French Maritime Pine Bark Extract (AKA Pycnogenol, Pinus Pinaster) is a chain of compounds extracted from the Maritime Pine Tree.

Native to France and the Mediterranean Region, Maritime Pine bark contains so-called proanthocyanidins – elements that have been studied for their powerful effects on health.

Maritime Pine Bark Extract is commonly used to improve focus and concentration. But its benefits extend far beyond that.

The antioxidants in the Maritime Pine Bark build up in your body over time and exert a wide range of effects. In the context of this article, we’ll look at the benefits of Maritime Pine Bark Extract for women, particularly those that help with common symptoms such as insomnia, mood swings, skin problems and hot flashes.

Physical Effects

  • Improves skin and hair quality
  • Enhances circulation and cardiovascular health
  • Supports immunity
  • Reduces swelling and ‘spider veins’

Mental Effects

  • Improves cerebrovascular blood flow
  • Eases depression & mood swings
  • Contributes to an improved sense of focus and alertness
  • Reduces oxidative damage linked to free radicals

How French Maritime Pine Bark Extract Works

Before it starts to exert its benefits, Pine Bark Extract has to be absorbed and utilized by your body in a certain way. Specifically, it [1]:

  • Breaks down into small molecule antioxidants (catechins, phenolic acid, and taxifolin) which start acting in your body within 30 minutes of ingestion
  • Sends the remaining, more complex antioxidants (long-chain procyanidins) into your gut where your friendly bacteria break them down into active metabolites
  • The microbe-produced beneficial compounds stay in your blood for 6-14 hours.

Since most of Pine Bark Extract’s benefits come from its antioxidants, it’s no surprise that studies have shown it can protect cells in our body from oxidative stress.

Maritime Pine Bark Extract’s procyanidins also help replenish your blood vitamin C and vitamin E levels, providing a ‘one-two punch’ against havoc-wreaking free radicals. [2]

The History of Pine Bark Extract

The oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) in Pine Bark Extract were first studied by Professor Jacques Masquelier from France. The professor became motivated to learn more about Pine Bark Extract after hearing a story about the St. Lawrence River expedition that was led by Jacques Cartier in 1535.

Trapped in the ice, Cartier’s men started to die from scurvy. But after native Iroquois gave the crew spruce need brewed from needles and bark of pines growing by the river, these people’s conditions dramatically improved.

Prof. Jacques Masquelier speculated that the brew contained lots of vitamin C and flavonoids that aided in their recovery. In 1951, the professor patented his own extraction method of isolating OPCs from pine bark. [3]

What is French Maritime Pine Bark Extract Good for?

French Maritime Pine Bark Extract is good for many different goals. Some of the common issues that Pine Bark Extract can help you with include:

  • Poor focus
  • Irritability
  • Low mood
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Sleep problems

French Maritime Pine Bark Extract is popular in the ‘nootropic’ community, where it’s used to boost cerebral blood flow.

Other uses of Pine Bark Extract include the prevention of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as ADHD.

These effects stem from Pine Bark Extract’s ability to help your brain maintain higher dopamine and norepinephrine levels – two crucial ‘catecholamine’ brain chemicals.

But Pycnogenol’s benefits aren’t only limited to the mind. You’ll also see it commonly used to improve chronic pain, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis.

On a molecular level, the compounds in Maritime Pine Extract protect you from oxidative stress, DNA damage, cell membrane damage, glycation (excess build-up of protein plaques), and chronic inflammation.

Many women use Pine Bark Extract to keep their skin youthful and firm, and this is actually backed by solid evidence, as you’ll see below.

Pine Bark Extract and Female Vitality

Current research shows that Pine-Bark extract can be especially helpful for women who experience hot flashes, mood swings and other symptoms of menopause.

Studies found that Pycnogenol – the extract of pine-tree bark – appears to relieve symptoms of women just starting menopause.

Specifically, the compounds in Pine Bark Extract are suggested to improve fatigue, headaches, and vaginal dryness. They can improve skin tone, physical vitality and other aspects of health that contribute to your daily lifestyle, too.

Here’s a closer look at the studies.

The Research

1. Pycnogenol Helps Alleviate Insomnia and Hot Flashes

In a clinical trial with 35 women, it was found that 100mg of Pycnogenol per day for 8 weeks improved their menopausal symptoms and overall life quality. [4]

A larger study (170 women) found that lower doses of pycnogenol work just as well, and are ideal if you want to supplement it long-term.

Specifically, the study reported that 60mg of Pycnogenol per day for 90 days improved insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats and other sleep problems in participants. [5]

If your goal is to improve libido, Pycnogenol has shown promise in that area too. A combination product using Pine Bark Extract improved sexual function of 83 postmenopausal women after 2 months of use. This study reported increases in desire, arousal, satisfaction, lubrication, and reduced pain in participants. [6]

2. Pine Bark Extract Reduces Pigmentation and Enhances Skin Hydration

A 2016 study on French Maritime Pine Bark Extract has shown that it could enhance your skin quality and reduce pigmentation when taken orally as a supplement.

The study, carried out in Dusseldorf Germany, looked at existing research on Pine Bark Extract, along with introducing some new exciting data to reveal how the antioxidants such as those in Pine Bark are effective for beauty and skin care. [8]

This study goes on to explain that Pine Bark Extract works by protecting your skin from UVA rays’ negative effects. Specifically, it inhibits the UVA-caused upregulation of pigmentation markers by up to 75%.

But Pine Bark Extract doesn’t only protect your skin. It’s also been shown to stimulate collagen and hyaluronic acid production – two compounds crucial for preventing premature skin aging. [8]

3. Pine Bark Extract Relieves Menstrual Pain

Menstruation is a natural process that happens once a month. Some cramping, pain, and discomfort during this period is normal. Excessive pain, however, might negatively affect your daily activities and quality of life.

A clinical trial with 116 women found that 60mg of patented Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) per day reduced the pain associated with menstruation, as well as reducing the need for painkillers. What’s more, these benefits lasted even some time after supplementation. [7]

Another study showed similar results, with 47 women experiencing reduced menstrual pain during one month of supplementing 30mg Pycnogenol. [9]

4. Pine Bark Extract Improves Sexual Function

The bark of the French Maritime Pine Tree is renowned for its high antioxidant content. These antioxidants, found in some of the world’s healthiest plants, are actually used to treat mild sexual dysfunction.

Studies support this notion. In one particular trial, researchers recruited 100 healthy women in their early 40s who suffered from minor sexual dysfunction. After 8 weeks of Pycnogenol therapy, their sexual function significantly improved.

5. Pine Bark Extract Boosts Cognitive Performance

There’s evidence that shows Pycnogenol’s potent nootropic effects. In other words, it positively influences your brain function.

Studies suggest that Pine Bark Extract can be especially effective in middle-aged individuals, as well as anyone who struggles with brain fog.

In one clinical trial, 60 health professionals took 150mg of Pycnogenol per day. After 12 weeks, their cognitive function, attention, specific professional skills and overall performance scores all increased.

Researchers from this study concluded that Pycnogenol has the potential to boost memory, sustained attention, mood, executive function, and reduce oxidative stress in the brain. [11]

Another trial, which included 53 students, showed that 8-week Pine Bark Extract supplementation resulted in improved mood, memory, attention and cognitive function. [12]

Sounds good, but what about older individuals? One study tested exactly that. Giving 100mg of Pycnogenol to 44 older healthy people every day, their previously high oxidative stress levels reduced significantly – resulting in improved attention, mental performance, and cognitive function.

The most promising part of the study was that it lasted 12 months, highlighting Pycnogenol’s long-term safety.

Pycnogenol can also help you with brain fog and can reduce symptoms of cognitive impairment, according to one study which involved 78 individuals. [13]

In another clinical trial, 42 older men were given Pine Bark Extract supplementation for 5 weeks. After those 5 weeks, their cognitive function notably improved.

Pycnogenol vs Pine Bark Extract

You might wonder, is Pycnogenol and pine bark extract the same thing?

The answer is yes and no. Here’s what we mean by this…

Pycnogenol is extracted from the French Maritime Pine Tree’s bark, much like any other Pine Bark Extract. What makes it different is that it’s patented, and standardized to have a precise amount of its active proanthocyanidins.

It was first patented by Charles Haimoff in 1965, who developed it from a water-soluble extract of the Pinus Pinaster tree.

You may know Pycnogenol under other names, including:

  • Oligopin
  • Flavangenol

Another difference about Pycnogenol is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be extracted from the French Maritime Pine tree. It can be made from other pine trees, with barks that have similar chemical make-up with proanthocyanidins and other beneficial compounds.

That said, many of these other pine bark extracts can have varying amounts of active compounds, which might make them more or less effective than you’d want.

For example, Enzogenol is another type of pine bark extract. Not the French Maritime Pine tree, but Pinus Radiata which grows in Mexico, California, Australia and New Zeland. [14]

Optimal Dosage

The best form of Pine Bark Extract you can take is the one containing 95% proanthocyanidins. The optimal dosage for long-term cognitive and physical benefits is 100mg per day.

Higher dosing doesn’t provide more benefits in the long-run, so it’s always best to stick to the lower dose which ensures safe and reliable effects.

Pine Bark Extract is a water-soluble supplement, meaning it absorbs just as well with or without food. You can take it upon waking up or after having your morning smoothie – or even later in the day.

Safety of Pine Bark Extract

The risk of side effects from Pine Bark Extract and Pycnogenol is extremely low when taken in doses 50-450mg daily.

In very rare cases, it might cause stomach discomfort, headache, or dizziness. Pycnogenol works to boost the immune system, which is one thing to keep in mind if you have an auto-immune issue.

Naturally, talking with your doctor is the best route to go if you suffer from any type of medical condition or if you plan on having surgery or dental work.

While there’s very little scientific evidence on harms of combining Pycnogenol with alcohol, some anecdotal reports say Pine Bark Extract can enhance its effects. This is why consuming both at the same time isn’t advised.

How Does it Feel to Use Pine Bark Extract Daily?

The antioxidants in Pine Bark Extract are among the most potent antioxidants we know of. Many users – male and female – report having more energy, as well as an improved mental outlook.

You may not feel the effects of Pine Bark Extract immediately. They build up over time. For some people though, Pine Bark Extract’s positive effects on energy might be felt within 6 hours of taking it.

Pine Bark Extract stacks well with many supplements. Taking it alongside your daily multivitamin can enhance your thinking and mental clarity. You might notice that you’re able to get more done and stay focused on things until you’re able to finish them.

Another benefit of Pine Bark extract is the improvement in skin quality. It boosts collagen production, and also reduces oxidative damage to your skin cells, resulting in a tighter and smoother looking skin.

You might also notice a lessening of pigmentation, as well as spider veins that tend to appear as we age. Over the long-haul you might realize you feel in a better mood overall, thanks to its beneficial effects on body’s chemical make-up.

Older people who use Pine Bark Extract say it helps:

  • Their hair and nails take a healthier glow
  • Reduce bruising
  • Relieve sinus issues and allergies
  • Reduce the occurrence of hemorrhoids
  • Lower pain and inflammation in joints and knees
  • Prevent burn out from exercise and soreness the following day

Kurapeak Stack Strategy: Pine Bark Extract + Turmeric for Longevity & Mental Well-Being

Kurapeak‘s French Maritime Pine Bark Extract and Turmeric are delivered in their clinically studied doses and are formulated to work on specific pathways that regulate mood, inflammation, and cell function.

Pine bark’s oligomeric proanthocyanidins bind to collagen in your blood vessels, preventing it from causing ‘plaque’ build up that’s associated with depression and cognitive decline. As well as that, Pine Bark Extract boosts the levels of vasodilating Nitric Oxide, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to all tissues in your body – including skin, hair, nails, muscles and heart.

Turmeric, on the other hand, reduces inflammation on a cellural level, preventing it from causing premature aging and a whole host of other mental and physical ills.

Together in Kurapeak, French Maritime Pine Bark Extract and Turmeric supply complementary compounds that promote anti-aging and enhance overall health in the long-run.


Does Pycnogenol Increase Dopamine?

Yes, Pycnogenol (aka, Pine Bark Extract) has been shown in studies to influence dopamine levels. Its effect on the neurotransmitter is suggested to help improve symptoms of irritability, poor concentration, as well as lack of motivation. [17, 18]

Is Pine Bark Extract Good for Your Eyes?

According to some clinical trials, yes, Pine Bark Extract is good for your eyes. It can be of particular help for people who’re suffering from early stage diabetic retinopathy.

One study found that when 24 people took Pycnogenol for two months, they experienced improved vision, better circulation in the eye, and reduced eye swelling. This study suggests that when used early on, Pycnogenol may prevent eye damage from diabetes. [19]

Another trial tested 86 people who had eye damage from diabetes. The researchers found that antioxidant therapy, which included pycnogenol, has the potential to improve eye health and reduce ROS (reactive oxygen species) which cause damage to healthy eye tissue. [20]

Does Pycnogenol Lower Blood Pressure?

Indeed, Pycnogenol has the potential to lower blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels, lowering inflammation, and neutralizing free radicals. One meta-analysis of 9 clinical trials – including 549 people – found that daily use of Pine Bark Extract for at least 12 weeks can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. [21]

A trial of 58 people who had high blood pressure shows that lower doses of Pycnogenol (100mg per day) offer a safer and more reliable reduction in markers of high blood pressure (e.g. endothelin-1) after using it for 12 weeks. In this particular study, many of its participants had their blood-pressure meds dosage reduced. [22]

Is Pine Bark Extract as Effective as Pycnogenol?

Pine Bark Extract is as effective as Pycnogenol as long as it’s standardized to have 95% or more of its active compounds. These are the antioxidants that are responsible for Pine Bark’s benefits. Hence, using high concentrations of them helps to deliver better long-term effects.

Does Pycnogenol Lighten Skin?

Pycnogenol may lighten your skin in the context of reducing skin redness from harmful UV rays. One study showed that 8 weeks of Pine Bark Extract supplementation reduced skin redness in 21 participants. What’s more, these people were able to handle higher levels of UV radiation without experiencing skin damage. [23]

Another study, which included 20 postmenopausal women, showed a significantly improved elasticity and hydration of the skin after 12 weeks of Pine Bark Extract supplementation. This study also suggested that Pine Bark Extract may trigger the genes responsible for making collagen and hyaluronic acid, key components of healthy skin. [24]

How Much Pine Bark Extract Should I Take?

This depends on your genetics, lifestyle, and your unique chemical make-up. However, it’s generally been recommended to use lower doses of Pine Bark Extract, such as the 100mg in Kurapeak, if the goal is to reap its long-term benefits.

What are Pycnogenol’s Benefits for Arthritis?

Pycnogenol (Maritime Pine Bark Extract’s) benefits include a reduction in pain, swelling and other osteoarthritis symptoms. These effects appear to be short-term, as long as you supplement with it. But they don’t appear to last after ceasing supplementation. [25, 26]

In one clinical trial, 33 people with severe arthritis were given pycnogenol daily for three weeks. It significantly reduced their inflammatory markers. The researchers suggested Pine Bark Extract may turn off genes responsible for joint damage as well as reduce enzymes that trigger inflammation (MMP3) and inflammatory proteins (cytokines, IL 1-beta). [27]

A bigger clinical trial of 156 osteoarthritis patients showed that 100mg of Pycnogenol reduced their swelling, pain, and stiffness after 3 months of use. As a knock-on effect, Pycnogenol also improved their overall joint function. A smaller study of 58 people corroborated these findings, and reported that Pycnogenol reduces CRP, a telltale marker of inflammation. [28, 29]

Scientific References

  1. Rohdewald P. A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002;40(4):158-168. doi:10.5414/cpp40158
  2. Rohdewald PJ. Review on Sustained Relief of Osteoarthritis Symptoms with a Proprietary Extract from Pine Bark, Pycnogenol. J Med Food. 2018;21(1):1-4. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.0015
  4. Luzzi R, Belcaro G, Hosoi M, et al. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol®. Minerva Ginecol. 2017;69(1):29-34. doi:10.23736/S0026-4784.16.03913-7
  5. Kohama T, Negami M. Effect of low-dose French maritime pine bark extract on climacteric syndrome in 170 perimenopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Reprod Med. 2013;58(1-2):39-46.
  6. Bottari A, Belcaro G, Ledda A, et al. Lady Prelox® improves sexual function in post-menopausal women. Panminerva Med. 2012;54(1 Suppl 4):3-9.
  7. Suzuki N, Uebaba K, Kohama T, Moniwa N, Kanayama N, Koike K. French maritime pine bark extract significantly lowers the requirement for analgesic medication in dysmenorrhea: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Reprod Med. 2008;53(5):338-346.
  9. Kohama T, Suzuki N, Ohno S, Inoue M. Analgesic efficacy of French maritime pine bark extract in dysmenorrhea: an open clinical trial. J Reprod Med. 2004;49(10):828-832.
  10. Bottari A, Belcaro G, Ledda A, Luzzi R, Cesarone MR, Dugall M. Lady Prelox® improves sexual function in generally healthy women of reproductive age. Minerva Ginecol. 2013;65(4):435-444.
  11. Belcaro G, Luzzi R, Dugall M, Ippolito E, Saggino A. Pycnogenol® improves cognitive function, attention, mental performance and specific professional skills in healthy professionals aged 35-55. J Neurosurg Sci. 2014;58(4):239-248.
  12. Luzzi R, Belcaro G, Zulli C, et al. Pycnogenol® supplementation improves cognitive function, attention and mental performance in students. Panminerva Med. 2011;53(3 Suppl 1):75-82.
  13. Belcaro G, Dugall M, Ippolito E, Hu S, Saggino A, Feragalli B. The COFU3 Study. Improvement in cognitive function, attention, mental performance with Pycnogenol® in healthy subjects (55-70) with high oxidative stress. J Neurosurg Sci. 2015;59(4):437-446.
  14. Hosoi M, Belcaro G, Saggino A, Luzzi R, Dugall M, Feragalli B. Pycnogenol® supplementation in minimal cognitive dysfunction. J Neurosurg Sci. 2018;62(3):279-284. doi:10.23736/S0390-5616.18.04382-5
  15. Pipingas A, Silberstein RB, Vitetta L, et al. Improved cognitive performance after dietary supplementation with a Pinus radiata bark extract formulation. Phytother Res. 2008;22(9):1168-1174. doi:10.1002/ptr.2388
  16. Theadom A, Mahon S, Barker-Collo S, et al. Enzogenol for cognitive functioning in traumatic brain injury: a pilot placebo-controlled RCT. Eur J Neurol. 2013;20(8):1135-1144. doi:10.1111/ene.12099
  19. Steigerwalt R, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, et al. Pycnogenol improves microcirculation, retinal edema, and visual acuity in early diabetic retinopathy. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2009;25(6):537-540. doi:10.1089/jop.2009.0023
  20. Domanico D, Fragiotta S, Cutini A, Carnevale C, Zompatori L, Vingolo EM. Circulating levels of reactive oxygen species in patients with nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy and the influence of antioxidant supplementation: 6-month follow-up. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2015;63(1):9-14. doi:10.4103/0301-4738.151455
  21. Zhang Z, Tong X, Wei YL, Zhao L, Xu JY, Qin LQ. Effect of Pycnogenol Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Iran J Public Health. 2018;47(6):779-787.
  22. Liu X, Wei J, Tan F, Zhou S, Würthwein G, Rohdewald P. Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients. Life Sci. 2004;74(7):855-862. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2003.07.037
  23. Saliou C, Rimbach G, Moini H, et al. Solar ultraviolet-induced erythema in human skin and nuclear factor-kappa-B-dependent gene expression in keratinocytes are modulated by a French maritime pine bark extract. Free Radic Biol Med. 2001;30(2):154-160. doi:10.1016/s0891-5849(00)00445-7
  24. Marini A, Grether-Beck S, Jaenicke T, et al. Pycnogenol® effects on skin elasticity and hydration coincide with increased gene expressions of collagen type I and hyaluronic acid synthase in women. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(2):86-92. doi:10.1159/000335261
  25. Liu X, Machado GC, Eyles JP, Ravi V, Hunter DJ. Dietary supplements for treating osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(3):167-175. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-097333
  26. Rohdewald PJ. Review on Sustained Relief of Osteoarthritis Symptoms with a Proprietary Extract from Pine Bark, Pycnogenol. J Med Food. 2018;21(1):1-4. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.0015
  27. Jessberger S, Högger P, Genest F, Salter DM, Seefried L. Cellular pharmacodynamic effects of Pycnogenol® in patients with severe osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017;17(1):537. Published 2017 Dec 16. doi:10.1186/s12906-017-2044-1
  28. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi S, et al. Treatment of osteoarthritis with Pycnogenol. The SVOS (San Valentino Osteo-arthrosis Study). Evaluation of signs, symptoms, physical performance and vascular aspects. Phytother Res. 2008;22(4):518-523. doi:10.1002/ptr.2376
  29. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi S, et al. Variations in C-reactive protein, plasma free radicals and fibrinogen values in patients with osteoarthritis treated with Pycnogenol. Redox Rep. 2008;13(6):271-276. doi:10.1179/135100008X309019

Write a comment