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Pine Bark for Blood Vessels Big and Small, Part 2 of 2

Pine Bark for Blood Vessels Big and Small, Part 2 of 2

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A natural solution for erectile dysfunction, cold hands, and vision

In Post 1 of 2, we explored the effects of maritime pine bark extract on blood pressure, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. In this post we’ll zoom in on the extract’s effects on smaller blood vessels.

Let’s take a closer look at the vascular diseases that may be addressed with a daily dose of pine bark, from head (vision) to toe (Raynaud’s disease) – not to mention the in the bedroom as well (erectile dysfunction)!

Retinopathy and other microangiopathies

The smaller vessels of individuals with hypertension and diabetes are at risk of damage, largely due to advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

AGEs are harmful compounds that increase oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Because AGEs are formed when fats or proteins combine with sugar in the bloodstream (in a process known as glycation), those with high blood sugar levels are at particularly high risk of developing AGE-related problems.[1] AGEs are also implicated in atherosclerosis (“clogged arteries”) and Alzheimer’s disease.[2]

AGEs are especially harmful to the smallest blood vessels in the body (known as the microvasculature), and can cause microangiopathies, diseases in which the capillary walls become so thick and weak that they bleed, leak protein, and slow blood flow.[3]

Pine bark extract has been shown to inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and support the health of the microvasculature in those with diabetes.

Thankfully, standardized pine bark extract (SPBE) has been shown to inhibit the formation of AGEs[4] and support the health of the microvasculature in those with diabetes.[5] Examples of diabetes-related microangiopathies that can be addressed with SPBE include retinopathy (eye problems), tinnitus (ringing in the ears),[6],[7] and nephropathy (kidney disease).[8],[9] AGEs can also cause – and SPBE may also treat – neuropathy (nerve damage).[10],[11]

In a small study examining the effects of SPBE in 24 patients with early stages of retinopathy,[12] the extract was shown to decrease retinal edema, decrease retinal thickness, and improve retinal blood flow. The SPBE-treated patients also enjoyed significant improvements in their vision two months after treatment, whereas no change was found in the control group. Similar outcomes on vision were observed in a study of SPBE’s effects on rats.[13]

Erectile dysfunction

Considering the important roles that blood flow and engorgement play in achieving and maintaining penile erection, it’s no surprise that blood vessel integrity and cardiovascular health are the cornerstones of erectile dysfunction (ED) prevention.[14] In fact, the best predictors of ED (other than age) are metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, smoking, and medication use.[15]

Antioxidants, such as those found in SPBE, support the production and release of nitric oxide (NO) from the cells that line the blood vessels. NO causes the relaxation of the smooth muscles lining the vessels, resulting in vasodilation (the widening of the veins, arteries, and capillaries). Vasodilation in turn leads to reductions in blood pressure and improved blood flow throughout the body, including the reproductive system.[16] Unfortunately, NO production declines with age,[17] which explains in part why ED is more common in the later decades of life.

Multiple human studies have shown that SPBE improves erectile function.

Sildenafil (Viagra) and similar pharmaceutical drugs used to manage ED symptoms temporarily augment NO-mediated pathways, but sadly do not sustainably increase NO, and thus need to be used on an ongoing basis.[18]

Fortunately, SPBE has been observed to improve forearm blood flow in humans via an increase in NO production,[19] and these same mechanisms are likely how SPBE improves erectile function.

SPBE has been shown to improve erectile function, both as a standalone treatment and in combination with L-arginine, a precursor for NO formation.[20],[21] In one trial, for example, supplementation with SPBE (120 mg daily for three months) significantly reduced patients’ ED severity from moderate to mild.[22]

Raynaud’s syndrome

Raynaud’s syndrome (RS) is characterized by a spasm of the blood vessels of the hand and fingers. This contraction – or vasospasm, as it’s called in medicine – typically occurs as a response to cold or stress, and results in discomfort, color changes, and coldness in one or more fingers and/or toes.

Pine bark extract significantly improved symptoms of coldness, burning pain, paresthesias (pins and needles sensation), and color changes of the skin in individuals with Raynaud’s syndrome.

In a group of 67 females with primary, mild RS – all of whom worked in shops with refrigerators – 100 mg of SPBE daily significantly improved symptoms of coldness, burning pain, paresthesias (pins and needles sensation), and irregular color changes.[23] SPBE also decreased objective measurements of oxidative stress and increased transcutaneous oxygen pressure (the amount of oxygen diffused through the skin) more than in controls.

Summary

By acting as an antioxidant, increasing nitric oxide (NO) levels, and fighting advanced glycation end products (AGEs), standardized pine bark extract (SPBE) has been shown to support the health of blood vessels of all sizes. Some vascular conditions that may be improved with this botanical extract include: hypertension, retinopathy, nephropathy, tinnitus, erectile dysfunction, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, venous ulcers, and Raynaud’s syndrome. When vascular problems arise, SPBE is a great nutritional too to help keep the blood (and health) flowing.

 

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