Pine bark extract is obtained from the inner bark of a specific type of pine trees that grow mainly in the coastal areas of southwestern France. Pine bark extract contains chemicals that have various effects. Some of them act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants are thought to protect body cells from damage caused by a chemical process called oxidation. Pine bark extract also has anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is often a response to irritation, injury, or infection and it usually includes pain, redness, and swelling in the area of the damage. Inflammation can occur within body tissues as well as on the surface of the skin. Pine bark extract has been shown in studies to help relieve the swelling and pain associated with chronic venous insufficiency in the legs and to delay or prevent damage to blood vessels in the retinas of the eyes. Study evidence also supports its use in enhancing exercise capacity, improving fertility for men with inadequate sperm quality and/or movement, and smoothing out uneven skin color.
Antioxidants are a class of biological molecules that function to scavenge and neutralize free radicals. The most common antioxidants are Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Pine Bark Extract is 20 times more potent than Vitamin C, and 50 times more than Vitamin E. Pine Bark extract is thought to improve fertility in men by increasing sperm quality and movement probably due to its high antioxidant level.
Uniquely vulnerable targets of free radical attack that require a regular supply of antioxidants just to maintain a basic level of function include fatty acids – especially those in cell membranes – and sulfhydral proteins, which form one of the most common types of chemical bonds found in biological organisms. The importance of these substances for overall health cannot be overstated, as they are critical components not only of tissues throughout the body, but most importantly, of the principal regulatory organs – the brain and liver – and every blood vessel. Free radical attack on fatty acids – known as lipid peroxidation – and related destruction of sulfhydral proteins can lead to diminished function of cell membranes and whole organs. This, in turn, can contribute significantly to decreases in quality of life. Free radicals are believed to be active in the development of cumulative damage to the system, as well as in many of the undesirable effects of aging. Free radicals are constantly being produced due to the natural intake of oxygen and generation of energy by the body’s cells. However, their production is heightened by pollutants such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, solvents, and oxidized cholesterol from foods. Therefore, health scientists suggest we may need to increase our intake of antioxidants either from foods or from supplements – such as Vitamin A and Beta Carotene, Vitamins C and E, Resveratrol, etc.
Proanthocyanidins are a special class of highly bioavailable, water-soluble bioflavonoids with unparalleled free radical scavenging activity. They readily cross the Blood-Brain Barrier to provide antioxidant protection to the central nervous system, and stay in the bloodstream for approximately 72 hours. Research shows that proanthocyanidins are highly beneficial with no evidence of adverse effects.
As a potent antioxidant, Pine Bark is valuable for protecting the liver from free radical attack. Since the liver is the main detoxifying, nutrient-assimilating, and energy-generating organ of the body, this may mean more potential for activity in your life. Another major beneficiary of the protective actions of Pine Bark is collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen is responsible for maintaining the integrity of “ground substance,” the basic material in functional fluids, mucus linings, and connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and most importantly, blood vessels linings. It is highly vulnerable to free radical attack, and a number of discomforting and depreciating processes are associated with its destruction. There is evidence showing that Pine Bark extract may support for the prevention of collagen destruction.
Healthy Brain Function: Pine Bark OPCs help Vitamin C to work better in the brain to effectively synthesize the neurotransmitters norepinephirine, dopamine and serotonin. In addition, OPC also increases NITRIC OXIDE and improve micro-circulation in the brain and can help improve learning ability and memory through its effects as a neurotransmitter. Recent studies have shown that ADD to be associated with the breakdown of dopamine. By effectively synthesizing the neurotransmitters, pine bark help to maintain healthy brain function.
Potent Antioxidants: OPCs protect against free-radical damage, suggested to be a major cause of the ageing process. The antioxidant effect is 50 times greater than that of vitamin C and E. A major advantage of these molecules is that they are taken up into the cell membranes and protect against both water- and fat soluble free-radicals. Pine Bark’s OPC has superior free radical scavenging activity because of its ability to protect against both water and fat soluble free radicals, and provides incredible protection to the cells against free radical damage. Recent study has shown that OPC from pine bark to trap hydroxyl free radicals, inhibit production of free radicals, inhibit the damaging effects of the enzymes (eg. hyaluronidase, elastase, collagenase, etc) which can degrade connective tissue structures.
Healthy Cholesterol Level: Recent research has shown OPC from pine bark extract to trap lipid peroxides and free radicals, markedly delay the onset of lipid peroxidation, bind to free iron molecules to prevent iron-induced lipid peroxidation.
Healthy Blood Pressure: OPCs is shown to inhibit angiotensin 1-converting enzyme (ACE) - much the same effect as ACE inhibitor drugs used in blood pressure regulation. Data suggests that OPC supplementation is effective in reducing systolic blood pressure in mildly hypertensive patients.
Cardio-protective: OPCs protect fat and cholesterol from oxidation, thus reducing arterial damage leading to heart disease. OPCs have also been shown to lower cholesterol levels, shrink the deposits in the arteries, inhibit platelet aggregation, and in vitro studies found that pine bark extract modulated the release of nitric oxide, which affected the dilation diameter of blood vessels and has cardio protective property. Proanthocyanidins in pine bark extract also help strengthen the walls of blood vessels.
Eye Health: Pine bark extract may also be effective for slowing retinopathy, the gradual break down of the retina in the eyes. Individuals with arteriosclerosis (a build up of fatty deposits in the arteries), diabetes, or other conditions that increase the likelihood for damage to the small blood vessels in the eyes are more likely to have serious vision problems as a result of blood vessel damage. Studies in healthy volunteers have shown that an intake of 200mg/day of OPCs significantly improved visual performance in dark and after glare tests. A number of European studies have shown that OPCs from pine bark, greatly improved symptoms in patients with diabetic retinopathies, maculopathies, and other visual dysfunctions
Healthy Looking Skin: Oxidation damage causes most visible signs of aging in our skin. By preventing this damage, skin will stay younger looking. One way to achieve this is to reduce the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) light. Sunscreen products have incorporated a variety of antioxidants with the intent that they will prevent sun injury to the skin. Part of the aging process is the degradation of skin by the enzyme elastase, which is released with the inflammatory response. OPCs specifically block elastase, thus maintaining the integrity of elastin. Another major beneficiary of the protective actions of Pine Bark is collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen is responsible for maintaining the integrity of “ground substance,” the basic material in functional fluids, mucus linings, and connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and most importantly, blood vessels linings. It is highly vulnerable to free radical attack, and a number of discomforting and depreciating processes are associated with its destruction. There is evidence showing that Pine Bark extract may support for the prevention of collagen destruction.
Recent findings published in the journal of Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hematosis show a significant symptom reduction of chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) in patients after supplementing with Pine bark extract. According to the study, pine bark is more effective in reducing edema (leg swelling) tight calves, skin alterations, pain during walking and swelling limbs compared to Daflon, which is a combination of diosmin and hesperidin, a commonly prescribed drug used to treat CVI.
Nearly half a million people in the U.S. develop leg ulcers due to CVI. If left untreated, leg and ankle swelling can lead to dangerous conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Previous studies have shown Pine bark extract to be effective in encouraging improved circulation and helping to prevent travel-related DVT. Like varicose veins, spider veins also develop if edema is left untreated.
Individuals who have autoimmune conditions should not take pine bark extract due to its effects on the immune system. Some autoimmune conditions include Crohn's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Type 1 diabetes, etc. Because it can enhance immune system function, pine bark extract may interfere with the effects of drugs used to suppress the immune system.