Pycnogenol is a proprietary bark extract of the French maritime pine tree. It has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-platelet (reduces blood clotting like aspirin) effects.
Extracts from pine tree bark contain a variety of flavonoids that have shown biological activity and have been used in folk medicine for many years.
New research aimed to find out if Pycnogenol had an effect on the health of cells that line our blood vessels known as endothelial cells. Damage to these cells is believed to be what sets off the disease of atherosclerosis, more commonly known as “hardening of the arteries,” which causes a blockage in blood flow to an area. When this happens in the heart, it causes a heart attack. When it happens in the feet and legs, it can lead to pain, poor healing, ulceration, and even gangrene.
In light of Pycnogenol’s known beneficial properties, researchers looked to see if Pycnogenol may have some beneficial effect on the cells that line our blood vessels known as endothelial cells.
They took twenty-three patients with disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart and divided them up into two groups. One group took a Pycnogenol supplement for 8 weeks, the other group took a placebo. Both groups did their standard cardiovascular therapy. They then switched after a two week period during which time the patients did not have either pycnogenol or a placebo so everything could be cleared from their system.
At the beginning and end of the treatment periods, endothelial function was non-invasively evaluated along with biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation, platelet adhesion, and 24 h blood pressure monitoring.
Pycnogenol treatment was associated with an improvement in blood flow in these patients with poor heart circulation. The authors believe the benefit in endothelial function occurred due to Pycnogenol’s ability to “reduce oxidative stress” – In other words, its benefit as a superb anti-oxidant.
Inflammation markers, platelet adhesion, and blood pressure did not change after treatment with Pycnogenol or placebo.
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