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Pycnogenol - Nature's Most Powerful Antioxidant

by Ann Crowther(more info)

listed in antioxidants, originally published in issue 138 - August 2007

Antioxidants protect us against free radicals – the disease causing reactions from oxygen. The superantioxidant, Pycnogenol, which is a natural extract from the bark of French maritime pine trees, Pinus Maritima, has been proven by a growing body of scientific research and physicians’ experiences to have a profoundly important effect on health – Please see Fighting Free Radicals: The Role of Bark Extractives PH Issue 44 Sept 1999 –

Free radicals are harmful high energy molecules that damage the body and disrupt the natural biochemistry which leads to disease and accelerated ageing. These toxic chemicals are produced in all body tissues as unwanted by-products of normal metabolism, however, in addition, the body may also be exposed to more free radicals from exposure to UV light, alcohol, cigarette smoke, over-exercising and environmental toxins, for example, air pollution from traffic and pesticides.

Free radicals can cause damage to all of the essential components within cells, including cell membranes and DNA. We all have billions of cells in our body, and scientists have estimated that each cell suffers approximately 10,000 free radical ‘hits’ each day – we can protect our cells with antioxidants which work in synergy to protect cells from free radical damage – the higher your levels of antioxidants the greater the protection.

Benefits of Pycnogenol

Pycnogenol is one of nature’s most versatile supplement. It produces more health benefits than any other single antioxidant including:
  • Protection against free radicals which speed up the ageing process;
  • Reduction in the risk of heart disease;
  • Stronger blood vessel walls and improved circulation which helps prevent blood clots from forming;
  • Protection against stress;
  • Stronger immune system;
  • Reduced inflammation, improving joint flexibility;
  • Reduction of menstrual disorders;
  • Improved healing;
  • It can help attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD);
  • Youthful skin – making the skin tighter, smoother with fewer lines, more elasticity and less discolouration;
  • Protection against deep vein thrombosis;
  • Relief from allergies such as sinusitis and hay fever – by inhibiting the release of histamine;
  • Anti-inflammatory action helps asthmatics breathe more easily;
  • Improvement in sexual function and erectile dysfunction;
  • Improvements in oral health such as periodontitis;
  • Research on the effect Pycnogenol may have on Alzheimer’s disease is on-going but looking very encouraging, and it has been shown to improve memory retention and learning ability.

Discovery of Pycnogenol

So how was Pycnogenol discovered? Hundreds of years ago, it originated from a pine bark and pine needle potion that Native North American medicine men were using to treat what we now know was scurvy. In 1535, a French expedition to Canada had to stop at the native American villages of Stadacona and Hochelaga for the winter as the Hudson Bay had frozen. When they ran out of fresh supplies, 25 of them died from scurvy, with at least another 50 becoming seriously ill. A member of the expedition, Jacques Cartier became friends with the Native American chief who prepared a concoction of bark and needles to make a tea which he recommended be drunk several times a day by the men suffering from scurvy.

Miraculously, the men recovered within a week or two. Their recovery was due to the pine needles supplying a small amount of vitamin C and the pine bark supplying vitamin C enhancing bioflavonoids – bioflavonoids are compounds found in plants which have many beneficial effects including being antioxidants. In fact, pycnogenol has an antioxidant activity approximately 50 times that of vitamin C. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that scientists wanted to find out exactly why a tree bark extract cured these explorers and that is when the research began.

A Word of Caution

As a health and fitness professional, I would like to finish by talking about the dangers of over training – it never ceases to amaze me how many people hold the belief that the more training they do the fitter they will become and the quicker they will see results. This is a myth – the fact is that over-exercising is counterproductive and creates more damage from free radicals. When we consume more oxygen, we create more free radicals, and because exercise requires that we burn more calories for energy, we therefore consume more oxygen. I am not suggesting a reduction in exercise or sports activity; just keep it within safe limits (three to five hours per week) and make sure you are well-nourished, with plenty of antioxidants in your diet. Pycnogenol is an excellent supplement for those taking plenty of regular exercise; as well as being a powerful antioxidant it will improve blood circulation.

From my own beneficial experience of taking Pycnogenol, I can highly recommend this amazingly versatile supplement as one that may well help you too. A word of caution, if the supplements do not carry the Pycnogenol registered trademark (logo of a pine tree) you may have an imitation.

Although there are no reports of any contra-indications from taking Pycnogenol, pregnant or breastfeeding women, small children, and those on medication, should always seek professional advice before taking nutritional supplements.


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About Ann Crowther

Ann Crowther trained in Pilates in California, and later in Exercise and Health Studies at the University of East London, followed by specialist training in Kinesiology, Nutrition and Stress Management, Ann draws on over 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer and has won extensive praise for the development of her own highly successful Pilates system. She is the author of Pilates for You, Duncan Baird Publishers, and several fitness DVD/book sets. She may be contacted via ;

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