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Extract from a Mediterranean pine tree confers impressive gifts to health

Extract from a Mediterranean pine tree confers impressive gifts to health

At first glance, the French maritime pine tree might appear to be just another evergreen along the coastal landscape of southwestern France.  But the bark of this picturesque tree has been treasured by herbal healers for centuries.  Among its many beneficial effects, French maritime pine bark (FMPB) helps to recycle and regenerate the antioxidant vitamin C in the body. 

It does this so efficiently that sixteenth-century sailors used it as a life-saving treatment for scurvy, a severe vitamin C deficiency.  Fast forward to the twenty-first century – where new research is highlighting the therapeutic powers of French maritime pine bark.  The far-ranging benefits of FMPB extract just may surprise you. Here are three of the most promising.

Optimize heart function with FMPB

FMPB extract is rich in polyphenols (plant chemicals) known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs).  While OPCs may have a tongue-twisting title, they offer substantial benefits.  They are the same health-promoting flavonoids as are found in grapeseed oil, grapes, blueberries, cocoa, and green tea - and they offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory gifts galore.  For this reason, integrative health providers may advise French maritime pine bark extract to help guard and enhance heart health.  It is believed to lower LDL cholesterol while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol, thereby helping to protect against atherosclerosis. 

And its antioxidant properties allow it to scavenge free radicals, which could otherwise cause oxidative damage to tissues and cells (potentially triggering heart disease).  In addition, FMPB extract helps to support healthy blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and increasing the synthesis of beneficial nitric oxide.  It also helps reduce platelet aggregation (the tendency of blood platelets to clump together into dangerous clots) and has been shown to help alleviate a tendency towards abnormal clotting in cigarette smokers.  Finally, there is evidence that FMPB extract can promote smaller waist size and lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes – suggesting that it could be a valuable weapon against metabolic syndrome.  All in all, French maritime pine bark extract appears useful in promoting cardiovascular health.

Optimize skin health with FMPB extract

Fans of FMPB extract swear by its ability to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin health.  And they may be on to something.  A small but well-designed study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology showed that 12 weeks of oral supplementation with Pycnogenol (a patented formulation of FMPB extract) improved the hydration and skin elasticity of postmenopausal women!  After assessing skin condition with ultrasound, biopsies, and PCR tests, the impressed researchers declared that the study provided “molecular evidence that FMPB extract can benefit human skin.” 

Apparently, supplementation with the extract increased the expression of enzymes critically involved in synthesizing skin-protective compounds such as hyaluronic acid and collagen.  (This can translate to smoother, more flexible, more lustrous skin).  As a result, the scientists stated that FMPB “may be useful to counteract the clinical signs of aging.” (What’s not to like about that?!)

FMPB extract may preserve cognitive health

With potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s no surprise that FMPB extract is currently being studied for its ability to maintain cognitive function and ward off dementia.  In a recent (2019) review published in Phytomedicine, the authors noted FMPB’s “known neuroprotective effects” and its potential to improve cognitive function in the elderly.  While more clinical research is needed, cell and animal studies have been promising. 

In one study, FMPB extract significantly reduced deposits of beta-amyloid plaques - implicated in Alzheimer’s disease - in the brain.  In another, it helped reduce damage to nerve cells after traumatic brain injury.  As a result, researchers have expressed hope that FMPB could be used to prevent and alleviate Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and age-related cognitive decline.

Access the far-ranging benefits of FMPB through a high-quality product from a trusted vendor

French maritime pine bark extract is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form.  For maximum benefit, use a reputable vendor and look for a standardized formulation containing 85 percent to 90 percent OPCs.  You can also find FMPB extract in ointments and creams for topical application.

Integrative healthcare providers typically advise oral supplementation with FMPB extract in amounts ranging from 50 mg to 450 mg a day, but consult your integrative doctor first.

By the way, FMPB extract has mild antispasmodic and pain-relieving qualities that may help ease menstrual cramps.  Proponents also say it can boost endurance and athletic performance while reducing muscle pain, cramping, and fatigue.  In addition, FMPB extract improves eye circulation and is believed to help protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Far from being an unremarkable part of the scenery, the French maritime pine, and its antioxidant-rich bark, is emerging as a notable “player” in the world of integrative and holistic health. 

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