The long list of health benefits from pine bark extract just keeps getting longer! The medicinal use of pine bark has its roots in East Asian and North American traditions, dating back many centuries.
In the 16th century, Europe caught on – a French ship captain was famously given pine bark tea by North American natives to prevent scurvy. An early 20th century French researcher discovered the reason for this: that pine bark helped with vitamin C absorption.
In the last few decades pine bark extract has been put under the microscope again and been the subject of numerous clinical studies showing that the antioxidant activity of the oligomeric proanthocyanidins compounds (OPCs) in pine bark are to thank for many of its positive effects on human health.
New research is showing just what an amazing source pine bark extract can be for improving your health.
Back in 2002, a review of a selection of pine bark studies listed a number of positive outcomes. Pine bark extract plays a role in the protection of vitamin C and E; it was shown to improve lung function in asthma patients; reduces platelet aggregation in smokers; dilates the small blood vessels in patients with cardiac disease; it showed immunomodulatory effects in Lupus patients; it’s been shown to be an antihypertensive and antispasmodic, reducing abdominal menstrual symptoms; and it appears to improve cognitive function, including reducing the symptoms of childhood ADHD.
Since then, numerous new studies have gone further in examining these processes, and uncovering new ones. Although the OPCs in pine bark became known first for their antioxidant benefits, they also seem to be capable of anti-allergic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and even anti-microbial activity in the human body.
To give you an overview, we’ve compiled a list of the of the potential health benefits of taking a supplement containing pine bark extract as part of your daily routine:
- Alleviates oxidative stress by increasing the production of anti-oxidative enzymes that scavenge free radicals.
- As an anti-inflammatory, pine bark extract can decrease the amount of circulating inflammatory substances in the blood stream.
- Improves the absorption of other antioxidants, especially vitamins C and E.
- Its antioxidant activity improves the skin’s natural UV protection and gradual aging caused by the sun.
- Promotes wound healing by improving circulation and calming inflammation.
- Supports the immune system and helps to fight infection and prevent autoimmune responses, through a combination of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
- Antibacterial: pine bark extract has been shown to stave off staphylococcal, E. coli and pseudomonas bacterial infections.
- Can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering your levels of harmful cholesterol (LDL) and increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
- May lower blood pressure and improve poor circulation. Pine bark extract helps the body to produce nitric oxide, which improves circulation and relaxes blood vessels to lower blood pressure.
- Can help with varicose veins: a 2015 study showed that pine bark extract can improve circulation and reduce the swelling of varicose veins.
- Anti-carcinogenic: studies indicate pine bark extract may be able to slow the growth of tumor cells in lung cancer and skin cancer.
- Improves the health of the lungs. Pine bark extract has been shown to be effective in treating chronic lung disease.
- Can treat and prevent loss of hearing and balance caused by ear infections or toxicity.
- Can lower glucose levels in diabetics.
- Anti-allergic: reduces the symptoms of allergies by calming the auto-immune response.
- Anti-inflammatory effects in asthma
- As an analgesic, it has been shown to help reduce menstrual cramps.
- Promotes exercise endurance and reduces muscle fatigue in athletes, by reducing oxidative stress and therefore inflammation.
- May help with erectile dysfunction, according to one Japanese study, without the side effects of conventional medications.
- Can slow the progression of osteoarthritis, and reduce joint pain, mainly through its anti-inflammatory activity.
- Can protect the eyes from retinal micro-haemorrhages, by increasing blood flow to the eyes.
- May reduce your risk of cataracts: pine bark’s antioxidant activity helps prevent cataracts and protects the eyes from the damaging effects of the sun.
- May reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by protecting neurons from beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.
- Promotes healthy brain function. A 2011 Italian trial administered a pine bark extract supplement to students for eight weeks, resulting in improved concentration, memory and mood, and a decrease in anxiety levels. This was thought to be the result of improved blood flow to the brain. An earlier study showed improved memory in healthy elderly people, and reduced oxidative stress markers.
- Can reduce ADHD symptoms in children. A small initial trial showed that pine bark extract reduces oxidative damage, increases antioxidant levels and improves immunity and neurochemical balance in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It also showed a reduction in associated physical and psychiatric complaints. Researchers evaluated pine bark extract as an alternative to Methylphenidate (e.g. Ritalin), which has several serious side effects, including arrhythmia, insomnia and decreased appetite. PBE was indicated to be at least as effective as Methylphenidate, without serious side effects, and more effective than placebo in this preliminary trial. A larger follow-up trial was announced in 2017.