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Pine Bark Extract_ A Naturally Potent Antioxidant|pine trees in forest|fatigued woman in front of laptop and coffee|woman thinking with pen and paper|fatigued-man-with-glasses

Thinking

Pine Bark Extract: A Naturally Potent Antioxidant

Pine bark extract is a natural nootropic used to enhance memory, focus , and blood flow to the brain due to its strong antioxidant properties.

Pine bark extract is often sold under the brand name Pycnogenol, which is traditionally an extract from Pinus pinaster , the French maritime pine tree. This formula is composed of 65-75% Procyanidin, a compound similar to the catechins found in green tea, grape seeds, and cocoa. 1

There have been several human studies conducted on Pycnogenol. While these studies have found promising results, further studies are needed to replicate these results by those without a vested interest in its efficacy.

History of Pine Bark Extract


Native Americans have long used the bark of pine trees for its powerful health benefit. Back in 1534, explorers on the St. Lawrence River were given a tea by the Native Americans made from the needles and bark of the local pine trees, which helped them to recover from scurvy. 2

pine trees in forest

In the 1900s, researcher Jacques Masqulier set out to discover what about pine bark helped these sailors survive. In 1948, he isolated oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) from peanut skins, and three years later, from pine bark. 3

Today, OPCs are also known by many other names, including procyanidins. The trademarked pine bark extract Pycnogenol contains 65-75% procyanidins, which are thought to be the compounds responsible for their health benefits.

Pine bark extract sold as Pycnogenol is traditionally made from the bark of the French pine tree Pinus pinaster, but is also sometimes made from other pine trees. 4 While the active compounds in these extracts are similar, they can differ from one another, and the health benefits may vary accordingly. For example, memory benefits appear to be particularly strong for pine bark extracts from the bark of the Pinus radiata tree. 5

Researchers continue to elucidate the far-reaching benefits of this powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. Away from research labs, health-conscious neurohackers have started to use pine bark extract as a natural nootropic to enhance cognitive abilities, brain health, and mood.

Chemical Properties


Powerful Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory


Many of pine bark extract’s benefits are thanks to its action as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, as well as its chelation abilities. 6 Reactive oxygen species (ROS), heavy metals, and inflammation can damage cells throughout our bodies, including our neurons or brain cells.

ROS are created through normal cellular metabolism but occur at higher levels under certain conditions, including exposure to environmental pollutants, stress, illness, and more. These molecules damage cells and can lead to chronic inflammation.

Through fighting free radicals, enhancing endogenous antioxidant enzymes, and boosting the efficacy of other antioxidants in the body (namely vitamin C and vitamin E), pine bark extract reduces oxidative damage and the related chronic inflammatory response. 7

woman thinking with pen and paper Chelating Agent


Exposure to heavy metals is linked to the development of impaired memory, thinking , learning, and visuospatial skills. 8 When these heavy metals build up in the tissues of our brains, we can experience cognitive impairment. Chelators are compounds that bind heavy metals and help to remove them from our bodies, yielding benefits for brain health and function. 9

By suppressing damage from free radicals and heavy metals, pine bark extract has been found to increase brain cell membrane fluidity, possibly protecting from brain injuries and cognitive impairment.

Uses and Benefits


Boosts Cerebral Blood Flow


Cerebral blood flow delivers much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the brain, allowing the cells to function properly. Pine bark extract has been found to increase blood flow to the brain by increasing nitric oxide levels, which dilate blood vessels, enhancing the amount of blood that reaches the brain. 10

Anti-aging


As we age, accumulating damage to our brain cells through free radicals can lead to hampered cognitive function and overall health. 11 As a strong antioxidant, pine bark extract has been found to protect our DNA , a benefit that enhances longevity and provides anti-aging benefits. 12

In a study on Pycnogenol in the elderly population, 101 patients were split into either 150 mg/day of Pycnogenol or placebo. Following 1, 2, and 3 months of treatment, both memory and lipid peroxidation products (used to measure antioxidant activity) were found to differ between the treatment and control groups. This showed that this nootropic may help to slow down signs of aging thanks to its antioxidant benefits. 13

Attention, Focus, and Memory


Human studies have found benefits of Pycnogenol on attention in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These benefits are associated with a reduction in oxidative damage to DNA and normalized antioxidant levels. 14

Another study on healthy adult students found that 8 weeks of supplementation with Pycnogenol led to improvements in sustained attention, a benefit that was not found in those given the placebo. 15 This same study found benefits in memory and executive function.

Similar results were found in a 12-week study of healthy professionals age 35-55. Participants followed a specific health plan that controlled diet, exercise, alcohol consumption and lifestyle patterns. Groups that took 150 mg/day of Pycnogenol combined with the health plan showed greater improvements in memory and alertness versus those on the health plan alone. 16

These studies suggest that concentration and attention span may be enhanced both in those that have trouble concentrating and their healthy peers. Pycnogenol also offers additional benefits in memory and executive function.

fatigued-man-with-glasses Fatigue and Brain Fog


“Brain fog” is a term that appears to encompass many different conditions or difficulties. Those who experience brain fog often struggle with mild cognitive impairment, fatigue, and have trouble with memory retrieval and learning new things.

Research suggests that pine bark extract may help to relieve symptoms of mild cognitive impairment in humans when taken at 150 mg/day for 8 weeks. 17 Improvements in sleep have been found in preclinical studies, women with menopause, student-athletes with concussions and related sleep difficulties. 18, 19 Additionally, in student-athletes with concussions, improvements in mental fatigue were also found. 20

These studies suggest that pine bark extract may help to relieve mild memory and learning difficulties while reducing fatigue through boosting sleep quality, which may help some of those suffering from brain fog.

Safety and Precautions


Pine bark extract is considered safe and non-toxic for human use. Some clinical studies have found minor side effects, including headaches, nausea , and dizziness.

Most of the benefits of pine bark extract, particularly those for attention and cognitive function, have been found following long-term rather than acute supplementation. This means that months rather than days of supplementation may be needed before you begin to experience the benefits.

Conclusion


Pine bark extract is one of the most powerful antioxidants around, leading to wide-reaching nootropic benefits. It can help to boost your abilities to learn new things and promote a positive mood, all while protecting your brain from premature aging. These benefits make pine bark extract an excellent addition to any nootropic stack.

Photo credits: CLPMedia/shutterstock.com, mimagephotography/shutterstock.com, fizkes/shutterstock.com, EvgeniiEmelianov/shutterstock.com

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