PINE BARK EXTRACT (PBE)
What is Pine Bark Extract?
Pine trees are well recognized for their ornamental and commercial value, but these familiar trees also possess impressive medicinal benefits.
Pine trees are evergreen conifers that are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and grow across the globe. Pines are characterized by needle-like leaves and their bark tends to be thick and scaly.
Pine bark extract is obtained from the bark of pines, most commonly French maritime pine and masson pine, Pinus pinaster and Pinus massoniana, respectively.
For many years, humans have extracted the bark of plants. Many well-known products have their origin from bark including salicylic acid which comes from the white willow tree and cinnamon which is the inner bark of an evergreen tree.
Pine bark extract is rich in antioxidants, specifically proanthocyanidins, that can help support the cardiovascular system, the immune system, healthy skin, joints, and eyes.
Benefits of Pine Bark Extract and How It Works
The phytochemicals in pine bark extract have been found to improve the integrity of the entire vascular system.
Increased oxidative stress can compromise the health and function of the cardiovascular system. Pine bark extract provides potent antioxidants that can fight free radicals that cause oxidative stress and protect blood vessels.2
A 2020 animal study gave hypertensive rats a Korean red pine bark extract (Pinus densiflora) for 7 weeks and compared this group against a control group. The study found that the pine bark extract reduced blood pressure in the hypertensive rats.
The authors of the study suggest that pine bark extract’s powerful antioxidant compounds can lower blood pressure by protecting tissues from damage and increasing nitric oxide, a vasodilator.
Additionally, the pine bark extract inhibited angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), a naturally occurring enzyme in the human body that increases blood pressure.3
A 2014 clinical pilot study investigated the effects of pine bark extract and gotu kola on subclinical arterial lesions in low-risk asymptomatic human subjects.
The pine bark extract and gotu kola combination reduced plaque progression and oxidative stress. The authors state the results of this study justify larger studies to demonstrate the efficacy of these two plants in combination on subclinical atherosclerosis.4
Improved Skin Appearance
Although our skin is naturally equipped to manage the oxidative stress generated by solar UV radiation, this system can become less efficient as we age. Additionally, excessive sun exposure can accelerate skin aging. This often appears as hyperpigmented areas or “age spots”.5
Pine bark extract can reduce hyperpigmentation and ameliorate the skin barrier function which is vital for protecting the body from external stressors such as microbes and retaining moisture and nutrients within the skin.
Several studies have found the oral administration of pine bark extract to be helpful in improving the appearance of photodamaged skin.
In a randomized 12 week open trial, healthy women younger than 60 who had age spots and other symptoms of photodamaged skin like pigmentation, roughness, wrinkles, and swelling, were given an orally administered pine bark extract.
The study found that 71% of participants had improvement in age spots revealed by digital images.5
Bark protects a tree or shrub from many threats, including free radicals, insects, and microbes. Not surprisingly,extracts from many tree and shrub barks (including pine bark) have remarkable protective properties that extend to the human immune system as well.
A 2014 in vitro study found the resin-oil of the Pinus elliottii pine species to inhibit multi-drug resistant staph bacterial strains.6
Beyond its antibacterial qualities, pine bark extract has demonstrated encouraging anticancer activity in vitro that merits further investigation.
A 2016 in vitro study published in Cell Biology and Toxicology investigated the anticancer activity of pine bark extract from the Pinus radiata (Monterey Pine) species.
The pine bark extract was able to induce potent cytotoxic effects in human breast cancer cells. The authors suggest that further studies are needed to explore the exact mechanism behind this anticancer activity.7
Another in vitro study found that pine bark extract from Pinus massoniana exerted anti-tumor effects on ovarian cancer cells by inhibiting cell growth and inducing apoptosis.8
Though it’s more widely known for its cardiovascular benefits, pine bark extract also provides support for joint comfort and inflammation.
A 2018 review published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medicinal Food, examined the effects of a standardized pine bark extract (French Maritime) on mild osteoarthritis patients (OA).9
Three clinical studies were reviewed that all showed highly significant improvement in symptoms of mild OA with no unwanted side effects. The authors state that the pine bark extract has sustained-release anti-inflammatory action due to antioxidant compounds within the plant.9
Pine bark extract’s powerful antioxidant properties can benefit many systems and organs of the body including the eyes.
The eyes are susceptible to oxidative stress due to continuous exposure to solar ultraviolet light and other internal and external factors.
Aging can also accelerate oxidative stress, contributing to the eye becoming pro-oxidant. Eyes in a pro-oxidant state can lead to ocular diseases like cataracts.
In a 2017 animal study, researchers studied the effects of pine bark extract on cataract formation.
The study showed that pine bark extract was able to prevent cataract formation in rats by protecting against oxidative stress and inhibiting breakdown of proteins and lens epithelial cells which are vital for maintaining the transparency of the lens.10
History & Traditional Use
Pine trees have been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. The pine needles, bark, resin, and pollen are all used for medicinal purposes.
Some sources suggest that the use of pine bark for inflammation can be traced back to Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, around 400 BC.11
Bark from Pinus pinaster, also known as European coastal pine, has been used for many years by the Native people of Quebec. During the winter of 1534, these Native people introduced a tea made from pine bark and pine needles to the French explorer Jacques Cartier. It is said that this tea saved Cartier and his crew from a bout of scurvy.11
In Asia, the pine species Pinus densiflora is used as an herbal medicine for stroke, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes.12
Masson pine, Pinus massoniana, is native to south and southwest China where its bark is used for inflammation and joint pain.
How to Use and Dosing
Pine bark extract is most commonly consumed as a capsule. Look for masson pine bark extract (Pinus massoniana) or French maritime pine bark extract (Pinus pinaster) that has been standardized to around 95% proanthocyanidins.
General dosage for a pine bark extract standardized to 95% proanthocyanidins is 50-300 mg daily.
There are no known interactions.
Always check with your health care practitioner before use if you are taking medications. For more general education on potential interactions between herbs and medications, check out Dr. Bill Rawls’ article: Is it Safe to Take Herbs with My Medications?
Precautions & Side effects
Pine bark extract is generally well tolerated. Before taking pine bark extract, consult with your health care practitioner if you are pregnant or nursing
Disclaimer: This information is intended only as general education and should not be substituted for professional medical advice. Any mentioned general dosage options, safety notices, or possible interactions with prescription drugs are for educational purposes only and must be considered in the context of each individual’s health situation and the quality and potency of the product being used. Use this information only as a reference in conjunction with the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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Want to See the Science? Check Out Our References Below.
1. De La Forêt R. Pine Monograph. HerbMentor. https://herbmentor.learningherbs.com/herb/pine/
2. Ohkita M, Kiso Y, Matsumura Y. Pharmacology in health foods: improvement of vascular endothelial function by French maritime pine bark extract (Flavangenol). J Pharmacol Sci. 2011;115(4):461-465. doi:10.1254/jphs.10r37fm
3. Kim KJ, Hwang ES, Kim MJ, Park JH, Kim DO. Antihypertensive Effects of Polyphenolic Extract from Korean Red Pine (Pinus densiflora Sieb. et Zucc.) Bark in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(4):333. Published 2020 Apr 19. doi:10.3390/antiox9040333
4. Belcaro G, Dugall M, Hosoi M, et al. Pycnogenol® and Centella Asiatica for asymptomatic atherosclerosis progression. Int Angiol. 2014;33(1):20-26.
5. Furumura M, Sato N, Kusaba N, Takagaki K, Nakayama J. Oral administration of French maritime pine bark extract (Flavangenol(®)) improves clinical symptoms in photoaged facial skin. Clin Interv Aging. 2012;7:275-286. doi:10.2147/CIA.S33165
6. Leandro LF, Cardoso MJO, Silva SDC, et al. Antibacterial activity of Pinus elliottii and its major compound, dehydroabietic acid, against multidrug-resistant strains. J Med Microbiol. 2014;63(Pt 12):1649-1653. doi:10.1099/jmm.0.081711-0
7. Venkatesan T, Choi YW, Mun SP, Kim YK. Pinus radiata bark extract induces caspase-independent apoptosis-like cell death in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Cell Biol Toxicol. 2016;32(5):451-464. doi:10.1007/s10565-016-9346-9
8. Liu J, Bai J, Jiang G, et al. Anti-Tumor Effect of Pinus massoniana Bark Proanthocyanidins on Ovarian Cancer through Induction of Cell Apoptosis and Inhibition of Cell Migration. PLoS One. 2015;10(11):e0142157. Published 2015 Nov 5. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142157
9. Rohdewald PJ. Review on Sustained Relief of Osteoarthritis Symptoms with a Proprietary Extract from Pine Bark, Pycnogenol. J Med Food. 2018;21(1):1-4. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.0015
10. Kim J, Choung SY. Pinus densiflora bark extract prevents selenite-induced cataract formation in the lens of Sprague Dawley rat pups. Mol Vis. 2017;23:638-648. Published 2017 Sep 11.
11. Maimoona A, Naeem I, Saddiqe Z, Jameel K. A review on biological, nutraceutical and clinical aspects of French maritime pine bark extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;133(2):261-277. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.10.041
12. Jiang Y, Han W, Shen T, Wang MH. Antioxidant Activity and Protection from DNA Damage by Water Extract from Pine (Pinus densiflora) Bark. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2012;17(2):116-121. doi:10.3746/pnf.2012.17.2.116
13. Engels G, Oeschler L. Pine. www.herbalgram.org. Published 2005. Accessed February 16, 2023. https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/65/table-of-contents/article2756/
14. Mármol I, Quero J, Jiménez-Moreno N, Rodríguez-Yoldi MJ, Ancín-Azpilicueta C. A systematic review of the potential uses of pine bark in food industry and health care. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2019;88:558-566. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2018.07.007