By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine
Wouldn’t you be interested in an antioxidant that was considerably more potent than vitamins C and E? One that reinforced your body’s own antioxidant system? Oh, and did I mention that it enhances circulation and helps to prevent blood clots. While it may sound too good to be true, such an antioxidant really does exist—and you can find it in the bark of the Maritime pine tree which grows along the coast of southwest France.
Commonly called pycnogenol, pine bark contains very powerful antioxidants called proanthocyanidins that strengthen the veins and capillaries throughout the body and enhance circulation. Specifically, the compounds in pine bark bind to the collagen in blood vessel walls making capillaries stronger and more elastic. As a result, this improves circulation and reduces blood pressure.
Enhancing circulation also helps prevent chronic venous insufficiency, which is a result of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This condition can cause blood clots in the legs as well as a feeling of fullness, aching or tiredness. And it’s a fairly common problem among people who travel, since movement—and circulation—can be limited for hours on end. But chronic venous insufficiency can lead to permanent damage. Fortunately, complications can be averted simply by taking 50 to 100 mg. of pine bark extract daily.
It also helps prevent blood clots. In an eight-week study in the U.K., pine bark extract was used to treat 21 patients who had suffered from severe chronic venous insufficiency for six years. After taking pine bark extract, everyone showed significant improvement in edema, as well as circulation problems, as opposed to the control group which showed no change. The researchers concluded that pine bark extract can play a significant role in the management of venous insufficiency and may also be useful in preventing sores that commonly appear on the legs of people with DVT.
Pine bark also boosts cardiovascular health by keeping blood pressure in check. A group of researchers at the University of Arizona recently concluded that this novel bark improved diabetes control, lowered cardiovascular disease CVD risk factors, and reduced the amount of blood pressure medication needed after analyzing the data from a 12-week trial involving 48 patients. The extract was also successful in reducing blood pressure in mildly hypertensive patients in a placebo-controlled, double blind parallel group study at the Chinese Medical Science Research Institute in Beijing, China.
While better circulation can have a direct impact on your heart and circulatory system, it can also improve your sex life! Treatment of 40 middle-aged men with a combination of L-arginine and pycnogenol restored sexual ability in 80 percent of the men. After three months of treatment, an impressive 92.5 percent of the men experienced a normal erection. Better yet, there were no side effects.
Adding pine bark extract to your health regimen is a great way to increase the effectiveness of vitamins C and E, and protect yourself from free radical damage. And if you happen to suffer from poor circulation, chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, high blood pressure or diabetes, this is one supplement you’ll definitely want to take on a regular basis. Look for a standardized pycnogenol supplement containing 85 to 95 percent proanthocyanidins and take 150 to 600 mg. daily. To maintain an effective antioxidant level, divide the amount of pycnogenol you take into two or three doses per day.
Cesarone MR. Rapid relief of signs/symptoms in chronic venous microangiopathy with pycnogenol: a prospective, controlled study. Angiology. 2006;57:569-576.
Liu X. Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients. Life Science. 2004;74:855-856.
Stanislavov R. Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 2003;29:207-213.
Zibadi S. Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors in subjects with type 2 diabetes by Pycnogenol supplementation. Nutrition Research. 2008;28:315-320.