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.
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 ) 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
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
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
So, cork the wine and try grape seed and pine bark extracts
to experience the French