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Antidepressant medication has been linked to a number of side effects, including sexual dysfunction. Researchers from Slovakia highlighted the potential of the extract from the bark of pine trees -- specifically Pycnogenol, a patented extract from the French maritime pine tree -- as a solution to common bedroom woes
Pycnogenol may be a relative newcomer in enhancing athletic performance and other bodily functions, but it has an unmistakable flexibility in assisting against a range of health conditions.[i] This patented extract from the French maritime pine tree, as developed by European firm Horphag Research, was recently shown to hold promise in addressing sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressant use.
Pine Bark Extract Improves Drug-Induced Sexual Side Effects
The randomized trial involved 72 men and women diagnosed with depression who were taking Escitalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used as a common antidepressant.[ii] The subjects were split into two groups: 37 who took 50 milligrams (mg) of Pycnogenol every day for four months and 35 who took just the antidepressant medication. They were examined every month.
The researchers found that while the antidepressant helped improve depressive symptoms and their severity, the Pycnogenol group saw clear results in attenuating sexual dysfunction starting on the first month of treatment, spilling into the second month. The group also demonstrated increased heart rate.
According to the researchers, Pycnogenol's ability to help ease sexual dysfunction from antidepressant treatment may stem from improved endothelial functioning via its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vasodilatory and anticoagulant properties. Co-treatment with it while on an antidepressant regimen may then reduce potential sexual dysfunction and elevate heart rate, the team wrote in the journal Physiology International.[iii]
Five More Health Benefits of Pine Bark Extract
There's an abundance of studies backing the potency and effectiveness of pine bark extract (see nearly 150 diseases that benefit from Pycnogenol on the GMI database), ranging from simple hemorrhoids to more complex conditions such as high blood pressure and psoriasis. Here are five other common benefits you can obtain from this beneficial natural extract:
- Athletic performance -- Researchers from Italy conducted a study to evaluate Pycnogenol's effects on training, exercise, recovery and oxidative stress.[iv] They concluded that those who took Pycnogenol improved their two-mile running times substantially more than the control group. They also saw enhanced numbers in their push-ups and sit-ups, along with lower oxidative stress levels from exercise, compared to the control group.
- Hemorrhoids -- Researchers tested 49 women with chronic post-pregnancy hemorrhoids.[v] Seventy-five percent of participants who took Pycnogenol emerged symptom-free after the six-month therapy, while 56% of the control group saw the same effect.
Furthermore, the more severe and chronic cases experienced top success from pine bark extract, with 75% of those with fourth-degree hemorrhoids becoming symptom-free at the sixth-month mark (compared to just 36% in the control group).
- Blood flow and high blood pressure -- Part of the astounding effects of Pycnogenol is its ability to improve blood vessel conditions, reduce plaque and increase blood flow.[vi] This is especially helpful among the smaller blood vessels, including those nourishing skin cells.
Pine bark extract also significantly slashes oxidative stress, which has been linked to artery plaques and high LDL cholesterol, and neutralizes free radicals in the body. Pycnogenol could even be nature's powerful aspirin that your doctor never told you about.
- Psoriasis -- In a study, patients with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis given 150 mg of the patented extract every day for three months saw significantly improved results compared to those who had conventional treatment.[vii] They had notably higher skin water content and decreased symptoms. Interestingly, the differences in improvements were more pronounced among those with more severe psoriasis cases.
- Sexual dysfunction -- A combination of pine bark extract and L-arginine is deemed effective for long-term improvement of erectile function,[viii] while natural polyphenols from pine bark extract help improve erectile function in diabetes patients, alongside their lipid profile.[ix]
Whether your problems in sexual health and performance are rooted in medication or in an entirely different cause, pine bark extract might be worth exploring as a natural remedy. Its track record in a host of ailments suggests it can provide a much-needed boost in the bedroom or in life's daily activities.
[ii] Smetanka A et al "Pycnogenol supplementation as an adjunct treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction" Physiol Int. 2019 Mar 1;106(1):59-69. Epub 2019 Mar 19.
[iii] Smetanka A et al "Pycnogenol supplementation as an adjunct treatment for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction" Physiol Int. 2019 Mar 1;106(1):59-69. Epub 2019 Mar 19.
[iv] Vinciguerra G et al "Evaluation of the effects of supplementation with Pycnogenol® on fitness in normal subjects with the Army Physical Fitness Test and in performances of athletes in the 100-minute triathlon" J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Dec;53(6):644-54.
[v] Belcaro Get al "Pycnogenol® in postpartum symptomatic hemorrhoids" Minerva Ginecol. 2014 Feb;66(1):77-84.
[vi] Hu S et al "Effects of pycnogenol on endothelial dysfunction in borderline hypertensive, hyperlipidemic, and hyperglycemic individuals: the borderline study" Int Angiol. 2014 Nov 13.
[vii] Belcaro G, Luzzi R, Hu S, Cesarone MR, Dugall M, Ippolito E, Corsi M, Caporale S. "Improvement in signs and symptoms in psoriasis patients with Pycnogenol® supplementation" Panminerva Med. 2014 Mar;56(1):41-8.
[viii] Andrea Ledda et al "Investigation of a complex plant extract for mild to moderate erectile dysfunction in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-arm study" BJU Int. 2010 Feb 22. Epub 2010 Feb 22.
[ix] B Trebaticky et al "Natural polyphenols improve erectile function and lipid profile in patients suffering from erectile dysfunction" Bratisl Lek Listy. 2019 ;120(12):941-944.