Among the most recently developed nutraceuticals, we are witnessing the emergence of pycnogenol, a polyphenol that is obtained from the bark of the French maritime pine (Pinus maritima), and represents one of the most powerful antioxidant complexes in nature. It is located below the bark of a particular pine (Pinus pinaster) that grows on the French coast of the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic Ocean, between the Iberian peninsula and France. Pycnogenol is a complex mixture of proanthocyanidins (oligomeric and polymeric), the chemical composition of which highlights the presence of various polyphenols, in particular bioflavonoids such as procyanidins, and phenolic acids, such as caffeic and ferulic, which act in synergistic way, mutually enhancing its own antioxidant activity.
Over the past few years, many studies have been conducted on pycnogenol, in particular on the patent of Horphag Research Ltd, Pycnogenol®, which is our new supplement. This research revealed to us that it does not only have a very powerful antioxidant activity, but also shows anti-inflammatory properties, as well as very interesting anticoagulant and antithrombotic actions.
Its antioxidant action is the result of a complex "multifactorial" mechanism of action, enhanced by its remarkable ability to inhibit the xanthine-oxidase enzyme, which promotes the formation of the "superoxide" anion, non-competitively. The oligomeric proanthocyanidins contained in this extraordinary blend of bioactive elements have an antioxidant capacity that has proven to be 30 times more effective than vitamin E and even 20 times higher than that of Vitamin C, while these two "classic" antioxidant vitamins have proved to be very effective both in the induction phase and in the lipid peroxidation propagation phase. The anti-enzymatic action has been tested in vitro on different enzymes, including elastase, collagenase, hyaluronidase, beta-glucuronidase (involved in the replacement of the main components of the extravascular matrix: elastin, collagen, hyaluronic acid) and xanthine oxidase (involved in the formation of superoxide anion). Furthermore it has been shown that alpha-1-antitrypsin, inhibitor of proteolytic enzymes, is in turn inhibited by compounds containing active oxygen, thus leaving the green light to the enzymatic systems controlled by it, with the result of accelerating the destruction of the extracellular matrix.
Proanthocyanidins consequently block this complex process of "damage" in a multifactorial manner, that is, a "combined" action is created that counteracts the formation of compounds containing active oxygen, limiting the overall enzymatic activity, with the result that this combined action is manifested by a remarkable strengthening of the capillary walls, particularly useful in peripheral venous insufficiency, diabetic and non-diabetic retinopathies, but especially in capillary fragility, where oligomeric proanthocyanidins have the ability to strengthen vascular walls through a specific bond with the elastic collagen and elastin fibres. As we have seen, they play an inhibiting action against the important enzymes of the capillary endothelium and of the surrounding matrix combined with the protection against damage caused by free radicals.
So the properties that have interested the world of scientific research are therefore mainly those of platelet and capillarotropic anti-aggregation, where results have been decidedly noteworthy. Its presence, as we have seen, preserves the collagen of the blood capillaries from the damaging action of the elastase enzyme, so it is useful for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases (i.e. atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, etc.), and in peripheral circulation disorders, such as venous insufficiency with its manifestations and discomforts like tired and heavy legs, swelling sensation, troublesome oedema, and capillary fragility.
In these terms people who suffer from vascular problems of this type are very common, such as swollen legs and fragility of capillaries that break easily, but these symptoms can also extend to cellulite, water retention, covering problems related to cholesterol imbalances and with issues related to platelet values. Even without entering the purely pathological field, disturbances involving venous insufficiency and microcirculation appear easily in people who must remain static, sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, or in sedentary people who do not exercise regularly. Pycnogenol, even in these cases, has proved to be of great help because it stimulates the normal circulation by increasing the vasodilation of the blood vessels and thus improving the effectiveness of blood flow and lightening the load on the heart. Another benefit is that of strengthening the capillary walls, improving the issues related to swelling, oedema and "microbleeds". Effects demonstrated by intense scientific research*.
*One of these research projects includes a very interesting study of 211 passengers on a long-distance flight (7-12 hours), which showed how Pycnogenol® helps to prevent thrombosis. The passengers had taken two 100 mg capsules of pycnogenol two or three hours before departure, and two more capsules six hours after take-off. Another capsule was taken the day after arrival at the destination. While in the control group, which was given a placebo, there were five cases of thrombosis, no case of thrombosis was found during the flight among the passengers who had taken Pycnogenol®. Pycnogenol® is a natural support for blood vessels and capillaries even against damage caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight and in summer it can be used as a second line of defence, immediately after sun protection creams, against rashes, photosensitivity and premature ageing of the skin. The anti-oxidant, antithrombotic action is also combined with the ability of Pycnogenol® to bind to proteins such as collagen and elastin, protecting them from degradation and from various harmful enzymes, helping to restore the skin's original elasticity, essential for smooth and young skin, therefore also allowing us to class it as an "anti-aging" nutraceutical.
Regarding this ("anti-ageing") definition, several studies show that Pycnogenol® is able to favour the mobility and flexibility of joints and to reduce pain in a natural way. Furthermore, it has been shown that supplementing the diet with Pycnogenol® increases the flexibility of the joints, proving to lower the markers of joint inflammation. Indeed, it has been shown that the consumption of Pycnogenol® limits the activation of the pro-inflammatory factor NF-kB by 15.8%. This factor is in charge of the mobilisation of all proinflammatory molecules, which play a destructive role in arthritis. Consequently, consumers of Pycnogenol® generate less matrix enzymes than metalloproteinases (MMPs), which in osteoarthritis cause the degeneration of collagen contained in cartilage. It is also shown that in humans the consumption of Pycnogenol® naturally inhibits the production of COX-2 enzymes during inflammation, helping to significantly reduce joint pain.
Among the various fields of action in which the potential of this element emerges, research shows that Pycnogenol® can play an important role in physical activity as it has been shown to be able to stimulate the production of nitric acid (NO), improving blood microcirculation and blood flow to the muscles. In this way it helps the body to reach maximum muscular performance and shorten recovery times after exercise, with a possible reduction in muscle pain both in athletes and in healthy subjects who exercise.
Another potential use of Pycnogenol® is as an anti-allergic agent. It is commonly known that one in three people suffers from allergies; an allergy is a reaction of the body's immune system to substances that it considers "dangerous". The allergens that, as occurs in hay fever, cause negative reactions in the body, generally consist of pollen, dust, mites and animal hair and when an allergic person comes into contact with one of these allergens, the mast cells release a tissue hormone called histamine. Histamine in turn causes sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, wheezing, burning and bronchial swelling. How does Pycnogenol® work in this case? According to the conducted studies, Pycnogenol® inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells stimulated by an irritant. Because this powerful antioxidant also has anti-inflammatory properties, it inhibits the production of proinflammatory mediators helping to mitigate swelling, make breathing easier and reduce the effects derived from histamine release.
Specifically, our MARITIME PINE supplement contains the Pycnogenol® patent (Horphag Research Ltd. is the exclusive worldwide distributor) which is extracted from the bark of mono-species pines that grow exclusively in the forest of Landes de Gascogne, in southwestern France. It is a pristine and natural forest where pesticides or herbicides are not used. The components of Pycnogenol® are of the highest quality because the bark from which they are extracted is not subject to seasonal variations and is therefore an ideal botanical raw material. The Pycnogenol® extraction process is patented and meets the highest quality standards. The production plant is GMP compliant (1) and the production process does not involve the use of toxic solvents.
Pycnogenol® is a naturally programmed combination with constant proportions of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and organic acids, and has extraordinary natural properties. Pycnogenol® is a unique blend of active ingredients and has four fundamental characteristics - it is a powerful antioxidant, acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, stimulates the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid and finally promotes the production of endothelial nitric oxide, which helps to dilate the blood vessels. Pycnogenol® is a patented extract based on scientific demonstrations and protected by several international patents. The ingredient is Kosher certified, Halal certified and has a GRAS(2) self-affirmed determination for use in functional foods and beverages, and has been extensively studied over the last 40 years and has more than 420 published and peer-reviewed studies that guarantee safety and efficacy of the ingredient. Today, Pycnogenol® is available in over 1000 food supplements, multi-vitamins and health products worldwide, for which the patent holder, Horphag Research, has received several awards, including the Frost & Sullivan Excellence in Research Award, Nutraceutical Business & Technology Safety & Quality Award, SupplySide Ovest Scientific Excellence Award and The American Botanical Council's Tyler Research Award.