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Can Pine Bark Extract Boost Testosterone?

Testosterone is an androgenic hormone that regulates a number of important functions. It helps us maintain a healthy and athletic body composition, boost strength and endurance and works alongside other hormones to balance sex drive, libido and energy levels.

When T levels are optimized you’ll look and feel great – but if your levels are too low you might experience a loss of muscle mass, performance and a gradual increase in belly fat.

It is important that in order to optimize your body composition you train hard in the gym and focus on a diet that is rich in hormone boosting nutrients. You should also consider a high-quality, nutrient packed T-booster supplement too if you really want to reap the benefits and maximize results.

Pine bark extract is used in some supplements for its supposed ability to increase your testosterone levels.

But does the science back up the claims? Give this article a read if you want to know more about this supposed male hormone enhancing supplement.


What is Pine Bark Extract?

Pine bark extract (PBE) is a Mediterranean, fast growing species of pine that is thick and robust. Otherwise known as maritime pine or pinus pinaster, this orange-coloured tree provides a bark that gives you varying bioactive compounds.

In this extract you’ll find a number of phenolic acids and flavenoids. It also contains proanthocyanidins and catechins which makes it similar in chemical make up to both green tea and grape seed extract. Together, these two compounds make account for a large proportion of the extract – around 75-80% of the extract by weight.

Due to its nutrient value, PBE is a potent antioxidant that is able to scavenge for free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Additionally, it contains alpha-glucosidase which helps with carbohydrate digestion and therefore may provide a glucose-lowering effect.



Pine Bark and Health Conditions

As an extract high in bioactive compounds and antioxidants, PBE has been used for many years as a traditional remedy and health tonic. Within the last few years there has been a gradual emergence of scientific literature analyzing whether or not it can actually benefit long-term health or not.

It has been used to treat respiratory illness, diabetes, female reproductive issues, circulatory illness and erectile dysfunction amongst many other conditions.

For example, 100 mg of the supplement helped a group of asthmatic patients reduce their medication over a 6-month period [1], and over a 8-week period improved blood flow in patients with high blood pressure [2].

The problem is though that a number of studies have used low-quality research methods, are directly funded by manufacturers, or publish results which are technically significant, but only just. At present there is no convincing science behind it.

A large Cochrane Database review looked at all known and relevant clinical trials using pine bark in 2012 [3]. The review found that in a combined analysis of 15 randomised controlled trials, supplements with a standardised 70% procyanidin content failed to find any adequate benefits. 

Within the 15 studies, over 790 subjects had been evaluated with varying illnesses including asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis. None of these were improved with the supplement therefore no reliability could be confirmed.

The extract has been used widely to treat not only metabolic diseases but also erectile dysfunction too. Could pine bark extract therefore improve aspects of male health and increase testosterone?

Let’s see what the science says…



Key Point: Although used in traditional and clinical medicine, pine bark currently provides insufficient and unreliable evidence that it improves chronic illnesses.


Pine Bark and Testosterone

Although marketed as a male enhancement supplement, there are only a limited amount of clinical trials that have investigated the relationship between the two – and the studies that have been conducted aren’t particularly promising.

A small number of studies have found that PBE improves symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED) which is promising for male health. One study [4] found that 120 mg per day for three months was enough to slightly, but significantly improve ED symptoms – unfortunately testosterone wasn’t measured though.

Another study used Japanese subjects to assess both erectile dysfunction and testosterone levels by giving them 60 mg per day of pine bark extract, combined with arginine and D-aspartic acid [5]. After eight weeks of using the supplement ‘stack’, the study volunteers reported an improvement in ED but only a small but statistically insignificant increase in T levels.

The fact that D-aspartic acid – a very potent testosterone boosting nutrient – was used alongside PBE was likely responsible for the increase.

The only other study measuring the testosterone and pine bark relationship was published in BJU International in 2010 [6]. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 124 patients aged 30-50 years old were given a supplement stack containing pine bark and arginine over a 6-month period.

Testosterone levels improved from 15.9 nmol/L to 18.9 nmol/L which reached statistical significance. However, over such as long time period, and with men at a reasonably young age, such a magnitude of increase is quite low. And again, the supplement was combined with other nutrients so it is difficult to gauge to what degree PBE benefited the men as it wasn’t an isolated supplement.

Unfortunately there are no human studies that have assessed the reliability of pine bark extract on testosterone without the addition of other nutrients. This makes it hard to confidently say whether or not it is a beneficial supplement or not, although based on current evidence it appears not to be.



Key Point: Currently, any association between pine bark extract and testosterone is weak.


Summary

Pine bark comes from an orange-coloured, Mediterranean tree otherwise known as pinus pinaster. It is a nutrient-rich extract that is high in antioxidants such as proanthocyanidins, catechins and phenolic acids.

It has been used in both traditional and clinical medicine to treat a number of metabolic conditions, but with very little scientific research behind it. The most comprehensive review of clinical trials to date failed to find any significant benefits to using the supplement.

Similarly, pine bark extract does not seem to have much of an effect on testosterone, if any at all. There are no human trials available where the supplement was used in isolation – instead it was combined with nutrients such as D-aspartic acid which have been found to improve T levels in more robust studies.

At present, we suggest that you avoid this supplement and consider a testosterone booster with a stronger scientific portfolio.


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References

  1. Belcaro, G et al. Pycnogenol® improvements in asthma management. Panminerva Med. 2011; 53(3 Suppl 1): 57-64
  2. Liu, X et al. Pycnogenol®, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients. Life Sciences. 2004; 74(2): 855-862
  3. Schoonees, A et al. Pycnogenol® (extract of French maritime pine bark) for the treatment of chronic disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012; 18(4): CD008294
  4. D̆uračková, Z et al. Lipid metabolism and erectile function improvement by pycnogenol®, extract from the bark of pinus pinaster in patients suffering from erectile dysfunction-a pilot study. Nutr Res. 2003; 9: 1189-1198
  5. Aoki, H et al. Clinical Assessment of a Supplement of Pycnogenol® and l-arginine in Japanese Patients with Mild to Moderate Erectile Dysfunction. Phytotherapy Res. 2012; 26(2): 204-207
  6. Ledda, A et al. Investigation of a complex plant extract for mild to moderate erectile dysfunction in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-arm study. BJUI. 2010; 106(7): 1030-1033


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