Herbal plants and its products have been used since ages to cure several diseases. Talking specifically about hypertension, yes!! Certain herbs doo help in reducing high blood pressure. Pycnogenol is one of a natural plant extract obtained from bark of maritime pine trees. Considering present scenario, leading cause of death in most of the countries is due to heart diseases. WHO states that around 17 million people die every year either due to heart attack or strokes. This statistics have created awareness amongst people and risk associated with heart problems and now they prefer natural methods to cure heart problems in order to improve health and quality of life.
Pycnogenol is an US patented term of extract obtained from bark of tree- Pinus pinaster. Pycnogenol is not a newly discovered compound; it has been used for its therapeutic activity especially for its healing property for centuries, but now its primary use deals to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.
During navigation of French explorer Jacques Cartier’s and its crew to north west china in 1537, his men started dying due to scurvy as they got were trapped in frozen Hudson bay which led to depletion of all their fresh fruits. But lives of other people were saved after drinking tea prepared from pine needles and bark offered by North American Indians. It was later discovered that pine needles and bark consist of vitamin C and bioflavonoids respectively which help them to fight against scurvy.
Pine trees, source of Pycnogenol, are dominant in forests located near coastal region of south west France, in Las Landes de Gascogne. The forest is located at the Bay of Biscay which consists of vineyards of Bordeaux at its north and Pyrenees Mountains at its south. Growth of Pine trees are not affected by seasonal variation and thus provide with high batch to batch consistency.
Health benefits of Pycnogenol
Pycnogenol is most famous for its antioxidant property, but its use is not limited to this. Presence of unique combination of procyanidins, a bioflavonoid, and other organic acids has also extended its use in treatment of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing and menstrual disorders.Since we are dealing with hypertension, we would study mainly on Pycnogenol and high blood pressure are interrelated.
Several studies have been performed to demonstrate effect on Pycnogenol and high blood pressure association. In one study hypertensive patients (systolic blood pressure above 140mmHg) who were not yet been prescribed with any antihypertensive medicine, were given supplements of Pycnogenol and placebo for 8 weeks. The result showed that Pycnogenol treated patient displayed significant reduction in systolic blood pressure but diastolic blood pressure was barely affected and placebo treated patient showed no change.
By taking daily dose Pycnogenol, we can reduce dose requirement of anti-hypertensive drugs to large extent. Clinical study was conducted using 58 patients of age above 57 years, who were given either 100mg Pycnogenol or equal amount of placebo along with nifedipine at a dose of 20mg per day for 12 weeks. After 2 weeks of treatment doses of nifedipine were adjusted of each patient depending upon their blood pressure. The dose of nifedipine was reduced in patient taking Pycnogenol. At the end of study, it was observed that placebo controlled group needed 21mg nifedipine per day, as Pycnogenol administered individual required only 15 mf of nifedipine per day.
Some studies on have also Pycnogenol produced similar effect as ACE inhibitors i.e. blocks angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) which synthesises angiotensin II that causes constriction of blood vessels.
Pycnogenol lowers blood pressure by facilitating release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide (NO) relaxes constricted blood vessels and normalises blood pressure. NO also lowers platelet activity in individuals who have high platelet activity like cigarette smoker. The reduction in platelet activity reduces the chances of formation of blood clots that may restrict the flow of blood. This activity explains relation between Pycnogenol and high blood pressure. Increasing level of NO makes Pycnogenol effective in treatment of erectile dysfunction, kidney problems, asthma, menstrual disorder, allergy, eye infection and endometriosis. Pycnogenol also maintains cholesterol levels; it decreases level of LDL and increases HDL level.
Side effects of Pycnogenol
Pycnogenol as such are not associated with any side effects. But excessive intake might lead to nausea and stomach pain and mouth ulcer. Taking Pycnogenol with or after meals can help to avoid such problems. It may also cause headache and dizziness.
Pycnogenol is available as vitamin, dietary supplements and beverages. These supplements usually consist of 20-100mg of Pycnogenol. Physicians generally recommend using daily dose of 1mg per kg of body weight. 5 It is usually considered safe to have 50-450mg of Pycnogenol daily for six months.
Precautions and warnings
During Pregnancy and breastfeeding- Pycnogenol is considered safe during late stage of pregnancy but as suffiecint information is not available avoid using at least at starting 3 months of preganancy and also during breastfeeding.
Children – no study have been performed to study effect of Pycnogenol in children. Children below 6years should avoid using Pycnogenol.
Not recommended for Patient suffering from “Autoimmune diseases” like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or other condition- this is because strengthens immune system. Therefore it could increase symptoms of auto-immune diseases. Also avoid using Pycnogenol with immunosuppressant drugs like cyclosporine, prednisone, sirolimus etc.
Pycnogenol provides natural way to regulate your blood pressure. Wide variety of Pycnogenol is available in market. It is sold either alone or in combination with antioxidants, skin care supplements or for heart health. These make avaibility of Pycnogenol products with different brand name and formulas. In such conditions select only branded products of Pycnogenol which assures the quality of products. Seek advice from physician regarding dose or follow directions mentioned in leaflets of product.