The Antioxidants Section
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Pycnogenol ® (pronounced pick-nah-geh-nol), is a trademarked name for proanthocyanidin, a bioflavanoid complex extracted from the bark of the European coastal pine, Pinus Maritima. It is a powerful antioxidant, and is being studied as a treatment for many free-radical-related disorders, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and senility.
Pycnogenol-based products should not be confused with products containing Grape Seed Extract (GSE). Although both Pycnogenol® and GSE both contain the antioxidant proanthocyanidin [also called Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPC) and Procyanidolic Oligomers (PCO)], they are two distinct, chemically different substances. Pycnogenol® refers only to those products containing extracts of Maritime Pine bark.
Pycnogenol has been shown to be a more effective antioxidant than either vitamin C or vitamin E, because it is so easily absorbed in the bloodstream (absorption takes only 20 minutes) and works for up to 72 hours. It also works with vitamin C to help the body recycle vitamin E, and is one the few antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier to help protect brain tissue. Because Pycnogenol is such an effective free-radical neutralizer, it is thought to help regenerate systems that generally break down with age, thus improving immune resistance, vision, brain function, and skin elasticity. It may also protect cellular DNA from the oxidative damage and cell mutations that can lead to cancer.
There is strong evidence that Pycnogenol can improve the circulatory system by helping to strengthen capillaries and veins. Improved circulation helps fight both Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a circulatory disorder characterized by itching skin, swelling, ulcers, edema, and varicose veins; and cardiovascular disease. In addition, Pycnogenol keeps blood platelets from sticking together and forming hazardous blood clots.
Some studies have shown that pycnogenol eases allergic or inflammatory symptoms by inhibiting the release and synthesis of certain compounds that promote inflammation, such as histamine, serine protease, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes. Pycnogenol may also help heal stress-related ulcers by reducing histamine secretion and by binding to and protecting connective tissue in mucous membranes.
The antioxidant complex contained in Pycnogenol (proanthocyanidin, or OPC/PCO) is found in extremely small amounts in the peels, skins, or seeds of grapes, blueberries, cherries, and plums; in the barks of the lemon tree and the Landis pine tree; and in the leaves of the hazelnut tree. It is difficult if not impossible to get the amount of PCO needed for antioxidant protection from diet alone. If you want to try Pycnogenol supplements, they are available at health food stores and most pharmacies in 30- and 60-milligram tablets. There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Pycnogenol, but it has shown no toxic effects to date. In one study, daily doses of up to 35,000 milligram were given for six months, with no adverse effects. However, this supplement is not recommended for pregnant women or for children, as it has not yet been determined safe for these groups.
In order to saturate the tissues, take one 30-milligram tablet for each twenty pounds of body weight daily for three days. Thereafter, tissue saturation should be followed with the maintenance dose of two 30-milligram tablets daily.
Pycnogenol seems to work best when used in conjunction with other antioxidants and minerals. When combined with vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin A (beta carotene), and minerals zinc, selenium, and manganese with the addition of CoEnzyme Q10, the pine bark extract in Pycnogenol has been shown to reduce the effects of free radical damage associated with acute and chronic inflammations, senility, poor circulation, nervous disorders, and immune system suppression.
Studies indicate that Pycnogenol may be useful in treating or preventing a host of illnesses and disorders, including ADD/ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia, cellulite, diabetic retinopathy and neuropathy, lung cancer, premenstrual syndrome, macular degeneration, myocardial ischemia, skin disorders, phlebitis, poor night vision, pelvic pain, prostate disease, cellulite, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disorders, strokes, and high blood pressure. However, Pycnogenol supplements are relatively new to the U.S., and more scientific study is needed before we can be certain of their benefits.
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