Despite the intimidating name, pycnogenol, is a natural extract from the bark of pine trees. Referred to as pine bark extract, the pynogenol name comes from a patented version of the extract, which is standardized for the main psychoactive ingredient (procyanidin) at a percentage of 65 – 75%.
The procyanidin content has implications for improving markers of blood flow , aiding in general cognitive abilities , and is an anti-inflammatory agent as well . Although gnawing your way through pine trees probably won’t provide you with much benefit, the pine bark extract can be a safe long-term brain health supplement in a similar way to cocoa polyphenols and grape seed extract.
Also Known As
Pine Bark Extract, Pine Bark Procyanidins, Procyanidins
Editors’ Thoughts on Pycnogenol
I’ve never tried pycnogenol, but when I interviewed Dr. Con Stough, he told me this is one of the extracts that he and his colleagues are most interested in. Not only that, but this was one of 2-3 products on his “recommended for his family” list, which is pretty substantial evidence in favor of the drug.
Stough has a PhD in neuropsychology and he is the co-director of the Centre for Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University in Australia . He seems like such a reliable source, I find most of my trust comes from his viewpoint rather than anything else. If you’re interested in this interview, it is part of the Brain Optimization Summit.
Benefits of Pycnogenol
There may be many benefits of pycnogenol, but for the average person, enhanced cognitive abilities is most prominent. A study in the Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences from December 2015 showed that healthy adults between the ages of 35 – 55 could enhance markers of memory, focus, and decision making .
Compared to many other nootropic compounds, this study is unique because of the focus on healthy adults. Given that most drugs are used as part of the “disease model” (i.e: trying to help those that have a disease), it is rare to see studies focusing on how to enhance already healthy people.
Another study from Panminerva Medica (an Italian publication) showed that young students using pycnogenol for 8 weeks could reduce their rate of failure (on multiple tests) by 4.46% . Again, this study looked at healthy adults rather than diseased patients.
Many of the secondary benefits of pycnogenol show up as increasing blood flow , which can aid in recovery and enhance general health markers. Finally, a secondary benefit of the pine bark extract from the 8 week trial above was enhanced mood and subjective well being.
Enhancing cognitive abilities and becoming happier sounds like a win-win!
Side Effects of Pycnogenol
Many of the studies above noted no symptoms or side effects experienced by the participants. As mentioned above, there are pycnogenol side effects, which include and enhanced mood, but obviously this is more of a benefit than a true “side effect”.
Also, many people use pycnogenol for erectile dysfunction, which suggests that there is a correlation. If you are using the pine bark extract for cognitive purposes, but find yourself more sexually aroused, this may be a side effect of pycnogenol .
Pycnogenol does interact with inflammatory markers and other blood markers, which are usually positive, but could be a side effect that one doesn’t expect.
The dose range of this nootropic compound is relatively new. While 40 – 60 mg is said to be effective over long periods, the standard pycnogenol dosage is between 100 – 200 mg.
While there is no distinct “feeling” associated with pycnogenol (besides perhaps a slight mood boost in some users), it still makes sense to start at a smaller dose range (say 50 mg) and then move up to 100 – 200 mg once it seems safe to do so.
How and Where to Buy Pycnogenol
One of the main reasons to buy pycnogenol is because of the standardization. If you’ll remember from our natural nootropics article, many compounds are derived from a plant source, but must be extracted in a specific way. For pine bark, it is best to standardize in the 65 – 75% active ingredient range, which is the pycnogenol exact.
This is a trademarked brand of this standardized extract, which brings some conflict of interest (as far as the studies are concerned), but generally is helpful for the consumer rather than harmful. Many brands have pycnogenol for sale, which take the patented extract for a product themselves.
Between all of the recommended vendors, we believe that this is the best. Obviously, it will be difficult to find a local health or grocery store that has pynogenol for sale, which is why your best bet is to find it online instead.
Selected Community Experiences
“A supp that definitely deserves a higher profile.”  – grab_bag_2776
“The last 4 days I've naturally woke up early…and less groggy then before…I'm the kind of person that will sleep for 12 hours if I don't have several alarm clocks and a reason to get me up, and even then it's a struggle…The only this I can think of causing this is Pine Bark Extract. Which I started taking about 10 days ago…If this keeps going it will be an amazing boon to my life.”  – wellwhaleiswell
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