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    Defending against hay fever and much more!

    Frankie Brogan

    By Frankie Brogan

    Senior Nutritionist

    All hay fever suffers should know what’s happening right now. Hay fever season is here and for many of us, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, runny nose, itchy eyes all come with it. 

    Many products and treatments exist to address these uncomfortable symptoms, but not all are successful.

    One product however, is standing out as the go to supplement for hay fever support.  With documented benefits, more than 200 published trials and contented users around the world, many sufferers are turning to Pycnogenol for reliable relief from hay fever.

    So what is Pycnogenol?

    Pycnogenol is a unique plant extract from the bark of the maritime pine trees (grown in sustainable French forests).  Key to many Pycnogenol benefits, Pycnogenol is a source of antioxidant plant compounds known as proanthrocyanadins which have been shown to help protect cells from free radical damage amongst other benefits.


    What happens during hay fever?

    To understand how Pycnogenol can benefit, it helps to understand what happens during hay fever first.  Simply put, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen.  All allergies occur when the body’s immune system has an exaggerated response to foreign particles which it perceives as dangerous.  Pollen counts are on the rise and specifically, the pollen season separates into three smaller seasons:

    1. Tree pollen: late March to mid-May.
    2. Grass pollen: mid-May to July.
    3. Weed pollen: end of June to September

    This is important, as individuals typically react more to a specific type of pollen.  In Britain, hay fever is caused by grass pollen in around 95% of sufferers for instance.

    Once in contact with the pollen, our mast cells (a type of white blood cell) release the hormone histamine throughout the body, triggering allergic responses involving inflammation of delicate tissues (such as the nose, mouth, airways and skin).  This inflammation can make breathing difficult through constricting the airways.   Histamines also encourage the membranes of the nose to produce mucus, leading to the iconic runny nose and irritated throat.

    Free radical exposure (reactive molecules produced by pollution and intense exercise) can further increase the amount of histamine produced by the mast cells, so this should be addressed also.


    How can Pycnogenol help?

    Pycnogenol has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects that may counter hay fever symptoms such as blocked sinuses, red irritated nostrils and constricted breathing, common to most sufferers.

    In one study, a significant reduction in inflammation was found in subjects consuming Pycnogenol.  The proposed mechanism is that Pycnogenol controls NF-Kappa B, which is a protein complex found in our cells that send out compounds (such as cytokines) into the body that trigger inflammation (1).  The benefits of these anti-inflammatory effects can be wide reaching, and Pycnogenol has been indicated in improving rheumatoid symptoms and circulatory conditions as well!  Just this year, a study showed that Pycnogenol can even normalize cardiovascular risk factors in perimenopausal women!  (4)

    Various trials have shown Pycnogenol to have an anti-histamine effect, also combating the allergic response.  The antioxidant compounds in Pycnogenol are able to neutralize free radicals, reducing the amount of histamine that’s initially released from the mast cells.  Pycnogenol also increases the uptake of histamine into the storage component of the mast cells, rather than releasing them throughout the body where they would trigger inflammation.  (3).

    In a particular lab study, this antihistamine effect was demonstrated to be more favourable than sodium cromoglycate, an antihistamine normally found in pharmaceutical hay fever medications. (2)


    Trying it out

    Pycnogenol 60 TabletsPycnogenol is a well researched and unique plant extract that is proving to be a successful solution for hay fever sufferers all over the world.  Not only have studies shown its anti-histamine actions, but other mechanisms such as anti-inflammation associate Pycnogenol with many other health benefits.

    As always,  you should ensure Pycnogenol supplements are sourced from a reputable manufacturer with an emphasis on safety, quality and well absorbed formulas.




    1. Grimm T, Chovanová Z, Muchová J, Sumegová K, Liptáková A, Duracková Z, Högger P. Inhibition of NF-kappaB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). Journal of inflammation (London, England). 2006 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];3. Available from:

    2. Choi Y, Yan G. Pycnogenol inhibits immunoglobulin e-mediated allergic response in mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2009 May 15 [cited 2017 Feb 8];23(12):1691–5. Available from:

    3. Sharma S, Sharma S, Gulati O. Pycnogenol inhibits the release of histamine from mast cells. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2003 Jan 31 [cited 2017 Feb 8];17(1):66–9. Available from:

    4. Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol® – Minerva Ginecologica 2017 February;69(1):29-34 – Minerva Medica – Journals [Internet]. 2017. Available from: