Pine Bark Extract vs Pycnogenol

Pine Bark Extract vs Pycnogenol – comparison:

Pycnogenol is the branded form of pine bark extract, a flavonoid mixture consisting mainly of phenolic acids and procyanidins. It is actually extracted from the bark of the European coastal pine Pinus maritima.

It is produced by Horphag Research, Geneva, Switzerland, and is ranked among the 30 top-selling herbal dietary supplements in the US.

It contains around 70 percent flavonoids and proanthocyanidins that have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In addition, it also contains:

  • cinnamic acids;
  • polyphenolic monomers;
  • taxifolin;
  • mannitol (a type of sugar alcohol);
  • ferulic acid;
  • caffeic acid (a type of polyphenol);
  • procyanidin B1.

Health Benefits

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, also referred to as impotence, can affect a man’s quality of life by decreasing his satisfaction from sex. According to a 2016 study, 1 in 4 patients is seeing the doctor for the first time for erectile dysfunction before reaching age 40. This condition can have many different causes, both physical and psychological, including:

  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries);
  • heart disease;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • type 2 diabetes mellitus;
  • surgical complications;
  • hypertension;
  • injuries to the spinal cord or pelvic area;
  • high LDL and total cholesterol;
  • radiation therapy to the pelvic region;
  • treatments for prostate disease;
  • substance abuse;
  • alcoholism;
  • smoking tobacco and regular exposure to second-hand smoking;
  • anatomical or structural disorder of the penis;
  • hormonal disorders, such as – testosterone deficiency and thyroid conditions;
  • obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Because this supplement can improve endothelial function (a systemic pathological state of the endothelium) and increase the availability of NO, some experts have suggested that this substance may improve erectile dysfunction.

Reduces LDL Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is a type of fat made by the human body and is found in some foods. Cholesterol is an important component of the human brain. Actually, the brain contains about 20% of the body’s entire supply of cholesterol.

However, too much cholesterol may cause atherosclerosis and heart attack. In a small study of healthy individuals, LDL cholesterol was lowered by this supplement while HDL cholesterol was elevated.

Additionally, in a randomized placebo-controlled study of men with elevated LDL and total cholesterol levels, this supplement was found to elevate HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

High blood glucose is the defining characteristic of all types of diabetes. It occurs when the body can no longer maintain a normal blood sugar level because:

  • the body’s cells have become so resistant to insulin that the pancreas cannot keep up;
  • the pancreas is no longer making enough insulin.

A double-blind placebo-controlled study concluded that 100 mg of the supplement per day improved blood glucose among 77 sufferers with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Reduces Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it is not typically something that you can notice or feel and it can go undiagnosed for years since there are commonly no symptoms.

However, the problem is that high blood pressure is a major risk for stroke and heart disease, and these are the main causes of death in the US.

One small double-blind placebo-controlled study established that treatment with 200 mg of this supplement per day for 4 months slightly reduced blood pressure.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is a common behavioral disorder mainly affecting children and adults. This supplement has been shown to cause a remarkable improvement in the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, like – hyperactive behavior, lack of concentration, and impulsivity.

Cell Protection

Pine bark extract’s propensity to excel at capturing free radicals prevents the oxidation of cells. In addition, it promotes cell immunity to oxidation caused by emotional stress.

Skin Health

The effects of this supplement on the skin elasticity and hydration showed favorable results, as per a 2014 study. These effects were thought to be due to an increase in the synthesis of extracellular matrix molecules, such as – collagen (the most abundant protein in the body) and hyaluronic acid (a mucopolysaccharide that occurs naturally throughout the body).


The following doses are recommended by the American Botanical Council:

  • type 2 diabetes mellitus – 50-200 mg per day;
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – 1 mg/kg of body weight per day;
  • erectile dysfunction – 120 mg per day;
  • melasma (a common skin condition in which light to dark brown pigmentation develops) – 75 mg per day;
  • muscle cramps – 200 mg per day;
  • asthma – 1 mg/lb of body weight per day;
  • perimenopause (part of a woman’s transition into menopause) – 200 mg per day;
  • osteoarthritis – 100-150 mg per day;
  • high LDL cholesterol – 120-150 mg per day;
  • retinopathy (any damage to the retina of the eyes) – 20-160 mg per day;
  • chronic venous insufficiency – 150-360 mg per day;
  • platelet function – 25-200 mg per day;
  • dysmenorrhea – 30-60 mg per day;
  • high blood pressure – 100-200 mg per day;
  • endometriosis – 60 mg per day.

Note – Do not take the supplement for more than 180 days or in quantities that exceed 450 mg per day. Children under 6 shouldn’t take this supplement.

Side Effects

Although this supplement contains natural substances, some side effects have been reported, including – headaches, dizziness, nausea, and upset stomach.

In addition, this extract inhibits the activity of the angiotensin-converting enzyme, an important enzyme in the regulation of high blood pressure, according to a 1999 study published in the “Free Radical Biology and Medicine.” Therefore, it can potentially interact with blood pressure-lowering drugs, especially with ACE inhibitors, like – captopril and enalapril.

Bottom Line – Pine Bark Extract vs Pycnogenol – Differences

Usually, generic supplements are copies of brand-name supplements that have exactly the same effects, intended use, side effects, route of administration, safety, risks, and strength as the original supplement. In other words, their effects in the body are exactly (at least in theory) the same as those of their brand-name counterparts.

However, generic supplements are allowed to have different inactive ingredients than brand-name supplements. For instance, they may have a different preservative or flavoring.

Therefore, there is little to no difference between the two supplements in terms of effects or composition. But, pine bark extract is from a different species of tree than Pycnogenol. However, according to research, no quality difference has been found between Pycnogenol and generics which use different botanical species of Pinus as the basis.

Image credit – Shutterstock

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