Pine Bark Extract Shortens Duration of the Common Cold

pine bark extract and common cold

Pine bark extract helps the common cold

Have we found a cure for the common cold yet? Nope, but a new study shows that pine bark extract comes pretty close.

Pygnogenol brand of pine bark extract tested

The researchers, from Italy’s Chieti-Pescara University in Pescara and the University of Milan, conducted a two phase study that tested the Pygnogenol® brand of pine bark extract against an over the counter (OTC) cold remedy, along with the pine bark extract and vitamin C and then the pine bark extract with vitamin C and zinc.

During the first phase of the study, the researchers gave 40 patients the pine bark extract and 33 patients the OTC cold remedy at the first sign of a cold. The pine bark extract shortened cold duration by nearly a day and reduced sick days by about a third among the patients compared to the OTC group.

The second phase of the study then tested 196 patients who, again at the first sign of a cold took the pine bark extract (Pycnogenol ®) with vitamin C, the pine bark extract with zinc gluconate or the pine bark extract with vitamin C and zinc gluconate.

While all three combinations of pine bark extract shortened cold duration, the combination of all three shortened the cold’s duration the most – cutting the length of time of the cold by an average of 3 days compared to the (control) OTC remedy group.

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The combination of zinc and vitamin C with the Pycnogenol® also resulted in a reduction of average sick days by over 66%. In addition, the combination led to an 88% reduction in complications relating to the cold. Complications include the cold becoming a lung infection.

The dose of the combination consisted of 100 milligrams of the Pycnogenol®, 200 milligrams of Vitamin C and 30 milligrams of Gluconate Zinc. The complex was taken daily for at least five days from the beginning of the cold.

All of the pine bark extract groups also shortened the cold’s post-symptom cleanse significantly compared with the control group. And all of the extract groups had reduced levels of swelling in the sinus mucus membranes – a common cold symptom.

But the Pycnogenol with the vitamin C resulted in the quickest relief of the runny nose after 3-4 days.

The Seven Cold Pillars Reduced

In fact, all seven “pillars” of the cold virus were decreased in the pine bark extract groups. The seven “pillars” of a cold include:

1) sore throat
2) sneezing
3) runny nose
4) blocked nose
5) fatigue
6) cough
7) fever

More than 200 viruses can lead to the common cold – the most common being the rhinovirus. However there are nearly 100 different human rhinoviruses. Rhinovirus transmission typically occurs through droplets of respiration – transmitted through the air during sneezing and coughing as well as through handling a contaminated object such as a doorknob, button or otherwise. For this reason, frequent hand washing when in public places is generally advised.

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The common cold will typically strike the average adult two to five times a year.

The lead researcher in the study, Dr. Gianni Belcaro, discussed the ramifications of the new research:

“The results of the study demonstrate the effects of a supplement plan using Pycnogenol® alone or in association with other supplements to reduce the symptoms and severity of the common cold.”


What is Pycnogenol?

Pycnogenol ® is a leading brand of pine bark extract derived from the maritime pine tree (Pinus maritime), indigenous to the southwest coast of France. It has been found to contain phytonutrients such as procyanidins, bioflavonoids and numerous organic acids. The patented plant extract has been the subject of more than 300 published research studies showing its efficacy in a number of conditions, most specifically those related to inflammation and low immune function.

Pine bark extract is a super-antioxidant, and has been shown to reduce free radicals as well as boost the immune system. This immunity effect was illustrated in another recent study on Pycnogenol® that showed it reduces airway inflammation.

Other research has shown that pine bark reduces allergic asthma symptoms.

According to this Italian study, Pycnogenol® with Vitamin C produced positive results because the immune cells called leukocytes require a significant amount of Vitamin C, and the GLUT1 leukocyte transporter is directly stimulated by Pycnogenol®. This creates a synergistic immune-boosting response for combating the common cold.

Between 75 million and 100 million physician visits each year are related to the common cold, and it is estimated that about a third of these visits results in an antibiotic prescription even though antibiotics are useless against colds.

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Belcaro G, Luzzi R, Cornelli U, Shu H, Dugall M, Ippolito E, Casarone MR, Corsi M, Pellegri L, Ledda A, Appendino G. The common cold winter study: effects of Pycnogenol® on signs, symptoms, complications and costs. OTORINOLARINGOL 2013;63:151-61.

Shin IS, Shin NR, Jeon CM, Hong JM, Kwon OK, Kim JC, Oh SR, Hahn KW, Ahn KS. Inhibitory effects of Pycnogenol® (French maritime pine bark extract) on airway inflammation in ovalbumin-induced allergic asthma. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Oct 9. doi:pii: S0278-6915(13)00670-4. 10.1016/j.fct.2013.09.032.


  • Case Adams, Naturopath

    California Naturopath, Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, Doctorate in Integrative Health Sciences, Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. Diplomas in Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Colon Hydrotherapy, certificates in Pain Management and Case Management/Contact Tracing. Has authored more than 30 books and hundreds of periodical articles on natural medicine. Recreational activities include surfing, sailing, running, biking, swimming, SUPing, hiking. Contact: case(at)caseadams(dot)com.

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