Pycnogenol has been studied for over 40 years and has very promising implications as a natural supplement. It is a potent source of antioxidants made from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. Pycnognol is best known for its role in boosting heart health and blood vessel function. It has a broad scope of health benefits, and is continuously being explored for a variety of applications.

Although further studies are still needed to substantiate all espoused health claims, there are many well documented uses and benefits of pycnogenol.

Pycnogenol and Performance

Recently, pycnogenol has gained the attention of athletic and bodybuilding communities for its capacity to indirectly increase nitric oxide production.

Nitric Oxide:

Nitric oxide, also known as nitrogen monoxide, is a molecule with chemical formula NO.

Pycnogenol has been shown to increase the activity of nitric oxide synthase, a catalyst involved in converting arginine to Nitric Oxide.

Nitric oxide helps give your body that pumped feeling while working out, and enhances delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. This promotes better muscle gains and boosts recovery.

A study conducted in Japan allowed researchers to measure the effects of Pycnogenol on nitric oxide production in healthy young men [1]. Participants in the study were given either 180 milligrams of pycnogenol or a placebo every day for two weeks. The participants were then given an infusion of Acetylcholine.


An organic polyatomic ion used to increase blood flow throughout the body.

Those that had received the pycnogenol experienced a greater increase in blood flow compared to the the placebo group.

Knee and shoulder pain are a common occurrence for fitness enthusiasts. For all of its cardiovascular benefits, regular exercise places an increased stress on the body’s joints. Pycnogenol possess powerful anti-inflammatory benefits that can help relieve joint pain and discomfort [2].

Read more about the benefits of pycnogenol here: 5 Benefits of Pycnogenol

Side Effects

Extensive research has been conducted on pycnogenol, and it is largely considered to be safe. The few documented side effects have been mild and limited to gastrointestinal discomfort. It should be noted, however, that there are relatively few studies on long term use of pycnogenol.

Pre-Workout Pycnogenol

By increasing the capacity for nitric oxide production in the body, taking pycnogenol before a workout primes the body to lift heavier and longer. This not only gives you better pumps to promote muscle growth, but burns more calories to help you stay lean.

Pycnogenol also and facilitates weight loss by protecting the cells and allowing them to function properly.

Exercise causes Oxidative Stress to the cells, which may impair their function. In addition to oxidative stress, environmental factors such as pollution or tobacco smoke cause an accumulation of free radicals, the molecules that damage cells.

Oxidative Stress:

Oxidative stress is the damage that is caused to our bodies from aging.

Pycnogenol is a potent antioxidant that helps to prevent against the effects of free radicals and keep cells healthy.


Up to this point there is no established daily recommendation for pycnogenol. For best results in terms of boosting nitric oxide levels, combine 100-200 mg of pycnogenol along with 3-5 grams of arginine before breakfast, 30-60 minutes before working out, immediately after working out, and right before bed.


  • K. Nishioka et al., “Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, augments endothelium-dependent vasodilation in humans,” Hypertension Research, 30(9):775-80, 2007
  • Wiley Online; Effect of Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol®) on Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis; Peter Cisár, Richard Jány, Iweta Waczulíková, et al.; August 2008
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