Pycnogenol is patented trademark name for extract from the pine bark of a tree known as French maritime pine, Pinus pinaster. Pycnogenol is primarily composed of procyanidins and phenolic acids . There is a growing body of evidence which indicates favorable pharmacological properties such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action.
Interaction With Testosterone
A few small brief clinical studies [2,3,4] reported that Pycnogenol seems to have a beneficial effect on treatment of erectile dysfunction and two of them also happen to measure testosterone levels. All three studies reported significantly improved erectile function. Clinical study in Japanese patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction reported a slight non-significant increase in salivary testosterone levels . However, this study included L-Arginine and Aspartic Acid (containing D-Aspartic Acid) which may have aided in slightly observed testosterone increase. Another study reported statistically significant increase in testosterone levels in 124 elderly men but the increase of little less than 20% is low in 30-50 year old population . Formulation in this study also included L-Arginine.
So, to date there is weak evidence for testosterone boosting effect of Pycnogenol.
Does Pycnogenol Improve Skin Quality?
Pycnogenol supplementation (25 mg 3 times daily) significantly improved hydration and elasticity of skin in 20 postmenopausal women after 12 weeks . However, skin hydration was attenuated at week 12, especially in women without dry skin. Observed effects were most noticeable in women with dry skin conditions. Pycnogenol caused a significant increase in the mRNA expression of hyaluronic acid synthase-1 (HAS-1, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid).
So, there is some early evidence which suggests that taking pycnogenol for 12 weeks improves symptoms of skin aging.
At 120 mg daily dose, a significant increase of plasma antioxidant activity can be observed . Pine bark extract protects against oxidative stress by increasing synthesis of antioxidative enzymes and by scavenging of free radicals . Pycnogenol also exhibited glucose-lowering effect in clinical trials [6,7], probably due to its potent alpha-glucosidase (a carbohydrate digestive enzyme) inhibition . Insulin and its secretion appeared to be unaffected . Pycnogenol may also aid mildly hypertensive patients by improving blood flow without significantly affecting nitric oxide . Moderate cognitive improvements in elderly population were observed by pycnogenol supplementation (study funded by patent holder – Horphag Pty Ltd.) . Same was reported in animal studies (by procyanidins extracted from French maritime pine, Pinus maritima Aiton) .
In most clinical studies, doses of 30 to 300 mg daily for up to 3 weeks have been studied. Most commonly, 150 mg daily dose is used.
Side Effects of Pine Bark Extract
Pycnogenol supplementation is usually well tolerated in all volunteers and is possibly safe at recommended doses up to 6 weeks. Common side effect are usually mild such as vertigo, headache, gastrointestinal problems and nausea .
(Other common names: Condensed Tannins, Écorce de Pin, Proanthocyanidines Oligomériques, Oligomères Procyanidoliques, Écorce de Pin Maritime, Extrait d’Écorce de Pin, French Marine Pine Bark Extract, French Maritime Pine Bark Extract, Pine Bark, Pine Bark Extract, Leucoanthocyanidins, Maritime Bark Extract, Oligomères de Procyanidine, Tannins Condensés, Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins, OPC, OPCs, PCO, PCOs, Pinus pinaster, Pinus maritima, Procyanidin Oligomers, Procyanodolic Oligomers, Pycnogénol, Pygenol, PYC)
- Rohdewald, P. “A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology.” International journal of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics 40.4 (2002): 158-168.
D̆uračková, Z., et al. “Lipid metabolism and erectile function improvement by pycnogenol, extract from the bark of pinus pinaster in patients suffering from erectile dysfunction-a pilot study.” Nutrition Research 23.9 (2003): 1189-1198.
Aoki, Hiromitsu, et al. “Clinical Assessment of a Supplement of Pycnogenol® and l‐arginine in Japanese Patients with Mild to Moderate Erectile Dysfunction.” Phytotherapy Research 26.2 (2012): 204-207.
Ledda, Andrea, et al. “Investigation of a complex plant extract for mild to moderate erectile dysfunction in a randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, parallel‐arm study.” BJU international 106.7 (2010): 1030-1033.
Marini, A., et al. “Pycnogenol® effects on skin elasticity and hydration coincide with increased gene expressions of collagen type I and hyaluronic acid synthase in women.” Skin pharmacology and physiology 25.2 (2012): 86-92.
Zibadi, Sherma, et al. “Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors in subjects with type 2 diabetes by Pycnogenol supplementation.” Nutrition Research 28.5 (2008): 315-320.
Liu, Ximing, Ha-Jun Zhou, and Peter Rohdewald. “French maritime pine bark extract Pycnogenol dose-dependently lowers glucose in type 2 diabetic patients.” Diabetes Care 27.3 (2004): 839-839.
Schäfer, Angelika, and Petra Högger. “Oligomeric procyanidins of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) effectively inhibit α-glucosidase.” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice 77.1 (2007): 41-46.
Liu, Ximing, et al. “Pycnogenol®, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients.” Life sciences 74.7 (2004): 855-862.
Ryan, J., et al. “An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol® on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population.” Journal of Psychopharmacology 22.5 (2008): 553-562.
Lju, Fujun, Yongxiang Zhang, and Benjamin Hs Lau. “Pycnogenol improves learning impairment and memory deficit in senescence-accelerated mice.” Journal of Anti-aging Medicine 2.4 (1999): 349-355.