For the clinical study, scientists analyzed the effects of different medications, strategies, and supplements on the arteries of a group of volunteers aged 45 to 60. The participants were diagnosed as "class IV," which meant that their arteries were constricted by plaque, but not at a level that exceeded 50 percent of the total area.
The main group was randomly divided into smaller groups. One group only received diet and exercise recommendations, while another was given aspirin. Some groups received pine bark or gotu kola alone while one group was given both compounds at the same time.
Thirty months after the study began, the researchers found that the poorest outcome was seen in the diet-and-exercise group, where more than 20 percent of the participants progressed to "class V" and had worsened plaque constriction.
Meanwhile, the participants who were treated daily with 100 milligrams (mg) of pine bark extract and 100 mg of gotu kola had better results. This group experienced only 1.1 percent of worsening constriction, which suggests plaque progression was a whopping 95 percent lower compared to the diet-and-exercise control group. (Related: Learn how gotu kola reduces stress and anxiety.)
During the latter phase of the study, the scientists studied the effect of the combined natural remedies on plaque stability, which is a crucial factor in preventing heart attacks and strokes. The results suggest that taking 150 mg of pine bark and 225 mg of gotu kola per day is linked to a beneficial affect on the density of plaque. It also helped reduce the length, height, and number of plaques.
French pine bark is usually sold under the brand name Pycnogenol and is available in capsule, liquid, and tablet form. Natural health experts suggest that you take a high-quality formulation that is standardized to contain 85 to 90 percent oligomeric anthoprocyanidins (OPCs). Some studies used higher dosages, but natural health experts note that you can promote healthy circulation with 50 to 100 mg of pine bark extract thrice a day.
You can purchase gotu kola extract as capsules, tablets, and tinctures. The plant is also available in dried form, which can be brewed into a calming tea.
Always consult a healthcare professional before you start taking these extracts to treat atherosclerosis or other conditions.