pycnogenols strengthen weakened or fragile blood vessels, and reduce free radical damage to blood vessel walls, thereby maintaining the integrity of the circulatory system.
  • Supplements are used to treat various circulatory disorders such as varicose veins, oedema, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and may help to prevent diabetic retinopathy. They also appear to protect against strokes and heart attacks, especially in smokers and people suffering prolonged stress by preventing both blood clotting and cholesterol blockage.
  • Some people take pycnogenols for allergies as they appear to act as an antihistamine
    Anecdotal evidence and preliminary research by Oklahoma psychologist, Marion Sigurdson, PhD, also suggests that these super antioxidants may improve the concentration levels of people with attention deficit disorder (ADD).
  • Laboratory experiments have shown that Pycnogenol increases the activity of certain immune cells and so may enhance the immune system. It may also have the potential to reduce the risk of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

How do they work?

Pycnogenol supplements contain a complex of multiple antioxidants, which are known to combat the type of free-radical damage that triggers degenerative disease. However, they also have a beneficial effect on other nutrients in the body. For example, they extend the life of vitamin C, recycle used vitamin C in the body, and possibly enhance the benefits of other antioxidants such as vitamin E.

By binding with the collagen and elastin in blood vessel walls, pycnogenols can seal leaky blood vessels, improve their strength and flexibility, stimulate blood vessel dilation, help ensure normal blood flow and protect the lining of the heart.

They also appear to maintain a healthy circulation and benefit the cardiovascular system by reducing platelet aggregation in a similar way to aspirin, but without the side-effects. Platelet aggregation occurs when small blood cells stick together and form clumps that restrict blood flow. These clumps can lead to stroke or a heart attack.

The abundant antioxidants in pycnogenol supplements can also decrease the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol so that it cannot stick to blood vessel walls and cause damaging cholesterol build-up.

Pycnogenols also have an anti-inflammatory activity, which helps to prevent inflammatory damage to arteries and veins and may also have benefits in treating arthritis. Its anti-allergy benefits arise from its ability to de-activate the enzymes that regulate histamine release.

Although it is not known how they could benefit mental disorders such as ADD and Alzheimer's, it is possible that improvements in circulation could result in the brain being better nourished and may improve the action of chemical messengers in the brain.

Are they suitable for everyone?

Pycnogenols are one of the most widely researched food supplements on the market. They are generally regarded as safe, non-toxic and free of side-effects. As with most herbal supplements, women should avoid pycnogenols during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Always consult your GP before taking pycnogenols in conjunction with prescription medicines.

How to use them yourself

Pycnogenols are widely available in supplement form, but the quality varies greatly, so always choose a reputable brand. The recommended dose of French maritime pine bark extract is 1mg for every 1kg of body weight. For example a 90kg person would take 90mg for one week and then halve the dosage for long-term use. The recommended dosage for pycnogenols in general is 50-100mg a day to maintain vascular health, 150-300mg a day to treat illness.


Posted by suresh chhetri on Mon, Feb 28th, 2011
Respected Sir,

My wife is a patient of Arthirties since 1998 at present she is under the treatment of Senior Rheumotologist, she is taking following medicine 1. Inj. Folitres2.Arava (Lefnomide)
3.Tab. Ostonate kit (Calcium) 4. Cap.Fesovit (Iron) 5.Tab. HCQS and Udilive(Ursodeoxycholic acid) yet the result is not good she has got pain in whole body. My question is that how Pycnogenol is help in the Arthirties pain and is result. Please also wirte the price and procedure to get the product.

Thanking you,

Yours (Suresh Chhetri),
WIHG, Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand
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Posted by dr heena khurana on Thu, Apr 29th, 2010
can we use pycnogenol in children recieving chemotherapy
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Posted by Dr.Rangadhar Satapathy on Thu, Jan 28th, 2010
can u send the detail therapeutic effects of this pycnogenols and its availbiity
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