Effect of pycnogenol on ascorbic acid (vitamin C)

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 were affected.

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 greatest effect.


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 au Canada.

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.

John Russo, 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.


Cossins E, Lee R, Packer L. ESR studies of vitamin C regeneration, order of reactivity of natural source phytochemical preparations. Biochem Mol Biol Int. 1998; 45:3 583-97.