Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) Review

maritime pine bark extract pycnogenol review nootropic

Pycnogenol is a patented form of French Maritime Pine Bark Extract. As a nootropic, Pine Bark Extract will boost your brain blood flow, enhance mental clarity, and improve focus. Due to its powerful benefits on the brain, Pine Bark Extract is also used as a natural supplement for ADHD and ADD.

The Maritime Pine Tree lives in harsh and windswept areas. Over the thousands of years, it has adapted to its conditions by developing a chain of antioxidants. Which are beneficial to our health.

The most powerful antioxidants in Maritime Pine’s Bark are called proanthocyanidins. These are shown to protect your brain from oxidative stress, DNA damage, glycation, and inflammation.

Pine Bark Extract will help you with:

  • Cerebral blood flow – By raising your nitric oxide blood levels, Pine Bark Extract dilates your capillaries and helps to repair the lining of your blood vessels. This results in increased mental clarity.
  • Brain chemicals – Pine Bark Extract helps your brain to retain more dopamine and norepinephrine, making it a powerful aid against the symptoms of ADD; including hyperactivity and lack of attention. (2)
  • Cognitive health – Pine Bark Extract prevents the build up of protein plaque in your brain. As such, it doesn’t only boost your cognition directly but also has the potential to protect long-term brain health. (3)

While Pine Bark Extract has many uses alongside being a nootropic (such as, enhancing male erections and muscle pumps), I’ll mainly focus on its brain benefits in this article.

A Glance at Pine Bark Extract

Pine Bark Extract is a potent nootropic supplement sourced from the bark of the Mediterranean maritime pine tree – Pinus Pinaster.

nootropics benefits of maritime pine tree by the mediterranean sea

[alert type=”info” icon-size=”normal”] You’ll find different types of Pine Bark Extract on the market. Pycnogenol is one of the more known patented forms of Pine Bark Extract. It is standardized to have 65-75% procyanidins, which are compounds responsible for its health benefits.[/alert]

Just assume I’m talking about the same supplement whenever I refer to either Pycnogenol or Pine Bark Extract.

Why Pine Bark Extract is Important For Your Brain

Your brain is susceptible to damage and age-accelerating oxidative stress. As a result, it’s critical that you protect it in any way you can. This will ensure that you maintain healthy cognition as you age.

Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) specializes in protecting the brain from damage. Specifically, it helps against:

  • Inflammation – Pycnogenol blocks certain proinflammatory gene expressions. Such as those that are linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. (5)
  • DNA Damage – Pycnogenol reduces oxidative stress which can damage your DNA and speed up the aging process. (4)
  • Glycation – Glycation is a process where sugar binds to protein and fat. This creates sticky molecules that can plaque your capillaries in the brain – leading to inflammation and oxidation. Pycnogenol lowers blood sugar levels which effectively prevents glycation. (6)
  • Oxdative stress – Oxidative stress is caused by unstable molecules in your body called free radicals. Free radicals miss one electron, which is what makes them unstable. The antioxidants in Pine Bark Extract donate electrons to these free radicals, which cancels their damage. In addition, Pine Bark Extract also boosts your native antioxidant defenses in the brain.
  • Membrane damage – When your brain cell’s membrane gets damaged, your cell integrity gets compromised with it. This can not only lead to brain cell death, but can also prevent proper communication between your neurons. Pycnogenol protects your cell membranes from oxidative damage, supporting their integrity and function. (7)

As I’ve mentioned early on, Pine Bark Extract will also boost your cerebral blood flow. By dilating your blood vessels, it helps to provide the oxygen and vital nutrients to your energy-demanding brain cells.

The active antioxidants in Pine Bark Extract are called proanthocyanidins. And they easily pass through your blood-brain barrier where they can exert their wide range of benefits.

Who is This Supplement For?

Is Maritime Pine Bark Extract for you? Should you supplement with it?

Maritime Pine Bark Extract boosts both short-term and long-term brain health.

As such, it’s not just for older people, but it can also benefit younger adults suffering from ADD and lack of focus.

Pine Bark Extract is also for anyone looking to support their brain in a natural and safe way.

Here’s the thing:

Your mental work requires plenty of energy. But, the byproduct of your brain’s energy metabolism is – ironically – neuron-damaging free radicals.

[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]

Maritime Pine Bark Extract counters this brain performance paradox with its proanthocyanidins. These antioxidants work by:

  1. Passing your blood-brain barrier to disarm free radicals that are found in high numbers in the brain.
  2. Encouraging healthy cerebral circulation, which helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients in your brain.
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With these two, and a number of other bioactivities, Pine Bark Extract will enhance your focus, attention, and memory while regulating key risk factors that may lead to cognitive decline.

How Pine Bark Extract Can Benefit You

Pine Bark Extract kicks your brain into high gear in two main ways:

  1. Enhances brain circulation. The active components of Pine Barak Extract, including bioflavonoids taxifolin and catechin, increase blood flow to your brain.

They achieve this by enhancing the release of Nitric Oxide (NO) which is a natural vasodilator – making your blood vessels wider and ‘less stiff’.

  1. Boosts cognition. Many users of Pine Bark Extract report significant benefits on their focus, mood, memory, and decision making after introducting this supplement to their regimen.

Science supports these anecdotal findings, showing that Pine Bark Extract can increase your attention span by 13%. That’s quite a lot considering that the average person’s attention span has shortened from 12 seconds to 8! (1)

Quick Pine Bark Extract Facts

  • Helps protect neurons from toxic free radicals that accelerate aging
  • Boosts nitric oxide release to loosen blood vessels and encourage healthy cerebral circulation
  • Delivers flavonoids that promote brain regeneration and plasticity

Nootropic Benefits

  • Mainly supports focus, concentration, mood, and mental processing
  • Enhances memory and cognitive clarity throughout life

How Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) Works in Your Brain

Pycnogenol affects a number of brain pathways that regulate your mood, memory, and cognitive health. These include:

Brain Regeneration

Bioflavonoids such as those in Pine Bark Extract might promote nerve growth in the hippocampus – an area of the brain that governs your cognitive processes.

Alongside enhancing brain plasticity, flavonoids are also thought to:

  1. Indirectly promote Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that stimulates neurogenesis, aka, the birth of new brain cells
  2. Increase the number and strength of nerve connections
  3. Help protect existing brain molecular structure (8)

Perhaps you can already guess what practical benefits this will give you.

If current studies are anything to go by, we see that flavonoids such as those in Pine Bark Extract have the potential to improve learning, memory, and overall cognition, as well as protect your brain from mental decline. (9)

Brain Protection

Maritime Pine is a tree that’s been around for thousands of years. So as you can imagine, it has had a lot of time to adapt to its windswept and harsh environment by developing a potent antioxidant network. This includes proanthocyanidins, a class of flavonoids also called tannins or oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPC).

These are the same compounds you’ll find in cocoa, red wine, and cranberries.

  • However, Maritime Pine Bark OPCs might have the strongest antioxidant activity. Experts estimate it’s 20X greater than the antioxidant activity of vitamin E and 50X more potent than vitamin C. (10, 11, 12)

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Pine Bark Extract is associated with anti-aging uses, including in your brain.

Now, here’s what is most impressive about these flavonoids in Pine Bark Extract. They easily pass your blood-brain barrier, allowing their antioxidant activity to enter the brain and protect from inflammation and damage to our neurons.

Brain Energy

Pycnogenol might indirectly boost your mental energy by enhancing cerebral blood flow. Thus, enhancing the delivery of glucose and oxygen to your brain cells mitochondria. Which are like power plants that produce your body’s energy.

Some early research suggests that bioflavonoids such as those in Maritime Pine Bark Extract might directly boost your mitochondria’s oxygen uptake. Thereby enhancing mitochondrial function. (13)

Brain Circulation

Pine Bark Extract’s antioxidants will naturally gravitate towards collagen. They bind with, migrate to, and protect your collagen – not only in your skin but also your blood vessel walls.

These antioxidants help stimulate the inner lining of your blood vessels to release nitric oxide (NO). This compound then signals to your blood vessels to widen and relax.

[alert type=”info” icon-size=”normal”]Thanks to their nitric oxide bioactivity, proanthocyanidins like those in Pine Bark Extract are thought to support blood flow throughout your body – and your brain. (14, 15)[/alert]

But that’s not where the benefits end. Polyphenols in Maritime Pine Bark also appear to inhibit plaque build-up within your blood vessels. Making your blood more slippery and free-flowing. (16, 17)

The result of these effects? Your brain gets a sustained delivery of key nutrients and oxygen for energized mental performance, neurogenesis, and overall cognitive health.

Pine Bark Extract Studies

Let’s put the theory aside for a moment. And look how Pine Bark Extract does in clinical studies.

The good news is, there are plenty of human studies in regards to Pine Bark Extract. This gives us a pretty concrete picture of what benefits you can expect from this natural nootropic.

Study #1: Pycnogenol Enhances Working Memory

In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, Australian researchers recruited 101 patients between 60-85 years old. They received 150mg of Pycnogenol (a patented form of Pine Bark Extract) for 3 months.

These people then went through a series of mental tests. They assesed everything from episodic memory, working memory, to psychomotor performance.

The study showed that people who took Pycnogenol developed better working memory compared to the control group. (18)


[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]Key Point: Statistical evidence shows that Pycnogenol helps to improve working memory in adults.[/alert]

Study #2: Pycnogenol Boosts Cognition 

A 12-week long study from Italy recruited 60 professionals between the ages of 35-55. One half of the group took 150mg of Pycnogenol daily. The other part of the group took a placebo.

After 12 weeks, the Pycnogenol group had more significant improvements than the placebos. The Pycnogenol group had improved spatial memory retention, enhanced alertness, and reduced anxiety. The most significant finding was that the free radicals in the Pycnogenol group were reduced by 30.4%.

The researchers concluded that Pycnogenol improves cognition and mental performance. (19)

Now, a similar study in Italy tested Pycnogenol’s brain benefits on students.

53 students aged 18-27 years took Pycnogenol for 2 months. Another group took a placebo as usual. The results showed that students show took the nootropic had a better memory, mood, sustained attention, and executive function. (20)


[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]Key Point: Pycnogenol significantly reduces free radicals, improves cognitive function, and supports overall mental performance.[/alert]

Study #3: Pine Bark Extract as a Natural Supplement For ADHD 

On PubMed, you’ll see a number of studies showing the benefits of Pycnogenol for individuals with ADHD.

One reputable study in the Slovak Republic gave ADHD children either Pycnogenol or a placebo for 30 days. Those who took Pycnogenol expelled less dopamine and norepinephrine through their urine – retaining more of these critical neurotransmitters. This resulted in them being calmer and less hyperactive. Their oxidative stress levels also went down. (21)

Another Slovakian study took 61 ADHD children and gave them 1mg per kg of Pycnogenol for one month. The trial was set up to be randomized and placebo-controlled. The researchers examined the ADHD children at the beginning of the trial, and at the end.

Results showed that the Pycnogenol group saw a significant reduction in their hyperactivity. Their attention, concentration, and visual and motor skills also improved. (22)


[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]Key Point: Pine Bark Extract is a natural supplement to relieve ADHD symptoms – especially in children.[/alert]

What Does Maritime Pine Bark Extract Feel Like?

Pine Bark Extract and Pycnogenol contain some of nature’s most potent antioxidants.

Many people who use Pycnogenol report an improved attitude. Their energy levels also increase from using this supplement.

Chances are you won’t feel the effects of Pine Bark Extract right away. They build up over time. But some people might feel a boost in energy in as little as 6 hours within taking it.

Supplementing with Pine Bark Extract should help you think clearer and faster. You might become more productive and focused. People report that it helps them get things done.

Over the long term, you might realize that you feel better, and have more stamina and vitality.

Older users say that Pine Bark Extract helps them:

  • Hair skin and nail health
  • Reduce spider veins and age sports
  • Reduce bruising
  • Stabilize blood sugar levels after 2-3 months of daily supplementation
  • Clear up sinuses
  • Reduce joint pain
  • Feel calmer
  • Improve memory and thinking

Overall, Pine Bark Extract is a supplement you won’t necessarily ‘feel’ working. At least not immediately. The effects are subtle as they very gradually build up over time. That’s why we often see longer studies yielding more impressive results.

How to Get the Most Out of Pine Bark Extract?

When looking to get Pine Bark Extra supplements, you can buy them individually.

Or you can take them as a part of a professional pre-formulated stack like Mind Lab Pro, which uses a premium form of Pine Bark Extract that’s standardized to have 95% proanthocyanidins.

[alert type=”info” icon-size=”normal”]The reason I’m mentioning Mind Lab Pro is that it combines all of my favorite nootropics in one formula. This includes 11 brain-optimizing ingredients with strong research backing their benefits. This saves me time and money from having to buy and stack all of these ingredients separately. Which can be a real headache.[/alert]

You can read my full Mind Lab Pro review here.

The third option I recommend is the Performance Lab Mind formula. It’s an ultramodern nootropic that also uses a premium form of Pine Bark Extract, along with a number of other ingredients that support your cognition, burnout resistance and mental well being.

Read my full Performance Lab Mind review to find out more.

Dosage

For a Pine Bark Extract with 95% proanthocyanidins, the recommended dose is 100mg up to 3 times per day.

Or, if you want to get super precise, it should be 1.4mg per pound of your body weight. This means that if you’re 200lbs, your daily dose should be around 280mg.

If you’re doing higher doses, make sure to divide them equally in the morning, at noon, and the last dose at mid-afternoon. You may want to avoid taking it too close to bedtime as it can have an energizing effect, even though it’s not a stimulant.

As Pine Bark Extract is water-soluble, you don’t have to take it with food.

Any Side Effects?

When taken in the recommended doses of 50-450mg per day, Pine Bark Extract and Pycnogenol are safe and typically free of side effects. In very rare cases, side effects like mouth ulcers, stomach problems, and dizziness can occur.

If you have a medical condition, then you should talk to your doctor before seeking any medical or supplementation advice on the internet. 

In the case of Pine Bark Extract, it can boost your immune system. So if you have an autoimmune condition, Pycnogenol can make it worse. It can also drop blood sugar too low in diabetics and may slow blood clotting.

Types of Pine Bark Extract Available

The key components in Pine Bark Extract are proanthocyanidins. Pycnogenol is standardized to have between 65-75% of these compounds. But regular Pine Bark Extract is standardized to have 95% proanthocyanidins.

If buying individual Pine Bark Extract, you can get it in powder, capsule or tablet form. Just make sure to check the label to ensure it has the optimal concentration of proanthocyanidins.

You’ll sometimes see Pine Bark Extract in higher quality nootropic formulas. The one example I go back to is Mind Lab Pro, which is currently the most effective professional nootropic available on the market.

Alongside Pine Bark Extract, Mind Lab Pro contains 11 highly researched nootropics for long-range brain health and performance. It improves stress resistance, reduces anxiety, supports healthy brain waves, enhances cognitive energy, and promotes brain power and neural regeneration.

Another excellent nootropic formula you may want to look into is Performance Lab Mind. It also includes a premium quality Pine Bark Extract for maximum benefits. And much like Mind Lab Pro, it’s delivered in vegan and eco-friendly pullulan capsules. Which are very expensive to manufacture due to their impressive quality.

Anything Else to Consider?

Needless to say, your body can’t make compounds in Pine Bark Extract on its own. If you want to reap its benefits, you need to take it as a supplement.

Pine Bark Extract passes your blood-brain barrier without a problem. It’s active in the body within an hour of taking it. Some users will feel the effects within 6 hours of supplementing Pine Bark Extract. Others might need to wait from a couple of days to a few weeks as the effects slowly build up.

Still not sure if Pine Bark Extract is for you? Ask yourself these questions. Do you:

  • Have brain fog?
  • Suffer from memory loss?
  • Experience a lack of focus and attention?
  • Ever have problems with hyperactivity?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Pine Bark Extract could very well help you. Human studies show us that this natural nootropic offers some potent benefits for those suffering from ADHD and impulsiveness. It boosts focus, improves memory, and supports overall cognitive health.

This is mainly due to Pine Bark Extract’s positive effects on blood flow, and neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which are critical for success in today’s fast-paced world.

FAQ’s

Is Pine Bark Extract the Same as Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol is the trademarked name for Maritime Pine Bark Extract. So while they differ in their proanthocyanidin content, you could say that Pine Bark Extract and Pycnogenol are the same.

Can Pine Bark Extract Cause Insomnia?

According to studies, Pine Bark Extract shouldn’t cause insomnia. If anything, it has been shown to have the opposite effect – improving sleep quality. If you’re concerned, simply avoid taking it close to bedtime.

Conclusion on Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) Review

Pine Bark Extract and Pycnogenol are packed full of Oligomeric proanthocyanidins. Or simply OPCs.

These compounds have been extensively studied ever since the 1940s. So we have a pretty good picture of what they can do to our body and brain.

  • If you want to erase brain fog, improve focus, and enhance your overall cognition, then you may find Pine Bark Extract to be of huge help.

It’s not a miracle ingredient that will work immediately. Instead it slowly builds up in your system. If you take it consistently, you’ll notice your memory and thinking clarity improve. Not only that, people with ADD often report that it boosts their attention and reduces impulsivity.

You can take Pine Bark Extract as an individual supplement, or if you’re like me. You’ll take it as a part of a pre-formulated nootropic formula that combines a number of proven ingredients for long-term brain health and performance.

References

References
  1. Pycnogenol® improves cognitive function, attention, mental performance and specific professional skills in healthy professionals aged 35-55. (source)
  2. Urinary catecholamines in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): modulation by a polyphenolic extract from pine bark (pycnogenol). (source)
  3. Ferritin oxidation and proteasomal degradation: protection by antioxidants. (source)
  4. Effect of polyphenolic extract, Pycnogenol, on the level of 8-oxoguanine in children suffering from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. (source)
  5. Inhibition of NF-κB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). (source)
  6. Antidiabetic effect of Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract in patients with diabetes type II. (source)
  7. The effect of Pycnogenol on the erythrocyte membrane fluidity. (source)
  8. The neuroprotective potential of flavonoids: a multiplicity of effects. (source)
  9. Flavonoids and cognition: The molecular mechanisms underlying their behavioural effects. (source)
  10. Free radicals and grape seed proanthocyanidin extract: importance in human health and disease prevention. (source)
  11. Electron paramagnetic resonance studies of radical species of proanthocyanidins and gallate esters. (source)
  12. Polyphenolics in grape seeds-biochemistry and functionality. (source)
  13. Acute administration of grape seed proanthocyanidin extract modulates energetic metabolism in skeletal muscle and BAT mitochondria. (source)
  14. Modulation of endothelial nitric oxide by plant-derived products. (source)
  15. Activation of Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase by ProanthocyanidinRich Fraction From Croton celtidifolius (Euphorbiaceae): Involvement of Extracellular Calcium Influx in Rat Thoracic Aorta. (source)
  16. Vascular effects of wine polyphenols. (source)
  17. Grape Seed Proanthocyanidin Extracts Enhance Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Expression through 5′-AMP Activated Protein Kinase/ Surtuin 1–Krüpple Like Factor 2 Pathway and Modulate Blood Pressure in Ouabain Induced Hypertensive Rats. (source)
  18. An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population. (source)
  19. Pycnogenol® improves cognitive function, attention, mental performance and specific professional skills in healthy professionals aged 35-55. (source)
  20. Pycnogenol® supplementation improves cognitive function, attention and mental performance in students. (source)
  21. Urinary catecholamines in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): modulation by a polyphenolic extract from pine bark (pycnogenol). (source)
  22. Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol. (source)
About Valentino M. 113 Articles
Valentino is a qualified nutritionist, nootropic reviewer, and meditation coach. He draws upon years of research, testing, and personal experience within the holistic lifestyle - to deliver information based on the latest studies to unclutter the confusing world of nutrition. More...

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