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Medicine: Fair and Balanced
Effect of pycnogenol on ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
all of the flavonoids tested, pycnogenol had the greatest ability to
prolong the activity and lifetime of vitamin C.
By John Russo, Jr., Vicus.com
VICUS.COM (1 April 2000) -- Pycnogenol, derived from the bark of
the French maritime pine tree (Pinus maritima), is a complex of
more than 40 antioxidant compounds. Many of these compounds, known as
flavonoids and polyphenolic organic acids, are found in fruits and
vegetables, and to a greater extent, in supplements. Pycnogenol may
reduce the risks associated with health conditions precipitated by
free-radical damage and has been found to be synergistic with other
antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.
The effect of various flavonoids on the ascorbate radical (a
short-lived form of vitamin C) lifetime was investigated in a July
1998 study from University of California, Berkeley. The ascorbate
radical was produced through a reaction between ascorbic acid and
ascorbate oxidase. When flavonoids were added to the reaction, the
initial intensity of the ascorbate radical's activity and its lifetime
In the investigation, pycnogenol prolonged the ascorbate radical
lifetime from a starting value of 20 minutes to a maximum of 80
minutes. Further experimentation revealed that pycnogenol interacts
directly with the ascorbate radical.
Among all of the flavonoids tested in this experiment, which
included myricetin, polyphenon and theaflavin, pycnogenol had the
During the winter of 1535, French explorer Jacque Cartier became
stranded in the middle of the ice-bound St. Lawrence River. There, his
crew fell victim to scurvy, caused by severe vitamin C deficiency.
Friendly Quebec Indians recommended they drink tea made from the bark
of native pine trees. Miraculously, the crew was cured within a week.
Cartier later wrote about his experience in a book called Voyages
Approximately 400 years later, Professor Jacques Masquelier read
Cartier's book and wondered how the bark from this tree, which has
little vitamin C, could cure scurvy. He theorized that pine bark must
contain flavonoids that enhance the effect of tiny amounts of vitamin
C. Masquelier eventually proved his theory and discovered that this
particular species of pine bark contained substances, commonly known
today as pycnogenols. This study confirms his earlier findings.
Jr., PharmD, is senior vice president of medical
communications at Vicus.com. He is a pharmacist and medical writer
with more than 20 years of experience in medical education.
E, Lee R, Packer L. ESR studies of vitamin C regeneration, order of
reactivity of natural source phytochemical preparations.
Mol Biol Int.
1998; 45:3 583-97.