In 2002, Roseff published findings into a study investigating how pine tree bark extract benefits male fertility1, specifically Pycnogenol.
What is Pine Bark Extract?
Pycnogenol is the U.S trademarked supplement derived from extracts of the French maritime pine tree bark, Pinus pinaster. There are other pine bark extract supplements on the market, many of which are derived from different pine species and using different formulas. However, Pycnogenol is particularly popular.
The Pine Bark Extract Fertility Study
During Roseff’s research, 19 sub-fertile men were given 200mg of Pycnogenol orally for 90 days. Prior to the study commencing, semen samples were analysed for sperm count, motility and morphology. Following the 90 day supplementation, the tests were repeated and analysed against the base data. The results revealed a decrease in abnormal sperm and an increase in healthy, normal functioning sperm. This study suggests that Pycnogenol supplementation may enhance male fertility and help couples naturally conceive.
However, it’s important to note that only 19 participants took part in this non-randomized clinical study. To gather more conclusive evidence, a much larger, randomized sample size and control is necessary. Despite the limitations of this study, there is a growing body of evidence that supports the use of pine tree bark extract for improving fertility, among other health advantages.
To date there have been well over 300 studies investigating the effects of pine park extract to treat a wide range of health issues including allergies, diabetes, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, cancer, menopausal symptoms.
The Ultimate Antioxidant
Extracts of pine tree bark from Pinus pinaster are rich in natural phytochemicals called proanthocyanidins. These are potent antioxidants, much more powerful than other commonly known antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Roseff believes that it is the proanthocyanidins in pine bark that are responsible for increasing healthy sperm concentrations.
Why Antioxidants Increase Fertility
In healthy, fertile males, the seminal fluid is rich in antioxidants. This helps to protect the sperm from free radical damage. It’s postulated that the seminal fluid in sub-fertile men lacks this high concentration of antioxidants. Thus, the sperm is exposed to oxidative stress which leads to abnormalities, lowering the concentration of healthy sperm. This theory remains to be proven, although the initial research is promising.
A stronger erection – an indirect benefit
It’s not only the antioxidant effects of pine tree bark extract that are believed to be contributing to improved conception capacity. There has also been a lot of research investigating the treatment of erectile dysfunction using this botanical extract.
The amino acid arginine is a well established natural remedy for erectile dysfunction. It helps to enhance circulation and supports stronger erections. However, studies are showing that in combination therapy with pine bark extract, arginine appears more effective.
In 2003, Stanislavov and Nikolova published their findings into treating erectile dysfunction with arginine and Pycnogenol2. Over three months, men aged between 25 and 45 suffering from erectile dysfunction where studied. In the first month, men only received 1.7g of arginine daily. The second month they also received 40mg of Pycnogenol twice daily. In the final month of the study, patients increased their Pycnogenol intake to 40mg three times a day.
Stanislavov and Nikolova found no significant improvement in erectile function in patients after one month.
However, in the second month, the combination therapy of arginine and Pycnogenol resulted in an increase in patients with restored sexual function by 80%. This increased again to 92.5% after the third month of treatment. Researchers concluded that this combination therapy can significantly improve male sexual function without negative side effects.
In 2008, this study was replicated using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial involving 50 patients with mild erectile dysfunction3. Again, the results showed a significant improvement in erectile function with combination therapy. Ninety percent of men receiving both arginine and pine bark extract reported a reduction in erectile dysfunction and enhanced male sexual hormone levels. How exactly pine tree bark extract improves erectile function in association with arginine is yet to be determined.
Clearly research has established a link between pine bark extract and improving male fertility and sexual function. Although more research is necessary, the foundations have been laid. Supplementation with products such as Pycnogenol is becoming popular as more men look for natural ways to improve their chances of conception.
- Roseff SJ. Improvement in sperm quality and function with French maritime pine tree bark extract. Journal of Reproductive Medicine. 2002. 47(10): 821-4 ↩
- Stanislavov R, Nikolova V. Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. 2003. 29(3): 207-13 ↩
- Stanislavov R, Nikolova V, Rohdewald P. Improvement of erectile function with Prelox: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. International Journal of Impotence Research. 2008. 20(2): 173-80 ↩