Pycnogenol is an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. First developed in 1947, this woodsy supplement has been praised for decades for its purported ability to support healthy hearts, minds, skin, and more.
In this guide, we’ve laid out the best pycnogenol brands based on pycnogenol reviews, quality, and price. Farther down, we’ve summarized the research-backed benefits of pycnogenol, as well as its recommended dosage.
|Best Overall: Viva Naturals – Pure Pycnogenol Capsules||$39.99 Buy on Amazon|
|Best Value: Healthy Origins – Bulk Pycnogenol Capsules||$47.00 Buy on Amazon|
|Best Caplets: Source Naturals – Quick-Dissolve Pycnogenol Caplets||$46.20 Buy on Amazon|
|Best Cream: DERMA E – Pycnogenol Moisturizing Cream||$21.04 Buy on Amazon|
|Next-Best: NusaPure – French Maritime Pine Bark Extract||$24.90 Buy on Amazon|
Top 5 Best Pycnogenol Brands
Best Pycnogenol Brand Overall
When it comes to positive pycnogenol reviews on Amazon, Viva Naturals takes the cake. It’s earned overwhelmingly positive feedback and has the largest number of reviews of any pycnogenol supplement on Amazon. It’s a safe, easy pick for any of pycnogenol’s health benefits.
Best Value Pycnogenol
|60 ct: $35.32||120 ct: $47.00||150 ct: $64.00|
|Buy on Amazon||Buy on Amazon||Buy on Amazon|
Pycnogenol can be a bit more expensive than many other herbal supplements (like ashwagandha or rhodiola). This pycnogenol brand offers 100 milligram capsules in 60, 120, and 150 count bottles, each increasingly cheaper per serving. And when it comes to positive pycnogenol reviews on Amazon, this brand is a top contender.
Best Pycnogenol Caplets
Not everyone is a fan of veggie capsules. This pycnogenol supplement is one of the best quick-dissolve caplet options on the market. And while many caplet supplements leave an unpleasant taste, the pycnogenol reviews on Amazon indicate there is little to no flavor.
Best Pycnogenol Cream
Although using pycnogenol cream isn’t as popular as ingesting the supplement, it can be beneficial. Research has shown that topical application of pycnogenol cream can help with irritated skin (erythema), which can be caused by things like sunburn.1Pycnogenol, French Maritime Pine Bark Extract It can also help with wound healing, skin hydration, and skin elasticity. Further down, you can find more information of pycnogenol’s skin benefits.
We’ve selected DERMA E moisturizing cream because it has some of the highest levels of pycnogenol Amazon has to offer. This pycnogenol cream is a great option for anyone wanting to improve skin health with this woodsy supplement. It’s a fairly inexpensive way to nurture your skin with pycnogenol.
Best Pycnogenol Alternative
Although pycnogenol is a well-research compound with a specific, patented manufacturing process, it can be a little spendy. That’s why some people opt for plain old pine bark extract as an alternative. It tends to be cheaper to get a hold of.
This supplement is made from french maritime pine bark extract, the same tree from which pycnogenol is derived. Although the production processes and end products are different, it’s a comparable alternative. For people who aren’t yet sure whether pycnogenol can live up to its reputation, this is a cheaper option.
Health Benefits of Pycnogenol
With only a little bit of research, it’s easy to see that there’s a whole slew of benefits of pycnogenol. But how much of this is marketing puffery, and how much is science? Read on!
Pycnogenol Skin Benefits
Many people like to use pycnogenol for skin care. But does science back up the hype? Research over the past few decades has started to verify pycnogenol’s skin benefits. Here’s a brief overview.
- Skin Hydration and Elasticity
Several studies have found that pycnogenol can help with healthier skin by boosting hydration and elasticity.2French Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol®) Effects on Human Skin: Clinical and Molecular Evidence
One study looked at the skin’s response to supplementing pycnogenol in 20 healthy women.3Pycnogenol® Effects on Skin Elasticity and Hydration Coincide with Increased Gene Expressions of Collagen Type I and Hyaluronic Acid Synthase in Women Their skin was examined with several testing methods before and after the 12-week trial. By the end, pycnogenol had significantly improved hydration and elasticity of the skin. Interestingly, this effect was strongest in women who had dry skin before the trial.
- Pycnogenol and Psoriasis (Scaly, Flaky Skin)
Psoriasis is a skin condition in which dead skin cells rapidly build up in patches. Symptoms include flaky, scaly, itchy, dry, bumpy, and/or reddened skin. A few studies have indicated the pycnogenol may help with psoriasis.
One study examined the effects of pycnogenol on subjects with moderate to severe psoriasis. 4Improvement in signs and symptoms in psoriasis patients with Pycnogenol® supplementation. After a 12-week trial, there were significant decreases in symptoms in the pycnogenol group compared to the control. Notably, they showed a greater reduction in psoriasis surface area and severity. There was also significantly less flaking and significantly more skin moisture in the pycnogenol group.
Black seed oil, an extract from a Middle Eastern herb, has similarly been shown to reduce psoriasis symptoms. Refer to our complete black seed oil guide for more information.
- Pycnogenol and Melasma (Dark Splotches on Skin)
Melasma is a skin condition manifested by dark splotches, often on the face. These darker areas are the result of hyperpigmentation, typically caused by increased sun exposure.
Many users of pycnogenol claim that the woodsy extract is able to alleviate these dark patches associated with melasma. Supporting these claims, there is indeed some research to suggest pycnogenol may help with melasma.
One notable study looked at the effects of pycnogenol on thirty women suffering from melasma.5Treatment of melasma with Pycnogenol® Each subject took 75 milligrams of pycnogenol per day for 30 days. Researches measured the total areas of melasma, as well as pigmentation level (skin shade). At the end of the trial, the total melasma surface area had decreased by roughly 25%, and pigmentation had also decreased (i.e., lighter skin).
These findings suggest pycnogenol may be effective in treating melasma, with visible improvements in as little as 30 days. It’s also worth noting that 75 milligrams of pycnogenol daily is a low dose compared to many other studies. Further research is needed to determine whether higher doses are more effective.
- Pycnogenol and Erythema (Skin Redness)
Erythema, commonly known as skin redness, can have a lot of difference causes. From sunburn, to chafing clothes, to genetic factors, most people will experience skin redness from time to time. Some research indicates pycnogenol may help reduce erythema.
One study examined the effects of pycnogenol on ultraviolet-induced redness (essentially, sunburn).6Solar ultraviolet-induced erythema in human skin and nuclear factor-kappa-B–dependent gene expression in keratinocytes are modulated by a French maritime pine bark extract The study found that with increased pycnogenol supplementation, significantly more ultraviolet light was needed in order to cause redness. Put simply, the skin was more resistant to sunburn. This was observed with doses of 1.10 milligrams and 1.66 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight for 4 weeks each.
Brain Health: Pycnogenol’s Nootropic Benefits
Pycnogenol is fairly popular as a nootropic supplement, a class of supplements that improve cognitive function. Here are a few ways research has shown that pycnogenol works as a nootropic supplement.
One study examined the effects of pycnogenol supplementation in healthy elderly individuals.7An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol® on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population Subjects took 150 milligrams of pycnogenol daily for 3 months. Throughout the trial, they demonstrated improvement in several cognitive areas, including both short-term and long-term memory.
Another study performed on healthy elderly subjects similarly found an improvement in memory.8The COFU3 Study. Improvement in cognitive function, attention, mental performance with Pycnogenol® in healthy subjects (55-70) with high oxidative stress. After taking 100 milligrams of pycnogenol daily for 12 months (by far one of the longest trials), subjects reported significantly improved long-term memory. This was reported via a standardized cognitive performance questionnaire.
Another study, this time with students aged 18-27, similarly found memory-boosting effects with pycnogenol.9Pycnogenol® supplementation improves cognitive function, attention and mental performance in students. After 8 weeks of supplementation, those that took pycnogenol scored statistically better on cognitive tests than a control group. Notably, the pycnogenol group demonstrated better memory.
In one of the studies cited above, pycnogenol was also associated with boost in focus.10An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol® on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population In healthy elderly subjects, 150 milligrams of pycnogenol daily resulted in a significant increase in focus and attention.
Similar findings were noted in the above-cited study on student.11Pycnogenol® supplementation improves cognitive function, attention and mental performance in students. After 8 weeks of pycnogenol supplementation, students demonstrated increased sustained attention compared to a control group.
- Cognitive Protection
Neurological damage from oxidative stress plays a big part in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. As such, pycnogenol’s antioxidant effects have been examined in the context of this disease.
One animal study did find that pycnogenol may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.12Effects of Pycnogenol and vitamin E on cognitive deficits and oxidative damage induced by intracerebroventricular streptozotocin in rats In rats, pycnogenol and vitamin E were supplemented in order to reduce artificially-induced, controlled levels of oxidative stress. After 2 weeks, the control rats demonstrated significant cognitive decline. The pycnogenol rats, on the other hand, demonstrated much less decline.
A very interesting study found that pycnogenol may help protect the brain following a traumatic brain injury.13Dose- and Time-Dependent Neuroprotective Effects of Pycnogenol® following Traumatic Brain Injury Regardless of dose, the researchers found that administering pycnogenol via IV injection significantly reduced indicators of brain trauma in rats. They concluded that pycnogenol may exhibit neuroprotective effects following brain trauma. Other animal research has led to similar findings.14Pycnogenol protects CA3–CA1 synaptic function in a rat model of traumatic brain injury
- Effects on ADHD
One study examined the effects of pycnogenol in 61 children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).15Treatment of ADHD with French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol® For 4 weeks, one group took 1 milligram of pycnogenol daily per kilogram of bodyweight. The other group was given a placebo. The results showed the pycnogenol significantly reduced hyperactivity while improving focus and hand-eye coordination. Furthermore, the subjects relapsed back to their original condition within one month after discontinuing pycnogenol. These findings suggest pycnogenol may be effective against ADHD symptoms in children.
Other Health Benefits
Pycnogenol has been praised as a way to support a lot more than just skin and brain health. Here’s a brief overview of its other research-backed benefits.
- Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Several studies have indicated that pycnogenol may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease.16Pycnogenol®, French Maritime Pine Bark Extract, Augments Endothelium-Dependent Vasodilation in Humans
One test tube study found that pycnogenol was able to stimulate nitric oxide production.17Endothelium-Dependent Vascular Effects of Pycnogenol Nitric oxide, in turn, decreases levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) in the body. It also inhibits plaque buildup in the arteries. All of this indicates that pycnogenol may lead to a significant reduction in risk of heart disease.
A human study found that pycnogenol may be able to reduce high blood pressure.18Pycnogenol®, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients The 12-week, 58-subject study examined the effects of 100 milligrams of pycnogenol daily compared to a control. The study found a mild reduction in blood pressure, indicating that pycnogenol may be effective against mildly high blood pressure.
A meta-analysis of three trials examined the effects of aspirin vs. pycnogenol on blood platelet clumping in smokers.19Inhibition of Smoking-Induced Platelet Aggregation by Aspirin and Pycnogenol Platelet aggregation leads to blood clots, which are helpful for stopping bleeding but are dangerous when they occur in veins and arteries. Smoking increases platelet aggregation, which in turn increases risk of heart disease.20Effect of cigarette smoking on platelet aggregation.
The meta-analysis found that pycnogenol was effective in reducing blood platelet clumping. Furthermore, while aspirin significantly increased bleeding time due to decreased clumping, pycnogenol didn’t. The researchers found that one 200-milligram dose of pycnogenol was able to reduce smoking-induced blood platelet clumping for over 6 days. These findings suggest that pycnogenol may reduce blood clot-related heart disease risk, particularly in smokers.
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Several studies have found that pycnogenol may be effective in reducing swelling and inflammation.21Inhibition of NF-κB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol)22Inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2 activity by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol)
One such study specifically examined blood flow and swelling in the legs of forty subjects.23Pycnogenol® in chronic venous insufficiency Twenty of the subjects took 300 milligrams of pycnogenol daily for 60 days. Compared to the control group, pycnogenol was associated with a significant reduction of pain and swelling when measured at both 30 and 60 days. Roughly 60% of the pycnogenol-treated subjects had no swelling at all by the end of the trial. No such changes were noted in the control group.
These findings indicate that pycnogenol may be effective in reducing inflammation and swelling. In addition, it may be effective in reducing pain associated with these symptoms. Further research is needed on pycnogenol’s effects on swelling in other areas of the body.
Another study examined the effects of pycnogenol on 100 subjects with knee pain (osteoarthritis).24Effect of pine bark extract (Pycnogenol®) on symptoms of knee osteoarthritis For 3 months, one group supplemented 150 milligrams of pycnogenol daily while the other took a placebo. Following treatment, the pycnogenol group demonstrated a significant reduction in pain, while the control group had no change. These findings further suggest that pycnogenol may be effective in reducing pain and inflammation.
- Antimicrobial Effects
A few studies have shown that pycnogenol can be effective in fighting hostile microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi.
One notable study examined the effects of pycnogenol against 23 different pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms.25Antimicrobial activity of Pycnogenol® The study found even in concentrations as low as 0.025%, pycnogenol was able to counteract the growth of all 23 microorganisms. This indicates that pycnogenol may be effective in killing or suppressing disease-causing microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi.
- Antioxidant Effects
Several studies have found that pycnogenol contains antioxidant compounds.26Comparison of Proanthocyanidins in Commercial Antioxidants: Grape Seed and Pine Bark Extracts27Antioxidant activity and biologic properties of a procyanidin-rich extract from pine (pinus maritima) bark, pycnogenol One such study noted significant antioxidant effects in subjects taking 150 milligrams of pycnogenol daily for 6 weeks.28Supplementation with a pine bark extract rich in polyphenols increases plasma antioxidant capacity and alters the plasma lipoprotein profile Such findings indicate that pycnogenol may be effective in free radical scavenging. This, in turn, would reduce the risk of oxidative stress, which can manifest symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and cognitive deficits.
- Accelerated Wound Healing
One study examined the effects of pycnogenol on standardized wounds inflicted on rats.29Pycnogenol® accelerates wound healing and reduces scar formation Gel was applied to the wounds as researchers monitored the wound size and level of scabbing. One group was treated with gel containing 1% pycnogenol, one with 2% pycnogenol, one with 5% pycnogenol, and one without pycnogenol.
The gel-only group healed in an average of 15.4 days. The 1% pycnogenol group healed 1.6 days faster. The 2% group healed nearly 3 days faster than the control. The 5% pycnogenol group did heal faster than all others, but there was a less of an increase over the 2% group. Furthermore, the pycnogenol groups were left with smaller scars following healing. These findings suggest that pycnogenol may be effective in wound healing and scar prevention.
- Effects on Asthma
A few studies have suggested that pycnogenol may be effective against asthma symptoms.
One study sought to examine the effect of pycnogenol on asthma.30Pycnogenol® in the Management of Asthma Twenty-two patients completed the 8-week study. For the first 4 weeks, one group was given 1 milligram of pycnogenol daily per pound of bodyweight. The other group was given a placebo. For the last 4 weeks, the regimen was switched. The study found that pycnogenol was effective in reducing symptoms and biological markers of asthma. The researchers’ conclusion was that pycnogenol may be effective in managing chronic asthma.
Another study examined the effects of pycnogenol on 60 asthmatic subjects from 6-18 years old.31Pycnogenol® as an Adjunct in the Management of Childhood Asthma Over the 3-month trial, subjects taking pycnogenol demonstrated significant improvement in asthma symptoms compared to the control. Furthermore, they were able to lessen or discontinue use of inhalers more often than the control group. These findings indicate that pycnogenol may be effective against childhood asthma.
- Diabetic Symptoms and Conditions
Although it’s no cure for diabetes, pycnogenol has been shown to have an effect on certain diabetic symptoms and conditions.32Antidiabetic effect of Pycnogenol® French maritime pine bark extract in patients with diabetes type II
For example, pycnogenol has been shown to lower glucose levels in diabetic subjects.33Inhibitory effect of pine extract on α-glucosidase activity and postprandial hyperglycemia In one study, researchers examined whether pycnogenol inhibits alpha-glucosidase (noting that pycnogenol itself does not increase insulin secretion).34Oligomeric procyanidins of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol®) effectively inhibit α-glucosidase Put simply, alpha-glucosidase breaks down starches and sugars, increasing blood glucose levels.
The study did find that pycnogenol inhibited alpha-glucosidase. With lower levels of alpha-glucosidase, lower blood sugar levels were noted. This indicates that pycnogenol may be effective against hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in diabetic individuals.
Another example is diabetic retinopathy, a condition caused by damaged blood vessels in the back of the eyes. Symptoms start with very mild vision problems, but can eventually lead to blindness.
One promising meta-study examined the effects of pycnogenol on slowing diabetic retinopathy.35Pycnogenol® for diabetic retinopathy Researchers analyzed five different trials examining a total of 1,289 subjects. Their conclusion was that these studies overwhelmingly indicate that pycnogenol is effective in slowing and/or halting diabetic retinopathy. In some cases, vision actually improved.
- Pycnogenol and Erectile Dysfunction
Some research indicates that pycnogenol may have an effect on erectile dysfunction.
As discussed above, pycnogenol has been shown to increase levels of nitric oxide in the body. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by low levels of nitric oxide. Because of this, one study sought to examine the effects of pycnogenol and l-arginine on erectile dysfunction.36Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction with Pycnogenol and L-arginine
The design of the study could have been more thorough, but its results are promising. Forty men with self-reported erectile dysfunction underwent a 3-month trial. During the first month, they took only 1.7 grams of l-arginine daily. There was no statistically significant improvement in symptoms. In the second month, subjects began taking 80 milligrams of pycnogenol daily. At this point, 80% of the men reported normal erection. After taking 120 milligrams during the third month, 92.5% of the men reported normal erection. These findings suggest pycnogenol may be effective in treating erectile dysfunction.
For more information on l-arginine and its impact on fertility and sexual health, refer to our complete l-arginine guide.
Based on current research, the ideal dose for pycnogenol is 100 to 300 milligrams per day. Although there is currently no official recommended dosage, most studies on this supplement have used a daily regimen within that range.
It’s important to note that even at the ideal dosage, most people will likely not notice any beneficial effects for some time. Most research on pycnogenol has noted positive effects after several weeks of supplementation. As such, a new regimen of pycnogenol should last at least several weeks.
Pycnogenol Side Effects
Reported side effects of pycnogenol are mild when supplemented in appropriate doses, according to user reports and the above-cited studies. These symptoms may include digestive discomfort, nausea, vertigo, and headaches.
Unpleasant digestive side effects of pycnogenol are more likely on an empty stomach. Pycnogenol contains high levels of tannins, which can cause nausea on an empty stomach. (Tannins are also the primary reason drinking plain green or black tea while fasting can cause nausea.) As such, it’s best to take pycnogenol with food.
Pycnogenol is a popular and fairly well-researched health supplement. Studies so far have demonstrated its healthy impact on the heart, skin, brain, and more. For anyone wanting to improve their mental and physical health, this supplement is a great choice.
Viva Naturals offers Amazon’s go-to pycnogenol supplement. Great for all purposes.