Pycnogenol is a trademarked name for pine bark extract, and there is little to no difference between the two in terms of composition or effects. You might use pine bark extract or pycnogenol to help treat a variety of medical conditions, including chronic venous insufficiency, retinopathy or erectile dysfunction. Before you take pycnogenol or pine bark extract, consult your doctor to discuss the proper dosage and potential health risks.
French marine pine bark extract is commonly sold under the name pycnogenol. It is used to prevent and treat chronic venous insufficiency, as well as several other medical conditions, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Pycnogenol essentially contains pine bark extract from the Pinus maritima tree. The herbal remedy is sometimes also called French maritime pine bark extract, pygenol or oligomeric proanthocyanidin (OPC).
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Pine bark extract and pycnogenol contain OPCs, also called procyanidolic oligomers (PCOs), which are also found in grape seed extract, reports the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). OPCs appear to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial actions and might act to stimulate your immune system, protect against atherosclerosis and prevent certain types of cancers, according to the Sloan-Kettering. Specifically, the OPCs in pine bark extract and pycnogenol seem to prevent leaking in the blood vessels, and the flavonoids called catechin and taxifolin in the herb stimulate nitric oxide production in the body, which relaxes your blood vessels, DrugDigest.org explains.
Both pine bark extract and the product pycnogenol have similar uses, mainly for treating or preventing chronic venous insufficiency, DrugDigest.org says. They may also help in treating high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, various inflammation-related conditions and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as help in preventing cancer, notes Sloan-Kettering. Pycnogenol and pine bark extract could help treat easy bruising, varicose veins, edema, diabetes and diabetic neuropathy or retinopathy, hemorrhoids, premenstrual syndrome and traveler's thrombosis, according to the UPMC. You might take pine bark extract or pycnogenol to help support weight loss and improve night vision, as well as to treat lupus, menopausal symptoms, periodontal disease, asthma, allergies and liver cirrhosis. No conclusive scientific research supports the use of pycnogenol or pine bark extract to prevent or treat any medical condition, however.
You might take a dosage of pine bark extract or pycnogenol that provides 150 to 300 mg of OPCs per day, advises UPMC. Pine bark extract typically comes in the forms of liquids, tablets or capsules containing 85 to 90 percent OPCs or proanthocyanidins, or in the forms of creams, lotions or ointments containing 0.5 to 2 percent pine bark extract. To help treat chronic venous insufficiency, the typical dosage of pine bark extract is 45 to 360 mg daily, taken in three separate doses. Follow the dosage instructions on the label for pycnogenol. Ask your doctor about the dosage that's right for you before taking either pine bark extract or pycnogenol, however.
Pine bark extract and pycnogenol can cause fatigue and irritability in people with ADHD, and they may also interact negatively with chemotherapy drugs and immunosuppressants like cyclosporine, warns the Sloan-Kettering. You should also avoid taking pine bark extract while taking blood-thinners like Coumadin, due to increased bleeding risks. Pycnogenol and pine bark extract may cause side effects like upset stomach and nausea. Also, if you have hypertension, taking OPCs along with a vitamin C supplement could increase your blood pressure.