Pine Bark Extract Uses and Risks

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Pine bark extract, often found under the brand name Pycnogenol, is an herb. There are several purported pine bark extract uses. This herb contains a substance that is said to possibly be effective in improving blood flow. It may also possess antioxidant effects and stimulate the immune system. Before using this herb it is very important to talk to a physician because it is not safe for everyone.

Possible Effectiveness

Possible effectiveness means there has been some research conducted to show that these possible pine bark extract uses have some evidence behind them. However, more evidence is needed to prove this herb is absolutely effective for the following diseases and conditions.

Some research shows that those with birch allergies may benefit from taking this herb prior to allergy season. It is believed that taking this prior to allergy season may help to reduce the patient’s allergy symptoms

Taking this herb orally may help to significantly decrease leg heaviness and pain in patient’s who have circulation problems, as well as reduce fluid retention. Pycnogenol alone seems to be more effective than chestnut seed extract.

Taking this herb every day for two months appears to help prevent or slow the worsening of retinal disease associated with atherosclerosis, diabetes, or other diseases. This herb may also help to improve eyesight.

In athletes ages 20 to 35, this herb appears to be beneficial in improving their endurance on a treadmill when they take it every day for approximately one month.

Systolic blood pressure seems to be lowered by this herb. However, there is no evidence to show that this herb has any affect on diastolic blood pressure.

This herb may also be beneficial for varicose veins and childhood asthma.

Possible Ineffectiveness

Possible ineffectiveness means that not enough research has been conducted to prove whether or not pine bark extract is effective in treating the following conditions:

  • Blood clots in a vein
  • Pelvic pain in women
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Heart disease
  • Muscle soreness
  • Circulation problems associated with diabetes
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • High cholesterol
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Pain late in pregnancy
  • Aging
  • Stroke prevention
  • Leg cramps
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Other possible conditions

Risks and Warnings

There are pine bark extract risks that all patients should be aware of before taking this herb.

Preliminary research suggest that this herb could be safe during late pregnancy, however, until further research is conducted women should avoid this herb during pregnancy, as well as by those who are breast-feeding.

Pycnogenol could possibly make the immune system more active, therefore, those with autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or any other autoimmune disorder should avoid this herb. This herb may also decrease the effectiveness of immunosuppressant drugs, therefore, these should not be combined.


Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. (2010). Pine Bark Extract. Retrieved on December 9, 2010 from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: (2010). Understanding Pine Bark Extract as an Alternative Treatment (UPBEAT) Study. Retrieved on December 9, 2010 from


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