Pycnogenol® supplementation in minimal cognitive dysfunction

J Neurosurg Sci. 2018 Jun;62(3):279-284. doi: 10.23736/S0390-5616.18.04382-5.


Background: Impairments in cognitive function are difficult to evaluate and measure. In most cases, subjects do not perceive any alteration in their own status, particularly in case of mild cognitive impairment. In case of minimal alterations of cognitive function, no real treatment exists at the moment. Functional and/or temporary alterations in the cerebral microcirculation may be involved in cognitive impairment, and some aspects of MCI may be theoretically caused by perfusional problems. Metabolic problems and sleep disturbances can also be associated to cognitive impairment. Pycnogenol® (Horphag) is a natural compound extracted from the bark of French maritime pine, and it is a highly standardized supplement. The aim of this registry was to evaluate the effects of supplementation with Pycnogenol® over a two-month-period in otherwise healthy individuals with minimal cognitive impairment and initial cognitive dysfunction selected on the basis of their MMSE score.

Methods: Eighty-seven healthy subjects with a MMSE score ranging from 18 to 23 (mild impairment) were included. Their BMI was <26 kg/m2, and no metabolic disorders were present. Participants were divided into two groups: one group was treated with standard management (SM) only (N.=44), whereas the other group received Pycnogenol® supplementation (150 mg/day) in addition to SM (N.=43).

Results: In the Pycnogenol® group MMSE score at inclusion was on average 21.64±1.5; after 8 weeks of supplementation, the average MMSE score increased significantly to 25.64±1.4 (P<0.05). In controls, the initial MMSE score was 22.43±1.2, comparable to the supplement group; however, in these subjects it did not show significant improvement after 8 weeks (average after treatment: 23.00±1.3). The median increase was 18% with Pycnogenol® vs. 2.48% in the SM group (P<0.05).

Conclusions: Pycnogenol® has shown a large number of positive effects in subjects with initial cognitive impairment, due to its effects on oxidative stress levels. The safety and tolerability of Pycnogenol® are good, and thus the supplementation regimen should be tested in larger studies with a longer follow-up.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Flavonoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plant Extracts
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Flavonoids
  • Plant Extracts
  • pycnogenols