Maritime Pine Bark- a herb worth knowing about… - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

The History

If you have read the Pycnogenol literature you will know story about the Quebec Indians of eastern Canada who advised members of Jacques Cartier’s expedition in December 1534 to boil up a tea of the bark and the leaves of a pine tree native to the area to cure scurvy. At that time Cartier’s vessel was trapped in the ice and he had lost 25 of his original 110 man crew to Scurvy with a further 50 so ill that he expected them to die soon. Of the remainder, only 3 men were unaffected by the disease.

Within a week of feeding this tea to his men they had recovered most of their health and continued to improve thereafter.

During the 1960’s a French professor researched the properties of the flavonoids found in many species of Pine Bark as well as in Grape Skins and the shells of various nuts and found that the richest source of the most bio-available and bio-active flavonoids were to be found in an extract of the Pinus Pinaster or Maritime Pine. In 1987 some of the substances were taken from the whole extract and patented under the name of Pycnogenol, which was registered as a therapeutic agent having free radical scavenging effects. In the early 1990’s Pycnogenol began to appear on the market as an expensive multi-level marketing item and as an ingredient in some expensive health food store formulations.

For my patients I am preparing two different extracts from the bark of the Maritime Pine.

The Pure Extract

This extract is made by concentrating the ingredients of 1 Kg of the dried bark into each liter of an alcohol/water mixture. This is a medical strength concentrate and is prescribed in very small doses. I am working on the assumption that 1 drop contains at least 50mg of pycnogenol. For Cancers and other Serious Illnesses I generally prescribe a dose rate of 20 drops twice daily in water. A smaller dose 10 drops is more than enough for maintaining a healthy immune system at peak.

Pine Bark and Rosehips Extract

This formulae is a combination of the Maritime Pine Bark and whole Organically Grown Rosehips extracted into Organic Cider Vinegar. My latest batch of this is twice as concentrated than the first one was and the dose rate is 5ml with water (and honey) twice per day.

Research Results

Extensive research has shown that ingredients found within the Pine Bark Extract have positive results in the following areas of human health;

a. Allergies, Histamine Response and Inflammation as in Allergic Reaction and Hay Fever.
b. Capillary Protection both in strengthening weakened capillaries and in minimizing damage occurring during strenuous physical activity.
c. Inflammation, Edema and Varicosity.
d. Skin Health, Collagen Reactivation and U.V. Radiation Damage
e. Heart Disease both in reducing cholesterol deposition on arterial walls and the antioxidant effect of reducing stickiness of platelets and reducing clotting problems.
f. Cancer prevention and treatment in as far as the antioxidant properties protect the body against the activities of carcinogens and free radical damage to DNA.
g. Brain function – a study conducted in Australia has shown elderly patients with Dementia up to a 20% improvement in overall cognitive functioning after taking regular Maritime Pine Bark Extract.

Other more recent studies are showing other important ways Pine Bark Extract helps maintain optimal health. These include;

a. Brain Function in as far as the bio-flavonoids pass through the blood brain barrier and are available to maintain the health of brain cells and facilitate oxygenation to improve memory.
b. Illnesses like Ulcers, Diabetes, Arthritis and protection from Viral Attacks.
c. I have been using Maritime Pine Bark for Attention Deficit Disorder, and Autism. So far the results are very positive.


Toxicology studies done from the 1970s right through to the 1990s have shown no toxicity beyond that found in very large doses of normal food and other human nutrients. The Pine Bark Extract is very concentrated indeed and I advise not exceeding the recommended dose levels. As with most herbal medicines there is absolutely no benefit in very large doses of substances. The body is completely unable to assimilate excessive doses of any substance and over certain levels often the normal benefits are reversed. Toxicology studies suggest that acute toxicity could occur in a 75Kg adult male at a dose level of approximately 336,000mg or more than 500 times my maximum recommended dose.

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McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

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