Benefits of Maritime Pine Bark Extract

pine barkThe effects of extracts of French Maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster bark extract) have been reviewed in the journal, Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences.  The writers explain the damaging role of free radicals which arise from oxidative processes within the body as well as the damage resulting from inflammation and that many studies have demonstrated that such damage can be prevented or limited.

They write that a number of studies find that an extract of pine bark, “Pyconogenol,” has a strong free radical fighting capacity, not only against free radicals of oxygen, but of nitrogen as well. The extract is a polyphenol that has reportedly been effective in managing or treating cardiovascular conditions, microcirculation (which is critical for vision health), lowering high blood pressure, supporting the body’s immune system, lessening inflammation, and moderating nitrogen monoxide metabolism (supporting health and integrity of blood vessels).

They reviewed a number of studies, which reported these anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Inhibition of matrix metalloproteases activity.  This family of enzymes play a large part of diseases that damage the body because of inflammation, such as gum disease.
  • Inhibition of histamine release from mast cells.  In the body histamines are nitrogen compounds that are part of the immune response.  Mast cells, especially found in connective tissue re responsible for releasing histamine as needed.  When allergens are present, tied to mast cells, histamine’s ability to stimulate the immune response is muted.
  • Free radical scavenging activity.   Free radicals, the result of oxidation, are molecules left with an odd, unpaired electron.  They are very unstable and ‘attack’ the nearest stable molecule, turning it, in turn, into a free radical.  This domino effect results in damage to the cells involved.  Pine bark is a powerful free-radical fighter.
  • Inhibition of proinflammatory cytokine actions.  Cytokines are small proteins, which can become part of a serious immune reaction when they interact with white blood cells.  Nature magazine describes a ‘cytokine storm’ as the unpleasant feeling we have at the onset of flu.
  • Anti-erythema and anti-edema effects.  Erythema is a reddened or rash-like skin condition which can include spots, lesions, lumps and tenderness.  These may be due to allergic reactions or infections.  Edema means fluid retention in tissue or body cavities.
  • Protection of red blood cells in G6PD deficiency. G6PD is an enzyme that protects red blood cells.  Its deficiency is an inherited condition where the body does not have enough G6PD.
  • Improving internal antioxidant mechanisms in antioxidant deficient diabetic rats.
  • Stimulation of antioxidant defense systems.
  • Sparing activity of alpha-tocopherol and recycling of ascorbate radical.   Alpha-tocopherol is a form of vitamin E.  “Sparing activity” refers to the ability of vitamin E to make other nutrients, such as vitamin C, more effective.
  • Inhibition of lipid peroxidation.  Peroxidation is another term for oxidative degradation – in this case, of lipids or fats/oils in the body resulting in free radicals.
  • Protection of nerve cells against beta-amyloid, or glutamate induced toxicity.  Beta-amyloid is the sticky substance that damages brain cells and is responsible for the development of Alzheimers disease.
  • Increase antioxidant capacity/activity in humans.

Note:  Pine bark and bilberry are combined in the product mirtogenol which reportedly lowers IOP.

Next: Nutritional support, diet, & lifestyle tips for glaucoma.

Source:  Iravani, S., et al, Parmaceutical and nutraceutical effects of Pinus pinaster bark extract, Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Jan. 2011, 1-11.