_x000D_ Most "functional foods" (a term used to represent food or food components that provide significant health benefits beyond basic nutrition) obtain their health promoting properties from naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals (plant chemicals). For example, garlic contains sulfur compounds that may reduce the risk of heart disease and tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a compound that may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. There may be as many as 4.000 phytochemicals with a potential to affect diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that some of these substances may positively affect biological mechanisms and could possibly be helpful in preventing and treating disease._x000D_ _x000D_ One such substance, is Pycnogenol. _x000D_ _x000D_ What is Pycnogenol?_x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol is a patented formulation of maritime Pine Bark Extract. Many of the compounds in Pycnogenol (like other pine bark extracts) are bioflavonoids, which are common many plants, most notably apples, cinnamon, Aronia fruit, cocoa beans, grape seed, grape skin and red wines. Bilberry, cranberry, black currant, green tea, black tea and many other plants also contain these bioflavonoids and are likely to be responsible for some of their unique health benefits. The superstar flavonoids in maritime pine bark are called proanthocyanidins, and Pycnogenol is “standardized” to contain certain levels of a particular group of them (procyanidins). Like many plant compounds, Pycnogenol, put simply, is a powerful antioxidant. _x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol's Native Origins_x000D_ _x000D_ On one of his North American expeditions almost 500 years ago, French explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew became acquainted with the St. Lawrence Iroquoians who lived along the shores of the St. Lawrence river, an area is known for its cold and harsh winters. From mid-November 1535, Cartier and his fleet lay frozen solid on the river for five fearful months. When they ran out of fresh supplies, the crew became sick with scurvy (an extreme vitamin C deficiency), and sadly, many of the men died._x000D_ _x000D_ The native St Lawrence Iroquoians shared their ancestral wisdom with Cartier and taught him and his remaining crew to make tea from the bark and needles of the pine tree, which supplied a small amount of vitamin C. While drinking the tea few times a day, remarkably most of the men recovered from their illness within a week or two._x000D_ _x000D_ Many moons later, Professor Jacques Masquelier developed and patented a technique to extract oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC's - basically a large class of those powerful Bioflavonoids we mentioned earlier) from pine bark and grape seeds. He named the extract from pine bark “Pycnogenol”._x000D_ _x000D_ _x000D_ _x000D_ We have learned that the best source of pine bark comes from the unspoiled, lush pine forests of southern France and in its patented form, Pycnogenol is one of the most researched natural ingredients in the market today with over 370 published studies. With more antioxidant potential than Vitamins C and E the active extract of French Pine bark scavenges free radicals within the body and reduce oxidative damage done to our skin, tissues, liver and overall health. _x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol and Blood Flow_x000D_ _x000D_ The endothelium is the innermost cellular layer of the arteries that regulates blood flow to the majority of our organs. Excessive platelet function can cause endothelial dysfunction which may result in heart disease and/or strokes. When platelets are overactive, clots form inside blood vessels, blocking blood flow. Pycnogenol's antioxidant function helps protect endothelial cells from damage_x000D_ _x000D_ Studies on Pycnogenol also show it has a significant impact on nitric oxide (NO) levels in the body, which may help to improve erectile dysfuction. Nitric oxide, a signaling compound, is essential in dilating blood vessels, not only to allow a normal erection, but also to control blood pressure throughout the body. Our bodies relax their arteries by increasing nitric oxide levels in the vessels' lining cells (or endothelium). Studies have found that a combination of Pycnogenol and the amino acid L-arginine, which also increases NO, improved both erections and satisfaction with intercourse in men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction and also increased testosterone levels. Pycnogenol beneficially modulates nitric oxide production to help overcome the vessel-constricting, blood pressure-elevating effects of adrenaline and other stress-induced compounds._x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol and Diabetes_x000D_ _x000D_ In 2016, an estimated 29% of Canadians are were diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes and it is currently costing the Canadian health care system 3.4 billion. Diabetes contributes to 30% of strokes, 40% of heart attacks, 50% of kidney failure requiring dialysis, 70% of non traumatic lower limb amputations and is currently the leading cause of vision loss. When looking for ways to help improve long-term blood sugar control and better blood pressure control, both of which can help better manage diabetes, one effective option may be Pycnogenol. In diabetes, the excess amounts of glucose remaining unused in the blood stream may impact the vascular system. Pycnogenol may help normalize blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates. Pycnogenol delays the uptake of complex sugars such as starch, from a meal 190 times more potently than prescription medications, preventing the typical high glucose peak in the blood stream after a meal._x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol and Brain Fuction_x000D_ _x000D_ Daily use of Pycnogenolmay help improve attention span, memory, decision-making and overall cognitive function. In a study of 59 participants between the age of 35-55 supplementing with Pycnogenol for 12 weeks, results showed a significant improvement in mood by 16% and a measurable boost in mental performance by almost 9%. Furthermore, multiple studies have been conducted using Pycnogenol and showing its positive effects in managing and improvingsome attention parameters in children with ADHD, in improving results of specific cognitive test in students and in improving several aspects of cognitive functions in adults over 60. Researchers believe these benefits stem from pine bark extract’s antioxidant effects and ability to dramatically reduce oxidative stress._x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol and Skin Health_x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol binds with skin proteins collagen and elastin, and protects skin from various harmful enzymes helping to rebuild elasticity, essential for a smoother, youthful looking skin. Enzymes and free radicals can no longer break down collagen and elastin fibers, the process enabling development of wrinkles. Pycnogenol defies the accelerated ageing of the skin due to exposure to sunlight (photo-ageing and helps to lighten-up disturbing dark spots of the skin resulting from over-pigmentation. It also helps to restore good blood circulation in tiny capillaries of the skin. With abundance of water and oxygen and removal of waste products the skin is replenished with moisture, looking youger and fresh._x000D_ _x000D_ Pycnogenol and the common cold_x000D_ _x000D_ Italian researchers looked at the effects of various combinations of Pycnogenol, vitamin C, and zinc in adults with colds. The best solution was a combination of all three. Whereas untreated colds lasted seven days, study participants who took 100 mg of Pycnogenol, 200 mg of vitamin C, and 30 mg of zinc daily in divided doses had resolution after only four days. Better still, symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, sneezing, and cough were significantly reduced. Keep these supplements on hand and take them at the first sign of any cold and flu symptoms. Adding them to your daily regimen may also help stave off common colds.