Researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette said that taking pine bark supplements led to lower levels of malonaldehyde (MDA), a toxic compound that serves as a biomarker for oxidative stress. This effect was seen 48 hours after exercise among individuals who took the supplements for at least two weeks.
The researchers noted that high physical activity often spurs higher levels of oxidative stress. But by taking pine bark supplements, individuals can benefit from an enhanced healing process.
"[Maritime] pine extract as compared to placebo was effective at affording protection from oxidative stress post-exercise," wrote the researchers.
Pine bark extract is an herbal extract that comes from the tree Pinus pinaster, or maritime pine. It grows abundantly in France, where its medicinal uses date back to the 14th century. French sailors used pine bark to combat scurvy, a condition caused by vitamin C deficiency, as they sailed from France to the New World.
Aside from being rich in vitamin C, pine bark extract is also packed with phytochemicals – natural plant compounds that contribute to the color, taste and smell of vegetables. The phytochemicals found in pine bark supplements include procyanidins and flavonoids, both of which lower inflammation and protect from oxidative stress. Previous research also linked pine bark extract to a host of health benefits such as boosting brain function, balancing blood sugar levels and improving blood flow.
In the study, the researchers looked at the effects of pine bark supplements on 20 healthy men. They were randomly assigned to either 200 mg of the extract or a placebo and took these for 14 days prior to the first exercise trial and for 2?days post-exercise. After a seven-day washout period, the men were asked to take the other medication.
Results showed that MDA levels significantly decreased among the pine bark group compared to the placebo group. The placebo group also displayed significant increases in MDA levels before and 48 hours after the exercise.
Given these findings, the researchers recommended further research to evaluate the effects of pine bark extract among individuals who practice intense training. Furthermore, they see great potential in pine bark extract for helping treat metabolic syndrome, a group of diseases that are influenced by oxidative stress.
Previous research also explored the anti-inflammatory effects of pine bark supplements. Inflammation can be harmful when it goes out of control. Chronic inflammation, in particular, can lead to the development of various diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and bowel diseases.
In a study published in the journal International Immunopharmacology, researchers demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of pine bark extract. They enlisted health volunteers around the ages of 35 to 50 years old and required them to take pine bark supplements for five consecutive days in the morning before breakfast. The team drew blood samples before and after supplementation to look at how immune cells respond to pro-inflammatory stimuli.
At baseline, exposing immune cells to pro-inflammatory stimuli triggered the production of certain enzymes that are linked to a host of inflammatory conditions. But in immune cells taken after the volunteers took the supplements, the production of these enzymes decreased.
Based on these findings, the researchers said that supplementation with pine bark extract can help reduce pain and inflammation. (Related: Pine tree bark yields anti-inflammatory compounds.)
"This study reveals that Pycnogenol (pine bark supplements) can actually decrease pain and reduce inflammatory conditions, as has been previously reported, by shutting down the production of specific enzymes involved with inflammation," said co-author Dr. Raffaella Canali of the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition in Rome, Italy.
Learn more about the benefits of maritime pine bark extract at NaturalCures.news.