Pycnogenol is made from the bark of
a species of maritime pine tree (Pinus maritima) found in
How It Works
Pycnogenol contains flavonoids, a group of plant compounds
with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. These
qualities are thought to alleviate some of the symptoms of CVI
such as leg pain and swelling by improving circulation and
strengthening capillaries in the legs. Flavonoids may also
reduce the bronchial inflammation and swelling that trigger
Several European studies have documented Pycnogenol's
ability to alleviate the symptoms of CVI, including the
swelling in the legs that leads to varicose veins. In a study
published last year in Phytotherapy Research, 40 patients with
CVI were treated daily with either 360 mg of Pycnogenol or 600
mg of horse chestnut seed extract (Aesculus hippocastanum),
another herbal remedy commonly used to treat CVI. After four
weeks, those taking Pycnogenol experienced a 50 percent
decrease in leg pain and cramping and a 33 percent decrease in
nighttime leg swelling. Patients taking horse chestnut seed
extract experienced far less relief.
Similar results were found in a double-blind study
published in an Italian journal in 2000. In the study, 40
patients with CVI took either 100 mg of Pycnogenol three times
daily or a placebo. After 60 days, the Pycnogenol group
reported 64 percent less leg swelling and leg pain. The
placebo group experienced no significant reductions.
Research on Pycnogenol and asthma is limited, but a
double-blind, placebo-controlled study presented at the annual
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology meeting in
November 2002 suggested it may help. The study, led by Ronald
Watson, Ph.D., of the College of Public Health at the
University of Arizona at Tucson, showed that of the
participants who took approximately 150 to 200 mg of
Pycnogenol daily, 84 percent were able to breathe easier.
Pycnogenol also significantly reduced patients' levels of
serum leukotrienes, substances that promote asthma symptoms.
How to Take It
Pycnogenol is available in capsule or tablet form at many
natural food stores and some pharmacies. It can be taken with
food or on an empty stomach.
Although some researchers administer higher doses of
Pycnogenol in clinical studies, you need to take only 1 mg per
pound of body weight to treat CVI, says Richard Passwater,
Ph.D., director of research at the Antioxidant Nutritional
Research Center in Ocean Pines, Md. Take this dose for two
weeks, and then drop to 1 mg per two pounds of body weight for
four weeks. After that, take 20 to 50 mg per day to maintain
To relieve asthma, take 1 mg of Pycnogenol for every pound
of body weight, Watson says.
Stomach upset occurs rarely when taking Pycnogenol. Don't
take it if you're pregnant or nursing.
The Bottom Line
Studies show that Pycnogenol successfully reduces varicose
veins and other CVI symptoms and may be effective in
alleviating the symptoms of asthma.