History of Pycnogenol

Ancient Pine Bark Wisdom Revealed

The presence of what is now known as Pycnogenol (pronounced “pick-NAH-jen- all”) can be traced far back to ancient civilizations. Pine bark has been considered a health promoting substance for millennia, with therapeutic applications emerging in different parts of the world as history marched on:

  • 4th Century B.C.: Greek physician Hippocrates, known as the “Father of Medicine,” mentioned pine bark as a means to relieve inflammation.
  • 15th Century A.D.: H. Minner, a Swiss pharmacist who compiled the Thesaurus Medicaminum in 1479, referred to pine bark as useful in healing wounds.
  • 16th Century A.D.: German naturalist Hieronymus Boch suggested topical application of pine bark for skin ulcers and its general use in helping with skin disorders.

One of the most intriguing pine bark revelations is that these legendary health figures’ observations have turned out to be incredibly accurate and far ahead of their time.

New World Discovery

In 1535 French explorer Jacques Cartier had a historic pine bark experience that catalyzed Pycnogenol’s emergence in modern times. Caught in punishing Quebec snowstorms while following the Saint Lawrence River, Cartier and his malnourished crew came down with scurvy.

Many died before local Iroquois introduced the crew to a tea prepared from the bark and needles of a native pine known as the “Annedda” or “Tree of Life.” Upon drinking the concoction, Cartier and his remaining men recovered within days. This left a lasting impression on the Gallic pioneer, who took notes on pine’s beneficial properties.


Pycnogenol benefits and roots stretch back to early Native American folk wellness practices — pine bark was prized among the Iroquois as both sustenance and medicine.

Four centuries later, researchers at the University of Bordeaux in France came across Cartier’s writings and were inspired to investigate pine bark. The researchers found that pine bark fit perfectly into their work with bioflavonoids (health-promoting plant pigments), especially the antioxidant bioflavonoid compounds known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs).

It was discovered that the French Maritime Pine (Pinus maritima), a tree found in serene forests along the coastlines of southwestern France, was rich with the beneficial plant compounds that saved Cartier and crew – and thus Pycnogenol came to be.

Did you know? Originally, “Pycnogenol” was the scientific name for a class of polyphenols, but it now refers to a special patented blend of proanthocyanidins extracted from French Maritime Pine bark. Modern-day Pycnogenol offers numerous advantages over pine bark concoctions of the past; including standardization (which ensures consistent levels of active ingredients) and advanced pharmaceutical-grade processing for purity and potency.

Modern Pycnogenol Benefits

Ongoing research has revealed that Pycnogenol has far more nutritional value
than originally anticipated. Experts now believe that PYC performs the
following important biological actions within the human body:

  • Considered a “Super Antioxidant,” PYC helps protect against free radical damage.
  • By influencing endothelial nitric oxide production, Pycnogenol benefits healthy circulation.
  • PYC is believed to help regulate the immune system and modulate the body’s inflammatory response.
  • PYC binds to and protects collagen and elastin, helping bring its nutritional support to the skin, arteries, organs and connective tissues.

With these four important biological keys, PYC may unlock peak vitality
across multiple body systems, structures and functions, delivering support
for heart health, cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure maintenance,
immunity, skin health, healthy aging and much more.

But it all started simply: With pine bark extract as food, tea and medicine.

 Kollesch J., et al. Ausgewählte Texte aus den medizinischen Schriften der Griechen und Römer (Stuttgart: Reclam; 1994)
Minner H., Thesaurus Medicaminum (University Library, Marburg: 1479)
Hoppe B., Das Kra¨uterbuch des Hieronimyus Boch. Wissenschafts-historische Untersuchung (Stuttgart: Anton Hiesemann, 1969), 377–378.
Leacock S, The Mariner of St. Malo: A Chronicle of the Voyages of Jacques Cartier (HardPress, Aug. 2008) pp. 85-88.
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