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Books I recommend:


The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child (Dynamos, Discoverers and Dreamers)


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Beyond ADD: Hunting for Reasons in the Past & the Present by Thom Hartmann


The Minds of Boys:
Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

The ADD Nutrition Solution

More   books...



Pycnogenol (Pine Bark Extract)
and Grape Seed Extract

These two products are popular natural remedies for ADD.   Pycnogenol is a patented (and very expensive) form of pine bark extract that is aggressively marketed by lots of different vendors.  This page in no way means I am promoting or endorsing these products.  I'm simply supplying whatever "third-party" information I do have.

The active ingredients in these products are proanthocyanidins or flavan-3-ols, and don't ask me how to pronounce those words.   These chemicals come from a class of protective compounds that we normally get in fruits and vegetables. Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs)  have a number of properties.  First, they appear to help Vitamin C work better in the brain.   Vitamin C is needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters norepinephirine, dopamine and serotonin, which are involved with ADD. Vitamin C also protects the brain against free-radical damage, so the Vitamin C/OPC combination acts as an antioxident. Vitamin C also helps the body chelate toxic heavy metals so that they can be flushed from the body.  This is all coming from the book cited below, so don't be thinking I actually understand it.

OPCs also act as natural anti-histamines, block inflammation and boost the immune system. They also reportedly affect the metabolic enzymes that regulate neurotransmitters, and they appear to inhibit the breakdown of norepinephrine and dopamine.  Some recent studies have shown that ADD is associated with a faster than average reuptake (breakdown) of dopamine, so perhaps this is the most important factor in how OPCs help.  

The following information is from the book "The ADD Nutrition Solution" by Marcia Zimmerman, C.N., a certified nutritionist, a lecturer specializing in ADHD, and a consultant to some of the country's leading nutritional and supplement companies:

"[Proanthocyanidins] have been the subject of numerous scientific investigations and their efficacy has been validated by scientists throughout the world.  Available in Europe for nearly forty years as prescription drugs for the treatment of venous conditions, these compounds have the unique property of strengthening the walls of arteries, veins, and capillaries.

"Clinical evidence of the effectiveness of OPCs had come from many sources. One is a psychiatric team in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who found twenty-seven adults and children with ADHD scored as well when they were taking Masquelier's OPC as they previously had when taking stimulant medication.  Marian Sigurdson, Ph.D., directed the trial in a Tulsa medical clinic. The team found that administration of OPCs reduced hyperactivity and increased attention and focus as effectively as Ritalin.

"James Greenblatt, M.D., a child psychiatrist in Boston, Massachusetts, has reported success in reducing ADHD symptoms with OPCs as well.   Dr. Greenblatt emplys EEG biofeedback to measure his patients' responsiveness to therapies he uses.  With such tools, Dr. Greenblatt found that OPCs reduced the number of theta waves -- the daydreaming state -- in his young ADHD patients so that their attention was significantly increased."

Ms. Zimmerman has had positive experience with Masquelier's OPCs and Berkem's Authentic Gold OPCs, which she says are the best grape seed extract products on the market. These products also have the approval of the French Ministry of Health and are subject to rigorous pharmaceutical standards.  She recommends that people start out with grapeseed extract because it is less expensive than Pycnogenol, however, some people may respond more favorable to Pycnogenol because the ingredients differ somewhat.  Amounts recommended are 75 mg/day for grape seed extract (or 50 mg/day for children) and for Pycnogenol the amount is 1 mg for each pound of body weight. In addition, people should take Vitamin C in a ratio 10 times higher than the grape seed extract (750 mg/day).

And from the book "The Miracle Brain" by Jean Carper I have this blurb: "New evidence from the Berkeley laboratory of Dr. Lester Packer shows that Pycnogenol possesses strong powers against certain free radicals, including nitric oxide that can be toxic to brain cells, especially in brains vulnerable to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases.   Dr. Pack predicts that as new research reveals the brain-protective powers of Pycnogenol, it, like ginkgo, will become widely popular as a brain-boosting supplement."

I will now take you to a reader who wanted to share her experience with Pycnogenol, but prefers not to be named.  The following words are hers:

ADD, Pycnogenol and Nutrition: One Mom's Experience

A Word About Our Starting Point

This page is about what a particular nutrient, pycnogenol, has done for my family's ADD symptoms. My son and I are the primarily inattentive type, my husband is hyperactive. My son and I have distinctly improved - calmer, more focused, more productive. My husband says he has had no benefits, although he has not stopped taking it either! I think his temper is not as hot, and that his frustration level is lower in general. Certainly our morning routine at home is now miraculously smooth. (Plus, our skin looks great - mine hasn't looked this good since I was twenty!)

Some of our success using this nutritional approach to help our ADD may be related to our basic family diet, which is worth describing briefly. My son, now almost six, had eczema and recurring ear infections that began when he started solid foods at six months old. I wasn't happy just using cortisone cream and antibiotics all the time, so I began researching diet/allergy connections as much as I could. After almost a year of effort, Jamie was nearly eczema free. At this point, while Jamie is much better and can eat most foods, our diet has remained pretty specialized: organic where we can reasonably afford it, dairy-free for the most part in favor of soy, some but not a lot of red meat, no preservatives, or chemicals, or additives. (We don't avoid salicylates, so we are not on the Feingold diet per se. ) The exception is my husband, who can't stand the extra expense and insists on regular cold cuts for lunches, for example, takes a variety of medications (Zoloft, neurontin and something else), and sneaks fast food when I'm not looking. All of this is to say that my son's and my immediate and noticeable reaction to pycnogenol may be related to the relative purity of our diet as well as our particular ADD symptoms, whereas my husband's less noticeable reaction may be related to the more complicating elements in his diet and habits.

How I Found Out About Pycnogenol

About a month ago, we all had the flu and were home-bound. Being an obsessive type, I spent my sick hours cruising the web looking at my favorite subject, ADD. I stumbled on one of the pycnogenol manufacturer's sites through a link, recognized it as something I had seen recently and wondered about at a local store, and went to buy some for the family before I realized that there was any sort of hype surrounding it. Now I realize it is sort of a "fad", that some very aggressive direct marketing of pycnogenol is being done (particularly by a company out of Australia), that there are claims of superiority between one brand and the next, and that skepticism on mainstream sites may be a reaction to this greedy spectacle on the web. I might have hesitated to try it had I seen all that, since it is also very expensive. Now I don't want to be without it. I don't market pycnogenol, although I wish I did - it is already everywhere! My one remark about sources is that I did try one brand from a well-known members-only discount warehouse, and found it to be inferior quality. I buy from a local specialty market or from a health food store, and haven't tried any of the special "just for ADD" blends that are out there.

What I Notice For Myself

The dosage we started at was the recommended starting or "saturation" dose of one mg. per pound of body weight - 50 mgs for my son, 100 for me, 175 for my husband, divvied out before meals. I didn't notice anything the first two days, but on the morning of the third day, which was a Monday, I felt a clarity arrive in my mind, like the chiming of a bell or a sunrise in my head, ten minutes after my dose. That same morning, we were all early in our morning routines, I was done fixing everyone's lunches in ten minutes, Jamie did not sidetrack to his toys while fetching socks, my husband was humming as he dressed.

While the distinct feeling of clarity arriving with each dose faded after the first week or so, the overall changes have not. For me, the most prominent benefit has been the calm I now experience. I realize now that my waking experience was characterized by constant mini panic attacks, or fight-or-flight responses. This sensation is entirely gone, even when I am in a hurry. My sense of time has improved as well - five minutes feels like five minutes, instead of seeming elastic. Recently I went to a social gathering, and found that I was much more comfortable with people - both friends and strangers. I noticed it was easy to maintain steady eye contact, read faces and pace conversation. I did not have the sensation of alternately slipping in and out of synch, focusing or drifting. On other fronts, I have returned to reading voraciously, something that I have been unable to sit still for in years, as well as teaching myself the guitar - another dream of mine I had given up as hopeless. I plan to return to drawing and other art forms, a childhood passion. In order to prepare this article, I went through the tutorial of a web design program, which I'd normally never have the patience and follow-through for. I still have moments when I doubt myself - maybe I am making everything up! and my husband teases me a lot, accustomed as he is to my constantly changing enthusiasms and grand dreams - but at least now I have some hope, and a growing list of day by day accomplishments to show for it.

What I Notice In My Son

The impact of pycnogenol has been equally distinct for Jamie. On the positive side, he is much less impulsive and distractible. Mornings at home are smooth. He remembers what I tell him, and doesn't sidetrack or blow up when I tell him to move along. He no longer has to be reminded that I don't like to be poked, grabbed or tickled when I bend to dry him after the bath. He can keep his emotions balanced enough to carry on discussions or negotiations even when he is upset, an impossibility before. He has started working and enjoying puzzles by himself, something he never did before, even when I sat with him and helped. His teacher has noticed that he finishes his desk work without coaching. He has, however, unlike me, developed a tic from the pycnogenol, a funny neck motion. Strictly speaking, I would not call this a side effect, but rather a manifestation of an existing neurotransmitter imbalance, which the pycnogenol has made visible - more about that it the science section below.

After experimenting over a weekend, I found the tic to be transient, fading by evening if we cut back his dinnertime dose. That same weekend, we had a poignant conversation - Jamie begged to have his full doses of pycnogenol, because he liked finishing his work at school, he liked how he felt, and that he'd try hard not to "do his neck stuff ". He also said that pycnogenol helped him sleep without waking up, which is something my husband and I were not aware of as a problem for Jamie. He has said it more than once, so I have taken it to be true. My current approach is to give him 25 mgs with breakfast and another 25 at night before bed, to keep the amount steady in his system. I am also educating myself on Tourettes syndrome, realizing that my own discomfort at Jamie's funny occasional neck motions are not a good enough reason to rob him of the benefits of this nutritional aid. His teacher agrees. The kids at school have not even noticed at all, and if they do later, Jamie will be able to explain all about it himself. It does seem to suggest that Jamie will not be a good candidate for stimulant medication, if we ever take that approach later, as tics are a known side effect there, as well as all the other side effects such as growth retardation, loss of appetite and so on.

How Pycnogenol Works: Some Science

Pycnogenol is the trademarked name of a complex of flavonoids derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. It is a powerful antioxidant. Pycnogenol's effect on ADD symptoms is related to its ability to cross the brain's blood barrier, something that few substances can do. It appears that the increased circulation, improved capillary health, and the reduction of free radicals all combine to increase the duration and effectiveness of the brain's existing neurotransmitters. Pycnogenol does not increase production of neurotransmitters, which is the strategy of stimulants such as Ritalin. Pycnogenol also dampens the allergic histamine response, which may be a factor in ADD for some, probably including my family. In that regard, I have seen it work amazingly, normalizing a developing allergic reaction to cat dander in just ten minutes. It is water soluble and does not have any known side effects (although do remember that my son manifested a tic, noted above), even at a tested dosage of 30,000 mgs per day for six months. Since as a family we do not also take stimulants, I do not know the combined effect of pycnogenol and stimulants. I would guess that pycnogenol may allow a smaller dose of stimulants to be used, which certainly would be a good thing, especially for children. It would be interesting to hear about other people's experience.

What Else We Do: EFAs, Magnesium and Zinc, Etc.

Pycnogenol seems to have been the key to a breakthrough in my family's ADD, and has strengthened my faith in the idea that, given a baseline of health and a good starting diet, the body can accomplish a great deal through nutrition. I also believe in synergy among nutrients. So, as Teresa and others recommend, on Born To Explore and elsewhere, our diet includes elements I believe to be specifically beneficial to us with our ADD: flax oil for EFAs, co-enzyme Q10, extra zinc and magnesium, and blue-green algae for amino acids and B vitamins ( a source which I prefer over commercial vitamin supplements, which I have found for myself to be formulated too strongly for someone of my size - I get jumpy, nauseous or headachy on regular vitamins.) We could probably go further, and I hope to for my husband, to improve his other conditions (he gets migraines, depression, sometimes TMJ from stress, all related to his ADD). My instinct is that pycnogenol will make these additional supplements more useable to our systems.

Where To Get Information on Pyncnogenol

I like the one of the links on site called "Attention Deficit Disorder: A New Relief Approach" the site itself is fairly commercial, but under dosage information there is a link to two related scientific articles that provide more about clinical studies and the workings of pycnogenol. Two manufacturers, Dr. Masquelier and Horphags, have additional information mingled in with advertising (and snipes at each other - they are former partners and now rivals!). There are several short monographs available at health food stores about pycnogenol - I purchased the one by Dr. Richard A. Passwater entitled Pyncogenol The Super 'Protector' Nutrient: it does not include much about ADD specifically, but has lots of chemistry and background material on the safety of the nutrient. It was also inexpensive - only a few dollars. Without a doubt, all of the mega-bookstores online would also have listing of additional titles.



All BTE pages were written by Teresa Gallagher unless otherwise noted and may be photocopied (but not reprinted) without permission.  BTE Web Design now creates websites for small businesses. Perhap "BTE" really means "Born to Entrepreneur..."