Pine bark, botanical name Pinus pinaster, is a maritime pine native to southwest France that also grows in countries along the western Mediterranean. Pine bark contains a number of beneficial compounds that are extracted from the bark in a way that doesn’t destroy or damage the tree.
The use of various tree barks for health reasons is thought to date back to 1535 when French explorer Jacques Cartier landed in what is now modern day Quebec, Canada. Being winter, no fruits or vegetables were available. Ship crew became ill and began dying from what we now know as scurvy, a deficiency of vitamin C. Natives taught explorers to use local tree bark as a tea for the scurvy. Apparently it worked. As it turns out, the tree bark is rich in vitamin C and other nutritional phytochemicals. 
Around 1951, a French researcher named Jacques Masquelier came upon Cartier’s accounts of using regional tree bark extracts for his crew. Inspired, a quest began to find the active components in these various tree barks that imparted healing properties. Masquelier found that the most powerful active phytochemical ingredients were from the tree bark of a European coastal pine, Pinus pinaster.
Indigenous peoples and cultures have historically used pine bark extract for conditions involving circulation insufficiency, swelling and irritation of tissues, vision issues, and even as an approach to sore joints. Today, a standardized pine bark extract called Pycnogenol is available in supplements and health products and backed by more than 40 years of research and 340 published studies and review articles. Researchers have found key phytochemical constituents — flavonoids, procyanidins, and proanthocyanidins — inherent in pine bark extract exert the majority of Pycnogenol’s benefits.  
Pine Bark Extract and How It Benefits Male Health
Here’s a quick look at some of the exciting research to date on the benefits of pine bark extract for men’s health.
One investigative study was conducted to see whether the proanthocyanidins found in pine bark extract exerted effects on prostate cancer cells. Researchers tested and measured prostate cells applied with pine bark extract via cancer markers. Pine bark extract was found to have powerful effects on the LNCaP line of prostate cancer cells. The extract was shown to reduce proliferation of harmful cells and even promote cell death, via downregulation of the expression of the androgen receptors. 
A study conducted for 3 months regarding male infertility looked at a group of subfertile men who supplemented with Pycnogenol daily. The researchers found that sperm morphology increased significantly – an impressive 38% improvement. Researchers concluded that since fertility and function responded positively, Pycnogenol may be a safe, effective, and less-invasive alternative to in-vitro fertilization, among other more expensive, risky therapies. 
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study — the gold standard of studies — was conducted to investigate the effects, if any, a combination supplement containing Pycnogenol on erectile dysfunction. The study participants were divided equally into a Pycnogenol containing supplement group and a placebo group.
At the conclusion of the study, men supplementing with the Pycnogenol saw a significant 56% improvement in erectile function and associated markers compared with just 21% improvement in the placebo group. Total testosterone levels were found to have risen 16% in the supplemented group compared to an inconsequential 3% increase in the placebo group. 
Researchers have concluded that pine bark extract is believed to have a direct effect in stimulating nitric oxide (NO) production in endothelial cells in the body which line the smooth muscle of the male reproductive organs. This in turn may have a very powerful effect on endothelial dysfunction, not just erectile dysfunction. 
Pycnogenol has been one of the superstars of natural health approaches over the centuries. As future research studies are conducted on this potent natural remedy, its promise and application will continue to expand. Regarding male health benefits, the results are probably too early to tell definitively but definitely prompt excitement at the possibility that pine bark extract may be a beneficial, can’t-miss addition to your supplement regimen.
- Don J. Durzan. Arginine, scurvy and Cartier’s “tree of life.’ Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2009, 5:5. doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-5-5.
- Rohdewald P. A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Apr;40(4):158 68.
- D’Andrea G. Pycnogenol: a blend of procyanidins with multifaceted therapeutic applications? Fitoterapia. 2010 Oct;81(7):72436. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.06.011.
- Neuwirt H1, Arias MC, Puhr M. Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPC) exert anti-proliferative and proapoptotic effects on prostate cancer cells. Prostate. 2008 Nov 1;68(15):1647 54. doi: 10.1002/pros.20829.
- Roseff, RJ. Improvement in sperm quality and function with French maritime pine tree bark extract. J Reprod Med. 2002 Oct;47(10):8214.
- Ledda A, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR. 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 Oct;106(7):10303. doi: 10.1111/j.1464410X.2010.09213.x.
- Life Extension Foundation. A Natural Approach to Erectile Dysfunction that Improves Vascular Health. LEF.