Pycnogenol: Pine Bark for a Better Brain

A recent study out of Chieti-Pescara University in Italy showed that an extract of French maritime pine bark from the Pinus pinaster tree improved brain function in baby boomers who had oxidative stress but were otherwise in good health. Pinus pinaster tree

Researchers divided 77 participants between the ages of 55 and 70 into an experimental group and a control group. Both groups put the following lifestyle measures into practice: 20 minutes of exercise a day, in bed by 10:30 pm, 8 hours of sleep a night, and regular meals at defined hours with reduced intake of caffeine, salt, sugar, and alcohol. In addition to these lifestyle measures, the experimental group supplemented with 100 mg of Pycnogenol (the U.S. registered trademark of this pine bark extract) each day for a year.

Researchers compared cognitive parameters and oxidative stress among participants in both groups and found significant improvement in those who supplemented with Pycnogenol. The results speak for themselves:

  • Ability to make a decision improved by 71% in the experimental group, but decreased by 5% in the control group
  • Memory improved by 37.3% in the Pycnogenol group, but decreased 9.8% in the control group
  • Attention span improved by 41.2% in those taking Pycnogenol, but the control group only showed 1.8% improvement with lifestyle changes alone
  • Oxidative stress decreased 28% in the experimental group, but no change was seen in the control group

Researchers attribute the results to Pycnogenol’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-edema properties. The study was published in the December 2015 edition of the Journal of Neurological Science. Results mimic those from a study conducted the previous year, which showed that when healthy professionals ages 35-55 with elevated oxidative stress took Pycnogenol, cognitive function improved.

Other Health Benefits

Pycnogenol has a long list of health benefits. It is used as a possible treatment for:

  • Circulation problems
  • Allergies
  • Ringing of the ears
  • Asthma
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle soreness
  • Pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • ADHD
  • Endometriosis
  • Menstruation symptoms
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Retinopathy
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Disorders of the heart and blood vessels

It’s also used in skin creams to help defeat the aging process and promote healthy skin. The active properties in Pycnogenol are also found in grape seed, peanut skin, and witch hazel bark. Before supplementing with Pycnogenol, consult with your healthcare provider.