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All About Bioflavonoids (continued)

By Daniel Gastelu

Section 2. Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol is a trade name for a compound of natural antioxidants extracted from the bark of the French Maritime pine tree-Pinus pinaster. Loaded with bioflavonoids and other biologically active phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, Pycnogenol is backed by clinical research and a long history of use. Studies show that Pycnogenol-a powerful antioxidant-has cardiovascular benefits, boosts the immune system, improves the appearance of the skin, treats varicose veins, relieves the pain of arthritis, and reduces inflammation.

Q. Which of the bioflavonoids does Pycnogenol contain?

A. Three bioflavonoids-catechin, epicatechin, and taxifolin-have been identified as occurring in their free state, known as monomers, in Pycnogenol. However, the majority of bioflavonoids found in this pine-bark extract are linked together to form compounds called proanthocyanidins. Pycnogenol contains high amounts of a certain type of proanthocyanidins called procyanidins. Procyanidins are composed of various combinations of catechin and epicatechin bioflavonoids, forming short chains called oligomers.

Q. What makes Pycnogenol so special?

A. Pycnogenol is one of the few standardized bioflavonoid-containing plant extracts that has undergone numerous experimental and clinical studies to determine its effects on the human body. Because Pycnogenol is a standardized extract-meaning that each batch of Pycnogenol contains exactly the same amount of bioflavonoids and procyanidins-other researchers can use it in their experiments to confirm the results of previous studies. This is one of the important criteria of scientific research-that experiments can be successfully reproduced by other researchers. In fact, one reason why researchers have come up with so many different results when testing plant extracts and compounds is because these substances have not been standardized. Once a substance becomes standardized, however, it often attracts much scientific attention.

Q. How long has Pycnogenol been used?

A. French explorer Jacques Cartier was introduced to pine-bark tea by the native Indians of Quebec during the winter of 1534. The Indians gave Cartier and his men the pine-bark tea to save them from dying of scurvy. Over 400 years later, Professor Jack Masquelier of the University of Bordeaux in France was working in Canada and came across this information. It fascinated him because he was very interested in studying the bioflavonoids, which he suspected were partly responsible for helping Cartier's group ward off scurvy.

Professor Masquelier began to conduct research on pine bark to determine its biological effects. Later in France, he worked with extracts made from the bark of the Maritime pine trees that grew there. From this work, he determined that the extract did indeed display antioxidant activity and had beneficial effects on the vascular system-similar to the vitamin-P factor observed years earlier by Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. Professor Masquelier continued his work on pine-bark extract and developed a standardized extract, which he eventually called Pycnogenol.

Q. How safe is Pycnogenol?

A. Pycnogenol has been used safely for many years in Europe. This substance has no mutagenic activity as determined by the Ames test. This means that Pycnogenol does not cause DNA mutations and is non-cancer causing. Moreover, Pycnogenol has gone through extensive testing to confirm its purity and safety. Studies on humans report no alarming side effects-even at high dosages. Pycnogenol is therefore considered nontoxic at the recommended dosage of 20 to 100mg per day for extended periods of several months, or 100 to 300mg for shorter periods of a few months, which is reserved for therapeutic usage.

Q. Is Pycnogenol a very powerful antioxidant?

A. The phytonutrient components of Pycnogenol-including the antioxidant organic acids caffeic acid, gallic acid, and ferulic acid-have been tested for their free-radical scavenging activities. Pycnogenol has been shown to be effective in neutralizing several types of free radicals, such as the super oxide radical and hydroxyl radical. It also inhibits fatty-acid peroxidation caused by the biochemical t-butyl hydro peroxide, and thereby reduces damage to the cardiovascular system.

Q. How does Pycnogenol protect the brain?

A. As an antioxidant, Pycnogenol protects the nervous system from free-radical damage. It also improves circulation, which in turn delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the brain, and clears away metabolic waste products. Research conducted using the brain cells of rats indicates that Pycnogenol may protect brain cells from the toxic actions of amyloid beta-protein-an abnormal protein substance-which is characteristically found in high amounts in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease. Amyloid beta-protein forms plaques in the central nervous system, and is directly toxic to nerve cells in cell cultures. In this way, Pycnogenol not only offers protection from free radicals, it also protects against the biochemical breakdown of the nervous system's membrane structures by inhibiting some of the adverse effects that amyloid beta-proteins have on brain function.

Q. What are the cardiovascular benefits I can expect from taking Pycnogenol?

A. Pycnogenol has been found to benefit the cardiovascular system in a few ways. First, it reduces capillary permeability and increases capillary resistance. One sign of low capillary resistance is edema in the lower legs. Studies of people suffering from edema or lower leg swelling who took Pycnogenol showed that swelling was reduced and leg circumference was decreased. In addition, cramps and pain were reduced. This is due to Pycnogenol's ability to strengthen capillary walls and revitalize their form and function.

Pycnogenol has also been shown to reduce blood-platelet aggregation, which means better circulation and reduction or prevention of plaque formation. Furthermore, Pycnogenol may have a beneficial effect in regulating blood pressure, which has been indicated in test-tube studies but still needs to be confirmed in human studies. Finally, studies have indicated that Pycnogenol helps maintain a healthy circulatory system by normalizing the levels of nitric oxide, a biochemical byproduct, in the body.

Q. What other benefits have been reported from taking Pycnogenol?

A. Due to its antioxidant activity and other health benefits, Pycnogenol can help reduce the effects of aging and slow or prevent the development of degenerative diseases, such as cancer and arthritis. It has been observed to produce an anti-inflammatory effect, which can be explained by its ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory biochemicals and improve circulatory function, as well as by its antioxidant activity. With its ability to improve circulation and protect and rebuild collagen-an important structural protein in the skin; Pycnogenol is a natural remedy for preventing aging of the skin.

Q. Are there similar products to Pycnogenol?

A. From reading Section 1, you know that the bioflavonoids and other phytonutrients found in Pycnogenol also occur in other plants. However, Pycnogenol has undergone extensive research to determine its benefits. While other pine-bark extracts or other plant extracts with a similar composition may exist, their exact benefits still need to be determined through scientific research. Assumptions can be made about similar extracts, but until scientific studies on these extracts are conducted, it's only a calculated guess that they will yield the same benefits as Pycnogenol. Therefore, if you are looking for these kinds of health results, Pycnogenol is a good investment.

Q. How much Pycnogenol should I take?

A. In the scientific studies, Pycnogenol has been used mostly in therapeutic dosages. Therapeutic dosages are high dosages that are taken for a few months to treat a specific ailment or condition. Dosages as high as 400mg per day may be used for different purposes, as determined by your health-care professional. But for every day use as an antioxidant, cardiovascular agent, promoter of better skin appearance, and other general health benefits, 25 to 100mg can be taken. The dosage depends on your size and activity level-the bigger you are and the more active you are, the more Pycnogenol you should take.

Pycnogenol is water-soluble; it is best taken in divided doses in the morning and evening, with or without meals. Some health-care practitioners suggest that first-time Pycnogenol users start by taking 150 to 200mg a day for a few weeks to build up levels in their bodies. Thereafter, they should reduce the daily intake to the 25 to 100mg daily dosage.


For a range of dietary supplement consulting,

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claims substantiation, and business development services contact:


Daniel Gastelu, MS.  at Click Here To Email


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