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Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair and Balanced

Pycnogenol: pine bark discord

Probably no other nutritional supplement is promoted with as much zealous fervor and personal animosity as pycnogenol.

By John Russo/

VICUS.COM (26 Feb. 2000) -- Dr. Jacques Masquelier is not happy. Fifty years ago he "invented the pine bark and grape seed extraction process" that yields the flavanoid pycnogenol.. Today, he is prevented from selling his invention in the United States. 

On his website,, the reader is immediately warned, "Not all pycnogenols are created equal. The extraction process is extremely important. If flavonols are not extracted properly, it is possible to end up with a substance that actually becomes a dangerous oxidant in the body."

There are charts, tables, 54 literature references (mostly in French and many not actually published), and seemingly unending text extolling the virtues of pycnogenols, as well as more warnings that not all pycnogenols are the same.

It appears that Dr. Masquelier named and trademarked his invention "Pycnogenol," in France, but his former international broker, a company called Horphag, carried out a "coup," and trademarked pycnogenol under its name in the United States. Then they changed extraction-manufacturing companies and, according to Dr. Masquelier, now sell a "different pine bark-based extract," which is neither manufactured nor endorsed by Dr. Masquelier.

To help customers distinguish Masquelier's French pycnogenol from other pycnogenols, Dr. Masquelier assigns a seal of authenticity to his product.

The American response

Not to be outdone, Horphag Research has countered with its own equally irate and, some say, shamelessly self-promoting website,, complete with its own seal of authenticity and American flag logos.

Nick Mangeris is the chairman and founder of TurningPoint Technologies, Inc., the international pycnogenol consultant for Horphag Research, Ltd. According to Mr. Mangeris, if a product does not have the Horphag seal, then it isn't pycnogenol.

What's a consumer to do?

If this is true, then there are many brands of pycnogenol for sale that do not meet with Mr. Mangeris' or Dr. Masquelier's approval. An informal survey of GNC and Vitamin Shoppe stores revealed that only one of five brands of pycnogenol surveyed (sold at GNC) had the Horphag seal. As expected, none had Dr. Masquelier's seal. In fact, most of the better-known brands in nutritional supplements (e.g., Vitamin Shoppe, Twin Labs, Schiff Products, Solgar Co.) included no seal of approval on their labels. 

Does it make a difference? 

A growing volume of clinical and laboratory research supports the role of pycnogenol as a super-scavenger of oxygen free radicals. Dr. Masquelier provides a long list of benefits attributed to pycnogenol on his website (see list below).  However, many U.S. researchers are awaiting results of well-controlled clinical trials before most health-care practitioners accept many of these purported benefits.

What can be said with confidence is that pycnogenol is an active flavonoid with promising actions on the heart and blood vessels. Additional studies in other conditions are needed to confirm that its biochemical effects will translate into measurable clinical benefits in people.

Benefits of pycnogenol, according to Dr. Masquelier

Reduces risk of:

  • Heart disease   

  • Cancer   

  • Accelerated aging   

  • Arthritis   

  • Oxidative stress   

  • More than 70 other free radical-related diseases 

Strengthens blood vessels and:

  • Maintains proper capillary permeability   

  • Reduces capillary fragility   

  • Reduces bruising   

  • Strengthens capillaries, veins and arteries   

  • Reduces the severity of sports injuries   

  • Reduces varicose veins   

  • Reduces edema and swelling of the legs   

  • Treats chronic venous insufficiency, and   

  • Reduces the risk of phlebitis 

Skin health effects:

  • Improves skin elasticity   

  • Improves skin smoothness   

  • Effective against psoriasisProtects against sun damage   

  • Allergies   

  • Very effective against hay fever 

Effects on inflammation:

  • Fights inflammation   

  • Improves joint flexibility   

  • Reduces the pain due to swollen joints 

Effects on diabetes:

  • Reduces diabetic retinopathy 

Immune system effects:

  • Enhances immune response   

  • Reduces frequency and severity of colds 

Ophthalmologic effects:

  • Reduces retinopathies   

  • Help prevent capillary bleeding, floaters 

Gastrointestinal effects:

  • Acts against stomach ulcers and inflammation 

Effects on red blood cells:

  • Improves red blood cell membrane flexibility

John Russo, Jr. PharmD is senior vice president of medical communications at He is a pharmacist and medical writer with more than 20 years of experience in medical education. 


Examine the 50 years of research for Masquelier's Authentic FRENCH Pycnogenol: Nature's Most Powerful and Patented Antioxidant.