Last Updated: May 4, 2015
Pine pollen benefits are well known these days in the "superfood world" as a nutritive adaptogen tonic powder collected from various pine tree species and consumed as a dietary supplement. Containing both testosterone and DHEA, it can be helpful for boosting both endocrine and immune functions in addition to increasing the enzymatic antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase.
There are many types of pine trees growing all over the world, but one thing they have in common is that they all make pollen-saturated cones. These are tiny grains on male cones that produce a yellow powdery dust designed to blow many miles beyond its source location.
Pine pollen, coming from the genus Pinus, is usually wild harvested for commercial use from the Pinus sylvestris or Pinus massoniana pine tree species, both native to Asian countries with Pinus sylvestris also being indigenous to Western Europe. Pollen powder, however, can be collected from any pine tree species and is a very common seasonal occurrence found in large quantities in alpine environments.
Dusting the earth with its golden granules, the grains literally cover the landscape, which is often considered a nuisance to most people. The release of pollen is a natural part of the life and growth cycle of these ecosystems, feeding the soil, plants and animals who eat pollen dusted food sources. The phytosterols in the pollen help to provide steriodal constituents useful for encouraging the springtime reproductive energy of many wild animals.
In the words of Daniel Vitalis, owner of the pine pollen company SurThrival, "I think of pine trees as these great ancient old
sages that blanket the whole ecosystem in golden coins, this
golden pollen that nurtures, feeds and nourishes the entire ecosystem...
the soil, the plants, the animals with this abundant androgenic
substance. A substance that causes growth and regeneration, helps to
increase vigor, drive, motivation and helps us achieve our goals."
Containing significantly high amounts of
testosterone in addition to a complex of other androgens and
phytosterols, pine pollen benefits are known to help balance the ratio between the sex hormones, androgen and
The pollen is considerably more potent as an extract when taken for these purposes and is specifically useful for middle aged adults, between 40-50, and the hormonal fluctuations that occur as we age. Both men, as well as women, usually by the age of 50 produce significantly less testosterone, this is especially true after male andropause and female menopause.
Moreover, we are all subject to toxins in the environment that produce estrogen like qualities linked to a number of health conditions like fertility issues, benign fibroid growths and breast cancer. Consuming androgenic foods, like pine pollen, helps to balance these higher amounts of xenoestrogens.
Generally, pollen extract is not recommended for children and should be avoided by male adolescences, who on average naturally produce healthy amounts of testosterone.
Those who are in an atmosphere filled with pine pollen dust, can't help but inhale or take it in indirectly. But, although these pollens are found in abundance, they are not the common cause of hay fever or allergy symptoms, like ragweeds or other tree or grass species.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "pine tree pollen is produced in large amounts by a common tree, but it is not a major cause of pollen allergies for most people. This is because the components in pine pollen are less likely to cause an allergic reaction."
This is thought to be due to its relatively large-sized molecule and low antigenicity effects or the capacity to induce immune response.
The pollen was widely used by cultures throughout Asia, particularly China and Korea, for its nutritional value as well as a longevity tonic for boosting energy levels and building immune health. Mentioned in the Chinese text Shennong's Root and Herbal Classic, the earliest records of its medicinal use date back to the Han dynasty over 2,000 years ago.
Today it is still used in parts of China and Korea as a food product,
sold boxed like a common kitchen baking ingredient to be used like flour in baked goods and confections. Asian countries
dominate the pine pollen industry and, as a result, most wild pine
pollen products come from these locations.
Pine pollen's use and popularity here in the West is a fairly recent phenomenon and is due in part to herbalist and author Stephen Harrod Buhner and his books, "The Natural Testosterone Plan" and "Pine Pollen: Ancient Medicine for a New Millennium." Stephen Buhner writes, "Pine pollen given its potency, its similarity to ginseng in some of its actions, and its status as, perhaps, the premier phytoantrogen on the planet, should have been recognized long before now as the powerful medicinal that it is."
There are close to 175 species in the genus Pinus and in the family Pinaceae, all of which produce pollen. Most commercial pine pollens are from the Pinus massoniana or Pinus sylvestris species. Pines are generally monoecious, which means they have male and female cones on the same tree.
The pine tree pollen produced does not come from the female "pine cones" most people are familiar with, but from the male cone or "catkin", a softer spiky shoot that buds every year in early spring. This is what creates the pollen used to fertilize the growth of female pine cones.
The actual microscopic grains come in a few shapes and sizes, but typically are spherical and have a "mickey mouse-looking" shape when viewed under a microscope. The ears of the mouse being the "wings" of the pollen used to fly long distances through the air.
Many parts of the pine tree are edible or have an herbal component. The pine needles, young shoots, resin, inner bark and of course pine nuts have all been used throughout human history. Native American populations considered the pine tree and its abundance of food resources a sacred tree.
Pine pollen straight from the tree is a nutritious top superfood with bioabsorbable constituents beneficial to health and immune functions. Some companies, however, have found that broken cell-wall pine pollen is slightly more nutrient dense, providing up to 25% more digestibility. Breaking the cell-wall is achieved by a high-speed airflow pulverization process which breaks up the cellular matter, making it more bioavailable to the body.
Pine pollen is commonly available as both a powdered supplement and tinctured extract. However, there is a bit of a difference between the two. The powder contains less androgenic substances but more of the other nutritive whole food qualities like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Pine pollen tinctures are significantly higher in androgens, like testosterone. This may be particularly relevant depending on your age or current health goals. Both are very beneficial but in different ways.
Because China has an entire industry set up for harvesting and extracting the pollen, this is where most pine pollen products originate. Most all is wild harvested, so it is important that pollens collected come from a clean pollution-free environment.
Lost Empire Herbs (formerly Super Man Herbs) and SurThrival are our top recommended companies and second are the products by Ecstatic Earth, Vitajing Herbs and Right Herb Company. These pollen powders and extracts are pure and natural, straight from the tree and contain no fillers or other unnecessary ingredients.
Pine pollen benefits offer one of nature's most potent sources of androgenic substances known in the plant kingdom, composed of the bioidentical steroid hormone testosterone, along with lesser amounts of other steriods including androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androsterone.
In an excerpt from the book "Pine Pollen, Ancient Medicine for a New Millennium" Stephen Buhner states that it is a "potent overall tonic to the body and its functioning, powerful nutritive and exceptionally effective androgen which raises testosterone levels in the blood and balances the androgen/estrogen ratio."
The words estrogen and androgen are general terms for the main class of sex hormones, which need to be biosynthesized in the appropriate way for optimizing certain endocrine functions. We mentioned androgens like testosterone and androstenedione, but this also includes the group of estrogens such as estrone, estriol and estradiol as well as the third class of sex hormones called progestogens, like progesterone.
Both men and women utilize both androgen and estrogen compounds, but androgens are produced in much greater quantities in males and likewise estrogen is produced in larger amounts in females, especially during the childbearing years.
When we have a healthy balance of these hormonal substances things like weight gain, insomnia, fatigue, low sex drive, depression and more serious health conditions become less of an issue.
As we mentioned, pine pollen benefits as a testosterone booster can be exceptionally valuable to middle aged adults who produce significantly less testosterone, DHEA and androstenedione after the hormonal changes that come after male andropause and female menopause.
When discussing ways to help balance the sex hormones, estrogens and androgens, there are many different complex mechanisms and pathways that may take place for any one individual. It is important that you do your own research and seek the advice of a qualified health practitioner to help evaluate your own unique hormone profile.
Some factors, like the process of aromatization, which can break down androgens and turn them into estrogens, can be a problem for some people. It is therefore significantly important that the testosterone consumed in pine pollen stays "free" and doesn't aromatize and convert to estrogen.
One way many herbalists and health experts recommend to do this is to use stinging nettle root along with pine pollen in alcohol extracts. Nettle root is a natural aromatase inhibitor which has the reported ability, due to its beta-sitosterol content, to bind with the protein SHBG or the sex hormone binding globulin. This promotes the circulation of free testosterone in the body so it can be utilized as an androgenic molecule rather than as an estrogen. (Source)
As we mentioned, the tinctured extracts are more concentrated in bio-available androgens, compared to the raw fresh or cell-wall broken powders. Other testosterone boosting superfoods, including maca, tribulus, ashwagandha, ginseng, cistanche and fenugreek, are often used along with pine pollen in commercial plant-based testosterone supplements.
We live in an estrogen dominant modern-day environment, exposed to countless man-made estrogens sourced from petroleum or chemical substances such as herbicides, pesticides, plastics, BPA, dioxin and PCB's.
Xenoestrogens, also known as the "bad estrogens", are created from these toxic substances, most of which humans come into contact with on a daily basis. These residues tend to bind to our estrogen receptors, in both men and women, and mimic estrogen and block normal hormonal functioning.
This can cause an over-dominance of estrogens in both males and females and a subsequent drop in androgen levels, potentially leading to breast and prostate cancers, fibroid growths and infertility. Supplementing with a pine pollen tincture can help to balance this estrogen dominance and normalize the androgen/estrogen ratio within the body and endocrine system.
As a natural testosterone abundant in anabolic phytosteroids, pine pollen benefits are also excellent for body builders or athletes for increasing muscle mass and improving endurance and overall performance. In addition, it comes without the potential side-effects common with synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroids.
Pine pollen tinctures as well as the powders can be used as an aphrodisiac to help elevate sex drive and sustain healthy libido levels for both men and women with lower testosterone ratios. Because men require more androgen hormones than women do, it is predominately considered a male supplement that helps to eliminate erectile dysfunction and is also known to increase sperm count.
Testosterone is not only good for increasing sex drive but also helps to
promote feelings of well-being, uplifts the mood and stimulates a sense
of will power and enthusiasm for life. Containing a substance called
phenylalanine, an L-dopa precursor which helps to stimulate dopamine levels in the brain, it is additionally believed to act as a natural antidepressant.
Pine pollen powder, either in its raw natural state or as a cell-wall broken supplement, is considered a highly nutritious food providing a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, all essential amino acids and immune system boosting antioxidants. Containing folic acid and other B vitamins, beta-carotene, Vit. E, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, nucleic acids, living enzymes, MSM, polysaccharides, essential fatty acids and was also shown in one study to be a source of vitamin D3.
As an adaptogen it also helps us build resistance to daily stress and acts as a restorative for boosting immune health, providing genoprotective properties that can protect us against radiation and other chemicals we may come into contact with in the atmosphere.
Pine tree pollen increases the beneficial antioxidants, like glutathione and SOD or superoxide dismutase. Glutathione is necessary for the metabolism of certain vitamins and minerals, like iron, Vit. C, Vit. E and is involved in amino acid transport. It also inhibits cancerous growths, neutralizes free radicals and is important for DNA synthesis and production. Moreover, glutathione contains the enzyme, glutathione S-transferase, which is a liver-detoxifying enzyme.
Another of pine pollen benefits is that it supports the healthy
production of SOD which typically tends to diminish as we grow older. Superoxide dismutase is an anti-aging nutrient and natural antioxidant enzyme produced within the body and plays a significant role as a free radical scavenger that also protects against DNA damage.
Pine pollen contains the amino acid arginine as well as sulfur-based MSM, both of which are beneficial in the treatment of various skin conditions. Sulfur furthermore helps to build keratin and collagen, two compounds essential for healthy nails, hair and skin tissue. The powder can be used externally by adding it to a salve or cream and used for eczema, rashes or even acne.
Androgen steriods also help to optimize tissue regeneration and prevent the
degradation of collagen and elastin, two important constituents for maintaining healthy skin. The pollen is known among Asian women for its beautifying effects, contributing to smooth and youthful looking skin, when used both topically or consumed as a powder.
Because the pollen is comprised of the mentioned sulfuric compound known as MSM, it additionally acts as a powerful natural anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever, especially for the joints and conditions like arthritis. In several studies conducted using extracts on arthritic subjects, results suggested its usefulness as a beneficial treatment for chronic inflammatory disorders.
Other pine pollen powder components like gibberellins and SOD also both play a critical role in reducing inflammation in the body.
If you happen to live in an alpine conducive environment, you can actually collect your own pine pollen for FREE in nature's garden. We are huge advocates of wild harvesting your own superfoods whenever possible. Pine pollen is easily collected within a 3 week time frame in early spring. The exact months may vary depending on your location. In California, mid to late March is pine pollen season.
The pollen is best harvested when the catkin is packed full, usually a 3-7 day period. When planning to harvest you should be aware of potential weather conditions, like rain or wind, which may affect your harvest. Also, it is best to harvest when the sun is shining, rather than on a cloudy day as the cones respond to moisture and cold temperatures by closing up to hold in pollen grains.
The basic technique for manually harvesting your pollen is to wrap a large bag around the male cone catkin, or entire branch of them, and shake it vigorously so that the powder falls to the bottom of the bag, of course keeping a tight grip on the bag opening while you do this.
The other more common method is to cut off the catkins at
the base, remove the individual
shoots, place them in strainer half full with a secured lid on top and shake out
the pollen in a large enclosed bag. The golden-yellow grains will collect in the bottom of the bag and can be poured out and filtered one more time through a fine mesh strainer.
You can use the freshly harvested pollen as a powder or make a 80 proof alcohol tincture using a 1 part pollen to 1-5 parts alcohol menstruum, 1 part being the strongest and 5 parts being the weakness. Some people also use the whole catkin shoot instead of the straight powder.
The powder has a mild "piney" flavor and can be consumed with other foods, blended into drinks or mixed in water. In can also be added to various desserts like a flour ingredient, which is often the way it is consumed in parts of Asia.
We advocate wild harvesting your own pine pollen if you live in an alpine environment. Again, you can use the fresh pollen as a powder or make an alcohol tincture. Using other herbs like nettle root, passion flower or Japanese knotweed in the tinctured formula is advised as these aromatase inhibitors will encourage the absorption of "free" testosterone.
Depending on your unique health goals, you may want to take either the tincture, the powder or both. The tincture being more effective for boosting testosterone and the powder being more nutritious in other ways. When consuming the tincture, it is best to hold it in the mouth or under tongue for at least a minute before swallowing. This increases the amount that is taken into the bloodstream.
When supplementing with pine pollen tincture or powder it is best to
take short breaks and avoid taking it at the same time every day. The key
to hormone reactive superfoods according to David Wolfe, "is that you
can't do any of them on a consistent basis; they actually have to be done
randomly and sporadically. Otherwise you create resistance, like insulin
resistance. If you do insulin all the time, for example at 9 a.m.
everyday, what happens is you create resistance. That is also true with
our hormones and our hormone approach."
We advise following the recommended daily amounts specific to each pine pollen supplement.
General Dosage Amounts: