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Pine bark extracts

Pine bark classification

Pine bark is a herbal extract which is available in the UK under the trade name Pycnogenol®. It’s rich in several bioflavonoids that have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The little evidence available suggests that pine bark extract may result in an improvement in the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

What is it?

Family: Herbal extract and nutritional supplement
Scientific name: Pinus pinaster ssp. Atlantica
Other names: French pinus maritime bark, Pycnogenol®, pinus maritima, pygenol, PYC

Pinus pinaster is a type of pine tree native to France. The water extract of its bark is used treat several diseases, including some types of arthritis. You can buy it from high-street shops.

How does it work?

Pine bark extract is rich in plant pigments called bioflavonoids. Several laboratory studies have found that some of these bioflavonoids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that can override harmful molecules (free radicals) which are produced within your cells and which may cause tissue damage or disease. Other studies have found that it can reduce the production of specific enzymes that break down cartilage.

Is it safe?

No major side-effects have been reported in previous trials, although minor side-effects include stomach upsets and headaches. In theory, pine bark may lower blood pressure and blood sugar level, and these effects have also been reported in some RCTs. For that reason, you should be careful taking pine bark if you have hypertension or diabetes.

We don’t yet know what the best dose to use is, but studies have used two 50 mg Pycnogenol® capsules per day.

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