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Use of the antioxidant supplement Pycnogenol® to treat a variety of chronic disorders

Schoonees A, Visser J, Musekiwa A, Volmink J
Published Online: 
14 November 2012

Pycnogenol® is a herbal dietary supplement extracted from French maritime pine bark whose main ingredient is procyanidin. Procyanidin is a powerful antioxidant also found in food such as grapes, berries, pomegranates, red wine and various nuts. Supplements containing procyanidin are widely marketed worldwide for the promotion of health, and for the prevention and treatment of chronic disorders. The rationale for this is that antioxidants neutralise reactive oxygen species (ROS; frequently referred to as "free radicals") which, apart from performing important bodily functions, can cause damage to cells and tissues if present in excessive amounts. Available supplements vary in the source and quantity of procyanidin, as well as in number and type of other ingredients they contain. We chose to focus on Pycnogenol® as this supplement is a standardised product, many trials have been conducted, and it is extensively marketed internationally. Our review aimed to assess the efficacy and safety of Pycnogenol® as a treatment for chronic disorders. We identified 15 eligible randomised controlled trials with a total of 791 participants which addressed seven different chronic conditions: asthma (two studies); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (one study), chronic venous insufficiency (two studies), diabetes (four studies), erectile dysfunction (one study), hypertension (two studies) and osteoarthritis (three studies). Due to small sample size, limited number of trials per condition, variation in outcomes evaluated and outcome measures used, as well as the risk of bias in the included studies, no definite conclusions regarding the efficacy and safety of Pycnogenol® are possible.

This record should be cited as: 
Schoonees A, Visser J, Musekiwa A, Volmink J. Pycnogenol® (extract of French maritime pine bark) for the treatment of chronic disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD008294. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008294.pub4
Assessed as up to date: 
6 December 2011