So what does pine bark extract do? How did humans ever discover that it can be good for our health?
Basically, pine bark extracts have been found to be extremely rich in polyphenols, which have numerous benefits.
As a nootropic, pine bark extracts are known for improving learning ability, working memory, attention, and decision making.
This makes them particularly effective for treating ADHD symptoms.
Let’s dig a bit deeper to unlock the secrets of this powerful neutraceutical, shall we?
Pine Bark Extract – How was it Discovered?
In order to answer all of your questions, we need to go back about 450 years.
The Native North Americans have been using pine bark in tea and spruce beer for centuries.
However, the first European to learn about the benefits of pine bark was a French explorer by the name of Jacques Cartier.
Back in 1534, Cartier and his crew were shipwrecked in the ice just off the coast of Quebec, Canada.
Cartiers’ men were sick with Scurvy, a potentially fatal disease caused by lack of vitamin C.
The native Iroquois in the area found them, and treated them to some spruce beer, saving their lives.
Cartier later made a written record of what he had discovered about the benefits of pine bark.
Fast forward to 400 years later, and a French researcher named Jacques Masquelier (yes, another Jacques) heard about Cartiers’ findings.
He started testing maritime pine bark to see what health benefits it could offer.
Pine Bark Extract Benefits – for General Health
Masquelier soon discovered that pinus pinaster bark is extremely rich in flavonols; compounds that give many foods their natural colors.
They also happen to be very potent antioxidants.
Witch hazel, red wine, cocoa, tea, cranberries, and currants are all good examples.
He later patented a process for extracting polyphenols (flavonols that act as antioxidants) from pinus pinaster bark, and called it ‘Pycnogenol’.
Pycnogenol is now manufactured in Europe and the U.S. using the same extraction method Masquelier developed back in 1951.
This proprietary process only uses the pine bark from Les Landes des Gascogne forest in southwest France.
During the course of his many years of research, Masquelier was able to prove that pycnogenol can improve circulation, prevent the onset of many diseases, and even encourage body tissues to heal.
Since then we have continued to study pycnogenol, and have found it to be useful for:
- Heart Disease
- Neurodegenerative Diseases
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Certain Eye Conditions
- Skin Issues
- Erectile Dysfunction
- ADHD Symptoms
This is not an exhaustive list, but as you can see, once researchers started down this rabbit hole, they discovered that pycnogenol can improve human health considerably.
One of the most interesting characteristics of pycnogenol is its’ ability to strengthen vascular walls, and encourage increased blood flow at the same time.
This accounts for its’ usefulness with ailments related to blood circulation.
Now that we have an idea of how maritime pine bark benefits the body, let’s look at how it can help the mind.
What does Pine Bark Extract do for Brain Health?
You could think of the human brain as an engine that tends to overheat and shut down.
When energy metabolism in our cranial space increases, so does the concentration of waste by-products.
These metabolic left overs have tons of free radicals in them, and they need to be cleaned out.
Free radicals are molecules that have unpaired electrons, and are therefore eager to form a chemical bond.
This can lead to tissue damage on the molecular level, otherwise known as inflammation.
The common experience we have is that we eventually hit a ceiling, and we ‘burn out’ at the end of the day.
Then we simply have to let our ‘cognitive engine’ cool off. We rest.
So is there a way to keep going longer? How can maritime pine bark help?
Pycnogenol as an Antioxidant – The Best Player in Town!
Pycnogenol has 3 major functions it performs to counteract this downward spiral:
- Acts as an Antioxidant
- Indirectly Dilates Blood Vessels
- Encourages Neurogenesis
Antioxidants soak up free radicals by bonding with them, and preventing them from latching onto other, more essential structures.
Examples would be RNA, DNA, or neurons.
The most common naturally occurring antioxidants are vitamin C and vitamin E.
Vitamin C gets flushed out in the urine, so you need to ingest it almost daily for optimum health.
Vitamin E can actually bond with multiple free radicals in succession and render them harmless. In other words, Vitamin E can be recycled.
That being said, what makes the antioxidant effects of pine bark extracts so special? I’m glad you asked!
Pine bark extract is especially significant as a nootropic because it:
- easily passes through the blood-brain barrier
- is 50 times as effective as an antioxidant compared to vitamin C
- is 20 times as effective as an antioxidant compared to vitamin E
Pine Bark Extract – Enhances Brain Cell Metabolism!
Pine Bark Extract also encourages the production of Nitric Oxide in the vascular walls, thereby increasing cerebral blood flow.
This facilitates accelerated brain function because:
- metabolic waste can be washed away
- fresh oxygen is delivered to brain cells
- more nutrients are available for neurons
Last but not least, pycnogenol also stimulates the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
Increasing BDNF levels:
- accelerates brain cell reproduction
- allows the brain to heal
- improves mental energy
- increases neuroplasticity
- enhances long-term brain health
Generally speaking, the formation of new neural pathways is made easier, while existing pathways are maintained.
All of these influences have been shown to be of great benefit in relieving the symptoms of ADHD. Let’s take a quick look and find out why.
Pine Bark Extract for ADHD – How does it Help?
Pycnogenol is particularly effective at counteracting the effects of ADHD because of the way it works.
Research has shown that blood circulation to the frontal lobes of the brain slowly declines when people with ADHD try to focus on intense mental activities.
In fact, the longer and harder they try to maintain their concentration, the more their cerebral blood flow is reduced.
Pine bark extract addresses this issue by improving blood circulation in the brain.
This improves short-term memory, or working memory, and allows executive functions to operate more effectively.
The increase in BDNF seen with pycnogenol supplementation also supports mental clarity very well.
The end results are:
- Faster Learning
- Enhanced Reasoning
- Better Decision Making
These are all higher cognitive functions that are normally hampered by the negative effects of ADHD.
Pycnogenol for ADHD – Is it Safe for Children?
In one massive study comparing the effectiveness of several nutraceuticals for the treatment of ADHD in children, it was found that the anitoxidant properties of pycnogenol were also critical to its’ success as a treatment.
The effectiveness of Bacopa Monnieri, Ginkgo Biloba, and Ginseng, among others, were compared to Ritalin as the control, as well as a placebo.
The study found that nutraceuticals are more effective when used together rather than in isolation, and that at least for now, they are less potent overall than prescription medications.
These results may seem disappointing at first, but you need to keep in mind that Ritalin has some pretty severe side effects, and that’s what motivated the study in the first place.
Researchers are actively trying to find viable alternatives to ADHD treatment that aren’t as harsh on the body as Ritalin or Adderall. Children are often prescribed these medications, and it scares a lot of parents.
In any case, people who are lower on the ADHD spectrum may not need hard core prescription medications to treat their symptoms.
They can consider using natural nootropics like pycnogenol as either a compliment, or an alternative to their existing treatment plan.
So now that we know that pycnogenol is a very potent natural nootropic, how can we use it safely, and for best results?
Pine Bark Extract Dosage – Recommendations
Maritime pine bark extracts are available as powders, tablets, and capsules.
The active ingredient in pine bark extracts is a class of polyphenol called proanthocyanidins.
Extracts made from sources other than French maritime pine bark typically contain 95% proanthocyanidins. However, solvents may be used in the extraction process, so these products may not be the best quality.
Pycnogenol is made using the extraction process originally developed by Masquelier, and usually yields an extract with only 65-75% proanthocyanidins. However, solvents are not used, so it is generally considered very safe.
Pycnogenol is also produced in compliance with ‘Current Good Manufacturing Practices’, or cGMP Standards, to ensure quality, purity, and effectiveness.
If you want a quality guarantee for your maritime pine bark extract, you can purchase pycnogenol products at the Masquelier.com/us website. If you decide to use another extract, please research the products with caution.
The dosage recommendations Masquelier worked out for pycnogenol are based on body weight, and this is a basic breakdown:
- minimum dosage – 1.5 mg per Kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight
- maximum dosage – 3 mg per Kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight
In practical terms, most people can use 100 mg to 300 mg/day, depending on why they are taking the supplement.
A person weighing about 150 lbs would need almost exactly 100 mg of extract to see any noticeable benefit, for example.
That same person weighing 150 lbs could take up to 200 mg/day safely without any side effects.
Pycnogenol Side Effects – Need to Know Guide
Speaking of which, maritime pine bark extract is well tolerated by most individuals when recommended dosages are used, but some of the potential side effects include:
You should also be aware that maritime pine bark extracts can boost the immune system somewhat, so they may counteract the effects of medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants).
Pycnogenol also reduces the viscosity of the blood somewhat by preventing blood clotting, so if you are taking blood thinners, or have a condition where you bleed excessively, use maritime pine bark extracts with caution.
Finally, if you are diabetic, please talk to your doctor before using pycnogenol. It can lower blood pressure, and if taken with the wrong medications, could cause your blood pressure to drop too low.
Generally speaking though, maritime pine bark extracts can do a lot of good for human health, and cognitive performance. Especially for people with ADHD, even children.
Now that we know how to use pycnogenol and other extracts for best results, let’s wrap things up, shall we?
Pine Bark Extract – Final Comments
So what can pine bark extract do for human health? Is it a potent nootropic, or just a dud? Can it help ADHD?
Pine bark extract has been shown to be very effective for the treatment of many ailments.
It has the unique ability to strengthen and open up vascular channels at the same time, making it very good for health issues related to blood circulation.
The main mechanisms that make it an effective nootropic are:
- Very Potent Antioxidant
- Increases Cerebral Blood Flow
- Promotes Neurogenesis
These characteristics allow maritime pine bark extract to facilitate cleaner, more efficient brain function. People supplementing with it should experience greater mental energy and endurance.
Pycnogenol is also especially good for:
- Better Working Memory
- Improved Attention
- Enhanced Mental Clarity
All of these advantages make maritime pine bark extract a good compliment to traditional ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall.
Whether you are just looking for a natural nootropic to improve your cognitive capacities, or someone with ADHD that’s low on the spectrum, I’m sure there are maritime pine bark benefits that could work in your favor.
Well, that’s about all I wanted to share with you about pine bark extract. I hope you’ve developed an appreciation for this great natural nootropic.
In my next article, I’ll talk about the many benefits of Noopept, a nootropic with some pretty impressive regenerative properties to offer.
Until next time,
P.S. – If you think of any questions about maritime pine bark extracts later, just post a comment below, and I’ll get right back to you.