Pycnogenol is a patented extract of maritime pine bark. Like grape seed extract, pine bark belongs to a class of nutrients in the flavonoid family called proanthocyanidins. These compounds have antioxidant activity and play a role strengthening connective tissues, including those that support blood vessels. For this reason, pycnogenol has been found helpful in treating both “heavy legs” and diabetes-related eye problems.
At the University di Firenze in Italy, 40 patients with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), also known as “heavy legs,” were involved in a double-blind study. For two months, they were given 100 mg of pycnogenol three times daily or a placebo. The results showed that the treatment reduced edema (swelling) as well as heaviness and pain in legs at both the one and two month marks. By the end, edema disappeared completely in 60% of those treated with pycnogenol, and 33% of those reported that their leg heaviness had disappeared.
At another medical facility, researchers studied the effects of pycnogenol on diabetes-related eye problems caused by poor vascular health in the retina. Twenty patients were treated with either a placebo or 50 mg of pycnogenol three times a day for three months. This study’s results were also positive: while the placebo group showed deterioration of retinal function, the pycnogenol group showed no deterioration and actually gained some visual acuity! The researchers believe these positive benefits are due to pycnogenol’s antioxidant properties. They also think that pycnogenol may bind to blood vessel wall proteins and complex sugars to produce a “sealing” effect, leading to less vein leakage.
Sources: Fitoterapia 2000 Jun;71(3):236-44; Phytother Res 2001 May;15(3):219-23