Maritime Pine Bark: Review of Nootropic Benefits, Uses, & Side Effects

Updated on February 23, 2024
 by — reviewed by Jason Williams, PhD (Contributor: George Collins / Editor: Yoko Hill)
Overview of the cognitive benefits and uses of Maritime Pine Bark as a natural nootropic.

French Maritime Pine Bark, also known as Pycnogenol, is a natural extract from French Maritime trees that grow along the coast of southwest France.

Maritime Pine Bark supplementation offers a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids, and organic acids, which have been studied for their potential health benefits.

In this article, we will dive into the nootropic benefits, side effects, dosage, and mechanism of action that this powerful natural supplement offers human health and cognition.

What is Maritime Pine Bark?

Maritime pine bark extract, commonly known by the trade name Pycnogenol, is an herbal supplement extracted from the French maritime pine tree (Pinus pinaster).

This type of pine tree native to the Mediterranean region is not just renowned for its majesty but also for the potent antioxidant properties found in its bark. 

The Maritime Pine Bark extract, rich in procyanidins, bioflavonoids, and organic acids, has been the subject of extensive clinical research due to its potential health benefits.

The high antioxidant activity of maritime pine bark extract is what has made it a focal point in herbal medicine. Antioxidants are crucial for protecting the body against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This oxidative stress is associated with numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Maritime Pine Bark acts not only as an antioxidant but also has anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet aggregation, and vasorelaxant effects.

By scavenging free radicals, the antioxidant compounds in pine bark extract may help to maintain healthy blood vessels and support cardiovascular health.

Pros:

  • Improves memory, focus, and mental clarity
  • May reduce inflammation and improve heart health
  • Increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain
  • All-natural with robust evidence from clinical standardized studies

Cons:

  • Not suitable for people on blood-thinning medications
  • More clinical studies are needed to understand the safety of long-term use

Mechanism of Action

Maritime Pine Bark is an evergreen coniferous tree species native to the Mediterranean region. It is commonly known as Pinus pinaster and belongs to the genus Pinus of the family Pinaceae. 

The extract (Pycnogenol) is rich in procyanidin compounds from the maritime pine and has gained recognition due to its diverse clinical pharmacology.(1) Maritime Pine Bark consists of high levels of polyphenols, flavonoids, and proanthocyanidins (OPCs), such as catechin and epicatechin, which are powerful antioxidants.

They act as free radical scavengers, eliminating toxic oxygen molecules from the body’s cells and helping to maintain cell integrity and health. Other components include tannins, phenolic acids (such as gallic acid), and lignin derivatives (such as syringaldehyde), which also have unique antioxidant properties.

The extract of Maritime Pine Bark called Pycnogenol (PYC) contains 65 – 75% proanthocyanidins (procyanidins).(2) This extract has been used for centuries due to numerous health benefits, such as boosting immune system function, anti-inflammatory effects, and improving circulation by widening blood vessels.

Maritime Pine Bark Extract supplementation can also improve cognitive functioning, elevate cerebral blood flow, and potentially prevent neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. 

Additionally, taking pine bark extract additionally shows potential in treating conditions like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).(3)

Maritime Pine Bark Extract has been subject to many rigorous double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies showing evidence of its antioxidant properties and ability to act as an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor.(4)

Additionally, by improving the serum lipid profile of the heart and acting as a potent antioxidant, maritime pine bark may support coronary health and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Additionally, its ability to modulate platelet aggregation plays a critical role in maintaining healthy blood flow.(5)

According to Simpson, Tamra et al., French Maritime Pine Bark Extract works in 5 distinct ways in the body and brain:

  1. Regulates and protects cells against oxidative stress
  2. Acts as a potent free radical scavenger
  3. Protects DNA from damage
  4. Increases the synthesis of antioxidant enzymes
  5. Protects other endogenous antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione) from oxidative damage

Overall, the effect of French maritime pine bark has shown promising applications in cardiovascular, dermatological, and cognitive health management.

Nootropic Benefits of Maritime Pine Bark

Evidence suggests that maritime pine bark could be a valuable addition to a nootropic regimen, potentially aiding various aspects of cognitive health through its antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory effects.

Here is an overview of the key nootropic benefits of using maritime pine bark extract.

1. Antioxidant Action and Cardiovascular Benefits

One of the primary mechanisms through which maritime pine bark acts is its antioxidant activity. It scavenges free radicals, thereby protecting the body’s tissues from oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation and various diseases.

The experimental comparison of Pycnogenol supplementation with other antioxidants has revealed its potent ability to improve the serum lipid profile. By positively affecting lipid levels, maritime pine bark may contribute to the protection against coronary artery disease.(6)

Regular use of Pycnogenol has been associated with the normalization of blood lipids, which in turn reduces the risk of plaque formation in the arteries. A healthier lipid profile can lead to improved cardiovascular outcomes and a lower incidence of coronary events.

Therefore, Pycnogenol may contribute to better heart health.

2. Improved Platelet Aggregation and Blood Pressure

Maritime pine bark may influence platelet aggregation, an essential factor in blood clot formation. By preventing excessive clumping of platelets, Pycnogenol helps maintain a smoother blood flow, which is crucial in preventing conditions such as deep vein thrombosis or heart attacks.(7)

The anti-aggregatory effect of this natural supplement underscores its significance in managing cardiovascular health and reducing high blood pressure.

3. Dermatological Effect of Pine Bark Extract

Using Pycnogenol can also be beneficial for skin health. Its antioxidant properties aid in protecting the skin from damage caused by UV radiation and environmental pollutants.

This protective effect is not only due to its ability to scavenge free radicals but also its role in synthesizing collagen and hyaluronic acid, which are vital components for skin elasticity and hydration. This property makes maritime pine bark a great nootropic for patients with mild skin conditions like eczema, or chronic dry skin.

3. Improvement of Cognitive Performance

Maritime pine bark extract has been used in addressing cognitive deficits following traumatic brain injuries. It acts as an antioxidant, which can mitigate oxidative stress, a factor that contributes to neuronal damage after such injuries. 

Given that a study found that maritime pine bark extract has been used to alleviate symptoms of knee osteoarthritis (such as pain and stiffness),(8) its anti-inflammatory properties may also extend to neuroinflammation, which can impact cognitive function.

Additionally, maritime pine bark supplementation mitigates oxidative stress in postmenopausal women with osteopenia, who may experience cognitive decline as part of the aging process.

Lastly, the antioxidant properties of maritime pine bark could potentially slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases by protecting neurons from oxidative damage.(9)

The nootropic benefits of commercial pine bark extract in humans have been explored in randomized controlled trials, providing a basis for its use as a cognitive enhancer.

4. Improvement of Metabolic Health

While not a direct nootropic benefit, maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial for overall brain health. Some studies suggest that the compounds in maritime pine bark may support metabolic health, which could indirectly benefit cognitive functions.

However, more research is needed to fully understand how metabolic health relates to cognitive performance.

While it may seem indirect, pine bark has been used to address mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. This can improve psychological and cognitive issues associated with the stress of sexual dysfunction.

6. Improvement of Focus and Drive

Regular supplementation with maritime pine bark mitigates oxidative stress, which can lead to improved mental clarity and focus, as oxidative stress is often associated with cognitive fatigue and fog.

Uses of Maritime Pine Bark

Maritime pine bark, derived from the Pinus pinaster tree, has been revered for centuries for its diverse medicinal properties. The bark extract, rich in powerful antioxidants like proanthocyanidins, offers a multitude of health benefits, making it a popular choice in herbal medicine and natural supplements.

Here are some of the most notable uses:

  • Cardiovascular Health: Extracted from Pinus pinaster, maritime pine bark is used for improving blood circulation and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The use of maritime pine bark has been linked to the reduction of inflammation, beneficial for conditions like osteoarthritis where the evaluation of signs and symptoms shows significant improvement. Its anti-inflammatory qualities can also benefit respiratory conditions, potentially improving asthma and reducing the risk of lung infections.
  • Skin Care: Maritime pine bark extract is incorporated in various skin care products due to its antioxidant properties, which help protect the skin from damage by free radicals and improve overall skin health.
  • Cognitive Function: Among the many maritime pine uses, enhancing cognitive function is notable, especially in the elderly, by boosting memory and focus.
  • Diabetic Care: It aids in managing blood glucose levels to reduce hypertension and improve the vascular health of diabetic patients.
  • Allergies and Asthma: The anti-inflammatory effects of maritime pine bark are also employed in reducing allergic reactions and asthma symptoms.
  • Eye Health: Regular supplementation with maritime pine bark extract can support vision by strengthening retinal capillaries.
  • Sports Performance: Athletes may use maritime pine bark to aid in muscle recovery and reduce oxidative stress induced by intense physical activity.
  • Joint Health: The supplement is often used for maintaining joint flexibility and aiding in the management of joint pain.

Where To Buy French Maritime Pine Bark

Although Maritime Pine Bark Extract is available in most online supplement stores, the quality of the product can vary significantly. There’s also a big difference between whether you stack (combine) Maritime Pine Bark Extract with other nootropic ingredients or take it as a standalone nootropic.

That’s why our top pick for the best vendor is Science. company website, where you can source high-quality commercial maritime pine bark within fast-absorbing capsules.

Adults most commonly use Maritime Pine Bark Extract capsule at a dose of 50 mg, taken 2-3 times daily for up to one year.

Studies have used dosages of 300 mg for a single capsule dose and 200 mg daily for 5 days to reach a steady state, 150 mg per day in 3 divided doses, and 40-60 mg over a prolonged period of time.

Maritime Pine Bark Extract’s antioxidant action is observable at a dose of 50 mg/day, and higher doses that have been used up to 300 mg/day are recognized as safe and are taken without severe adverse effects.

Maritime Pine Bark Side Effects and Safety

Pycnogenol’s most commonly reported side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness

Maritime pine bark extract can also increase the risk of bleeding or chances of bruising if used with other medications that have similar effects.

That said, taking Pycnogenol is well-tolerated for up to 12 months without major adverse effects.

Summary

In conclusion, maritime pine bark extract, particularly in the form of Pycnogenol, is a powerful antioxidant supplement with a broad spectrum of potential health benefits.

Maritime Pine Bark is used in herbal medicine is backed by significant clinical research, highlighting its role in promoting cardiovascular health, managing osteoarthritis symptoms, and supporting overall well-being. 

Remember, as with any herbal supplement, proper dosage and consultation with a healthcare provider to ensure you’re safely incorporating Maritime Pine Bark extract products is vital.

FAQs

How long does Maritime Pine Bark take to work?

Maritime pine bark, often used for its antioxidant properties, typically starts to work within 1-2 hours after ingestion. However, for chronic conditions, it might take several weeks to notice significant improvements.

What is the elimination half-life of Maritime Pine Bark?

The specific elimination half-life of maritime pine bark is not well-studied. However, its active compounds, known as proanthocyanidins, have a half-life of about 5 hours in the body.

Should you cycle Maritime Pine Bark?

There’s typically no need to cycle maritime pine bark as it does not lead to tolerance. However, it’s always a good idea to take occasional breaks from any supplement.

Can I stack Maritime Pine Bark with other compounds?

Yes, maritime pine bark can be stacked with other supplements. For instance, it’s often taken with vitamin C for enhanced antioxidant effects. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new stack.

How should I store Maritime Pine Bark?

Maritime pine bark should be stored in a cool, dry place away from light. Keep it in its original packaging until you need to use to maintain its potency.


Sources, Studies, and Scientific Research
  1. Rohdewald, P. “A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology.” International journal of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics vol. 40,4 (2002): 158-68. doi:10.5414/cpp40158 
  2. Schoonees, Anel et al. “Pycnogenol® (extract of French maritime pine bark) for the treatment of chronic disorders.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews ,4 CD008294. 18 Apr. 2012, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008294.pub4 
  3. Tenenbaum, S et al. “An experimental comparison of Pycnogenol and methylphenidate in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” Journal of attention disorders vol. 6,2 (2002): 49-60. doi:10.1177/108705470200600201 
  4. Liu, Ximing et al. “Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients.” Life sciences vol. 74,7 (2004): 855-62. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2003.07.037 
  5. Zhang, Zheng et al. “Effect of Pycnogenol Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Iranian journal of public health vol. 47,6 (2018): 779-787. 
  6. Valls, Rosa-M et al. “Effects of low molecular weight procyanidin rich extract from french maritime pine bark on cardiovascular disease risk factors in stage-1 hypertensive subjects: Randomized, double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled intervention trial.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 23,12 (2016): 1451-1461. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2016.08.007 
  7. Errichi, B M et al. “Prevention of post thrombotic syndrome with Pycnogenol® in a twelve month study.” Panminerva medica vol. 53,3 Suppl 1 (2011): 21-7. 
  8. Heffernan, S M et al. “Mineral rich algae with pine bark improved pain, physical function and analgesic use in mild-knee joint osteoarthritis, compared to Glucosamine: A randomized controlled pilot trial.” Complementary therapies in medicine vol. 50 (2020): 102349. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102349 
  9. Simpson, Tamara et al. “Assessing the Efficacy and Mechanisms of Pycnogenol® on Cognitive Aging From In Vitro Animal and Human Studies.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 10 694. 3 Jul. 2019, doi:10.3389/fphar.2019.00694 
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