(Health Secrets) Whether you are suffering from a summer cold or cancer, pycnogenol, an extract from the French maritime pine tree, may be just the thing to bring relief. It’s an old and well documented natural remedy that is found in many products designed to slow the aging process too.
A French explorer discovered the benefits of French maritime pine bark extract in the 1500′s. The largest maritime pine forest is located in southwestern France near the Bordeaux region, and dates back to the times of Napoleon III. The Maritime pine can also be found throughout parts of Spain, Italy, Morocco and Portugal. In the 1950′s Jacques Masquelier began to seriously research the beneficial properties of the plant.
The producers of pycnogenol follow good agricultural practice (GAP) and good manufacturing practice (GMP). This means there is no application of pesticides to these pine trees, or use of toxic solvents during extraction of pycnogenol.
Pycnogenol has been researched extensively and documented as safe for treating circulation problems, allergies, asthma, ringing in the ears, high blood pressure, muscle soreness, pain, osteoarthritis, diabetes, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), endometriosis, menopausal symptoms, painful menstrual periods, erectile dysfunction (ED), and retinopathy.
Pycnogenol can also be used to maintain healthy skin, improve athletic endurance, and aid in male fertility. It is effective for preventing disorders of the heart and blood vessels including stroke, heart disease, and varicose veins.
Air travelers can benefit from pycnogenol. Taking 100 mg before a flight, 6 hours after the flight, and again the following day appears to reduce the risk of blood clots forming in the veins during long flights, and it alleviates swelling of the ankles.
Pycnogenol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent animal studies show pycnogenol exhibits protective effects against cardiac toxicity caused by the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, however human data is needed.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering website reports the primary constituents of pycnogenol are procyanidins and phenolic acids. Its antioxidant properties work by increasing the activities of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes and by increasing intracellular glutathione levels. They also mention that pycnogenol inhibits production of the proteins that cause inflammation and atherosclerosis.
An in vitro (in the test tube) study suggests that pycnogenol induces apoptosis in human breast cancer cells, meaning that it causes cancer cells to die. Other in vitro studies show it reduces death of neurons, an important factor in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
There are no known interactions of pycnogenol with foods.
Scientific research has studied the following dosages by mouth:
- For allergies: 50 mg twice daily
- For asthma in children: 1 mg per pound of body weight given in two divided doses.
- For poor circulation: 45-360 mg daily, or 50 -100 mg three times daily
- For diseases of the retina, including those related to diabetes: 50 mg three times daily
- For mild high blood pressure: 200 mg daily
- For improving exercise capacity in athletes: 200 mg daily
Special precautions & warnings
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center tells us pycnogenol is effective for treating allergies, however for some people pyncogenol is actually an allergen. Some rare and possibly fatal allergies can develop. Signs of an allergic reaction include wheezing or shortness of breath, rash, chest pain, and swelling of body parts including the face, hands or feet.
If pregnant or breast-feeding, pycnogenol should be used cautiously or avoided as there is not enough available research. It may be safe for children when taken by mouth, short-term. If you have an autoimmune disease it’s best to avoid using pycnogenol. High doses of pycnogenol might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding conditions. High doses of pycnogenol might decrease blood sugar too much in people who are taking diabetes medication. Stop using pycnogenol at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery as it might increase the chance of bleeding during and after surgery. Because pycnogenol increases the immune system response, it might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants).
Avoid taking pycnogenol with aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
Avoid taking pycnogenol with herbs and supplements that can lower blood sugar such as alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, devil’s claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng,
Avoid using pycnogenol with herbs that slow blood clotting such as angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, Panax ginseng, and others.
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