WELLNESS--My inner alarm system starts to sound when I hear multiple people raving about some new supplement that is the end all and be all. At the moment that supplement is called pine bark extract or pycnogenol.
The beneficial claims are wide and varying and include everything from boosting kidney function, treating hemorrhoids, erectile dysfunction, helping control diabetes, and perhaps the trendiest of all, controlling inflammation. After digging a little deeper, it seems that many of these claims actually have some teeth!
It seems that the majority of the benefits of pine bark extract come from the increase in blood flow leading to more nitric acid, and an anti-diabetic effect. Because of the blood flow improvements, pine bark extract is also being hailed as a new and natural way to treat erectile dysfunction.
It should be noted that the amino acid L-Arginine was included with the pine bark extract in most of those cases, and the studies out there in regards to this are somewhat scant. When it comes to studies a few important elements are the size of the study, the duration, and who put the study on.
In one study in Pubmed they discovered a diverse effect of pine bark extract especially in the area of pharmacology. It looks like this substance has the ability to dilate small blood vessels helping to increase blood flow to the brain. This increase in circulation is also proving to be helpful with some cases of PMS and cardiovascular disease.
Another great benefit that has been studied and proven is the ability of pine bark to treat hemorrhoids. In one study it was proven that hemorrhoids reduced within 7 days compared to the control group and that pine bark is especially beneficial if bleeding is involved.
Regarding glucose levels, there was one study I found out of China but it only had 77 participants. That doesn’t mean it’s not helpful for glucose levels, but if you are diabetic please talk to your doctor before taking this supplement.
All in all, like any supplement out there be sure to do your research. Using things topically, like for hemorrhoids, can be safer than taking something internally as long as you first put a small amount on your skin somewhere to be sure there is no adverse reaction. As always, talk to your primary care provider or educated healer before starting to take new supplements and use proper food and exercise as the number one way to stay healthy.
(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR )