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Home > Articles on Health > Pine Bark and Grape Seed

Pine Bark and Grape Seed

Substances found in pine bark and grape seed are proving to have powerful health benefits.

We’ve read about it in magazines, seen it on TV shows such as 60 Minutes, and heard about it on the radio. The French, who have a high-fat diet and a national cuisine based on butter, who drink wine with meals, and who take pride in smoking non-filtered cigarettes, live longer than the citizens of many other countries. This is known as the French paradox: that despite a lifestyle that would bring out the health police in North America, the French are, well, healthy.

Most experts agree that this health contradiction is due to the drinking of red wine. Wine contains substances known as flavonoids, which are proving to have many health benefits. And they must be strong; after all, they appear to overcome a lot of bad dietary habits in France!

However, we now know of two other substances that provide the same flavonoid punch. These are grape seed extract and pine bark extract. Both of these contain a type of flavonoid known as oligomers of proanthocyanidins, or OPCs.

Powerful antioxidants

OPCs are powerful antioxidants. They are, thus, a major force in the war against free radicals, which are dangerous molecules linked to health problems such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, cataracts, and immune disorders.

In a review of the benefits of the OPCs found in grape seed extract, Bombardelli and Morazzoni (Fitoterapia, 66, no. 4 [1995]) note that OPCs’ antioxidant effects are generally credited for their other benefits. The authors note that these include an antimutagenic effect; that is, they inhibit the mutation of DNA. The authors point out that chronic degenerative diseases are believed to be a result of environmental mutagens (substances that cause mutation). OPCs may be able to counter these mutagens.

The same report notes that OPCs have a positive effect on peripheral venous insufficiency. This is a leg vein problem that causes increasing pain and disability for many thousands of people, the majority of them women. OPCs were shown to reduce pain, cramps, edema (swelling due to fluids), and "pins and needles."

Indeed, OPCs are well-known for their effect on the cardiovascular system. Richard Passwater, Ph.D., in his book, All About Pycnogenol, cites a number of benefits generated from the OPCs found in pine bark. These include fighting cholesterol and protecting against heart disease, protecting against high blood pressure, improving circulation, and strengthening the capillaries. Passwater also notes that OPCs are an immune booster and may protect against cancer through their antioxidant potency, boosting the immune system and reducing metastasis, the process cancer cells use to travel through the blood stream and attach themselves to other organs.

OPCs also have "cosmetic" value. They protect collagen and elastin, which are an important part of the makeup of skin. It is the interlacing of collagen and elastin that gives skin its strength, elasticity, and smoothness. When these two substances are damaged, the skin loses elasticity— the result can be wrinkles. OPCs help restore damaged collagen and elastin and protect them against further damage. You could say that OPCs are an oral cosmetic to keep skin healthy.

Some health practitioners have found OPCs to be beneficial in dealing with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Passwater notes that he has received a number of case histories documenting this. Pamela Sleeth, a chiropractor in Newmarket, Ontario, has used OPCs in her practice with remarkable results. She notes that parents and teachers alike have commented on the increased attentiveness that children have displayed after using OPCs.

So, cork the wine and try grape seed and pine bark extracts to experience the French paradox!

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