Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a developmental condition that mostly affects children, although adults can suffer from it, too 13. It is characterized by inattentiveness, impulsive behavior and concentration problems. Although the exact cause of ADHD is unclear, environmental and genetic factors may contribute to its development. ADHD is commonly treated with prescription medicines and behavioral therapy. Stimulant drugs, such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine, are most commonly prescribed. An herbal supplement known as pycnogenol may also help improve symptoms of ADHD, although scientific evidence to prove it is effective is mixed 5. Consult a doctor before using it.
Pycnogenol, which is extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune-stimulating effects 45. It is sometimes used as an alternative treatment for several conditions including hypertension, erectile dysfunction and ADHD. It may also have memory enhancing effects.
OPC-3 Isotonix for ADHD
Studies evaluating the role of pycnogenol in the treatment of ADHD have produced mixed results 5. A study published in the September 2002 issue of the “Journal of Attention Disorders,” found that although ADHD symptoms improved during treatment with pycnogenol, it did not outperform a placebo control 35. In contrast, the results of the trial published in the September 2006 issue of “European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,” found that children that received 1mg per kilogram of body weight per day for four weeks experienced a significant reduction in hyperactivity 4. Pycnogenol also improved attention and concentration 35. No positive effects were seen in the placebo group. In addition, the researchers found that a relapse of symptoms occurred one month after terminating pycnogenol treatment 5.
Taking up to 450mg of pycnogenol daily may be safe for most adults 5. However, children may not be able to tolerate that as high doses. It may cause side effects including headache, dizziness and gastrointestinal upset. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center adds that it may cause irritability, especially when used for the treatment of ADHD 2. This herb should not be used by people with an autoimmune disease and should be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
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Several herbs are sometimes used to improve symptoms of ADHD, including American ginseng and passionflower. However, few scientific studies have evaluated their efficacy as ADHD treatments, although the results of study published in the May 2001 issue of the “Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience,” found that American ginseng, combined with ginkgo, improved ADHD symptoms. Get medical clearance before using herbs to treat ADHD, particularly in children.
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- University of Maryland Medical Center: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Pine Bark Extract
- "Journal of Attention Disorders”; An Experimental Comparison of Pycnogenol and Methylphenidate in Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); S. Tenenbaum et al; September 2002
- "European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry;” Treatment of ADHD with French Maritime Pine Bark Extract, Pycnogenol; September 2006
- RxList: Pycnogenol
- “Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience”; Effect of the Herbal Extract Combination Panax Quinquefolium and Ginkgo Biloba on Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Pilot Study; M.R. Lyon et al; May 2001
- Pj R. Relief from Menopausal Symptoms by Non-hormonal Treatment with PycnogenolÂ® (French Maritime Pine Bark Extract). Journal of Genital System & Disorders. 2016;05(04). doi:10.4172/2325-9728.1000163.
- Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, et al. Comparison of Pycnogenol and Daflon in treating chronic venous insufficiency: a prospective, controlled study. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2006;12(2):205-12. doi:10.1177/107602960601200209
- Stanislavov R, Nikolova V. Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003;29(3):207-13. doi:10.1080/00926230390155104
- Zibadi S, Rohdewald PJ, Park D, Watson RR. Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors in subjects with type 2 diabetes by Pycnogenol supplementation. Nutr Res. 2008;28(5):315-20. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2008.03.003
- Drieling RL, Gardner CD, Ma J, Ahn DK, Stafford RS. No beneficial effects of pine bark extract on cardiovascular disease risk factors. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(17):1541-7. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.310
- Liu X, Wei J, Tan F, Zhou S, Würthwein G, Rohdewald P. Antidiabetic effect of Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract in patients with diabetes type II. Life Sci. 2004;75(21):2505-13. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2003.10.043
- Luzzi R, Belcaro G, Hu S, et al. Improvement in symptoms and cochlear flow with pycnogenol in patients with Meniere's disease and tinnitus. Minerva Med. 2014;105(3):245-54.
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Pine Bark Extract. Updated February 12, 2018.
- Schönlau F, Rohdewald P. Pycnogenol for Diabetic Retinopathy. A Review. International Ophthalmology. 2001;24(3):161-171. doi:10.1023/a:1021160924583.
- Marini A, Grether-beck S, Jaenicke T, et al. Pycnogenol® effects on skin elasticity and hydration coincide with increased gene expressions of collagen type I and hyaluronic acid synthase in women. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;25(2):86-92. doi:10.1159/000335261
Based in London, Charlotte Waterworth has been writing about health since 2000. Her work has appeared in trade magazines, including "Independent Community Pharmacist," "Pharmafocus," "Current Drug Discovery" and "Hospital Healthcare Europe." She is a member of the European Medical Writers Association. She holds an honors Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a doctoral degree in gene therapy, both from Cardiff University.