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November 2013

Pycnogenol® May Reduce Common Cold Symptoms and Duration

Pycnogenol® (French maritime pine bark extract) used alone or in combination with other treatments may help reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold, according to a study.

French maritime pine bark extract grows in southwest France. It is a source of nutrients believed to contribute to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-building, and heart health benefits. Pycnogenol® is the registered trade name for a patented water extract of French maritime pine bark. The product contains antioxidants such as catechins, which are found in high concentrations in red wine, grapes, cocoa, cranberries, and apples. Consumption of these nutrients has been suggested as a reason for why the French have lower rates of heart disease and diabetes despite relatively high-fat diets. Pycnogenol® has been studied for inflammation, skin problems (including rashes and chronic disorders), allergies, asthma, heart and circulation issues, high blood pressure, and blood vessel disease. When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, some sources claim that supplementing with Pycnogenol® may improve body mass index and heart health. Despite positive findings, further research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of French maritime pine bark extract.

The common cold, or acute viral nasopharyngitis, is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system, which may involve the nose, throat, sinuses, eustachian tubes (connects the ears to the throat), trachea (windpipe), larynx (voice box), and bronchial tubes (airways). Colds are one of the leading causes of doctor visits and missed days from school and work.

Researchers set out to determine whether the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of Pycnogenol® have any impact on signs and symptoms of the common cold. They compared the results of four different daily treatment regimens: Pycnogenol®, vitamin C, gluconate zinc, or a supplement containing a combination of Pycnogenol®, gluconate zinc, and vitamin C.

The results suggested that lost working days were decreased in the groups receiving Pycnogenol®, when compared to controls. The duration of the common cold appeared to be shortest in those taking the combination supplement, which also appeared to be the best performer on average in terms of reducing symptoms. The groups receiving Pycnogenol® also had a lower need for the use of any other compound, as well as reduced occurrence of complications associated with the common cold. The best results were observed with the combination supplement taken for five days.

The authors concluded that Pycnogenol® may have some effect on reducing signs, symptoms, and duration of the common cold, as well as the likelihood of complications. Further study is needed to better understand and confirm these findings.

For more information about Pycnogenol® (French maritime bark extract), please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Belcaro G, Luzzi R, Cornelli U, et al. The common cold winter study: effects of Pycnogenol® on signs, symptoms, complications and costs. Otorinolaringologia. 2013 September;63(3):151-61.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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