Tree Bark May Be Beneficial To Diabetics: Supplement or Drug?

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Tree Bark May Be Beneficial To Diabetics: Supplement or Drug?

Manufacturers of Pycnogenol, a dietary supplement, report on the vision improvements in patients with early diabetic retinopathy.

“Ever Eat A Pine Tree?  Many Parts are Edible.”

That famous line by Euell Gibbons lives on.  Now, “researchers” have described that Pycnogenol®, an extract from the bark  of the French maritime pine tree, has the potential to improve vision in patients with diabetic retinopathy.  The tree is found  along the coast of southwest France.

In a small study involving 46 patients with early diabetic retinopathy, 24 patients were given Pycnogenol tablets daily and the remainder were given placebo (sugar pill).

After 2 months, patients taking Pycnogenol had statistically significant improvement in vision and decreased macular edema.  An increase in retinal blood flow was also noted.  (The standard treatment for diabetic macular edema is laser photocoagulation.)

The researchers think that Pycnogenol (Horphag Research) works by increasing blood flow to the retina that secondarily decreases the diabetic macular edema.  Pycnogenol is said to be an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and aids in vascular dilation.

CAUTION: What Does This Really Mean?

Pycnogenol is not a drug.  It is a supplement.  There are big differences in the requirements needed to bring a supplement to market vs. a drug.

Pycnogenol is marketed in the United States as a dietary supplement.  As such, the manufacturers of dietary supplements do not have to provide safety and health information regarding their products as long as they do not claim the supplements can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.

On the other hand, drug manufacturers must submit health and safety data from carefully designed clinical trials to the FDA before marketing their products.

Lastly, supplements are not necessarily tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements. Even so, such data is not necessarily available or provided.

Be careful out there!  There’s a lot of masquerading of supplements.  Be cautious.


Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

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  1. David says:

    Do you recommend the use of Pycnogenol in you practice? I recently had a vitrectomy because of bleeding. Would Pycnogenol be beneficial post op? I am impressed with your website. It is very informative.

  2. Sonny says:

    Dr. Wong,

    Could you explain why you do not recommend Pycnogenol? Aside from the fact it isn’t a “drug”, which I understand. Is your position based on the fact that Pycnogenol has not gone through the FDA safety and effectiveness procedures? Or is your position from expeience with patients using Pycnogenol?

    I second the great Website.


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