Examining the Effects of Pine Pollen

Close-up of a green Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) cone
David and Micha Sheldon/Getty Images

For men looking to boost their testosterone levels, a natural remedy known as pine pollen is now gaining popularity. Typically taken in supplement form, the powdery substance is made up of grains discharged from the male part of the pine cone of tree species such as Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Chinese red pine (Pinus massoniana).

Often referred to as a “superfood” or “nutritional powerhouse,” pine pollen is touted as a top source of many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids as well. However, very little is known about the nutritional content of pine pollen.

Use of Pine Pollen

Proponents suggest that pine pollen contains the hormone testosterone, and that taking pine pollen supplements can benefit men struggling with declines in their testosterone levels.

Like many natural remedies purported to raise testosterone levels, pine pollen is said to offer such benefits as improved athletic performance, greater muscle mass, enhanced sexual function, and increases in energy and libido.

But pine pollen isn’t only used as a natural testosterone booster. It’s also said to promote healing from a host of health problems, as well as protect against a wide range of issues, including:

Pine pollen is also used to stimulate the immune system, boost brain health, support detox, promote weight loss, alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, slow up the aging process, and stave off some forms of cancer.

What’s more, pine pollen is sometimes marketed as an adaptogen: a natural substance used to increase your body’s resistance to the negative effects of stress.

Does Pine Pollen Really Work?

There’s currently a lack of research to back up these claims or to support pine pollen’s supposed effects on testosterone levels.

Scientists have yet to explore the potential benefits of pine pollen in clinical trials or animal-based research. Some preliminary studies have shown that substances extracted from Chinese red pine may offer certain health benefits (such as anti-tumor effects and protection against oxidative stress), while extracts of Scots pine may possess cancer-fighting properties. However, none of these studies tested the effects of pine pollen in particular.

In a report published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2016, researchers found some evidence that an herbal formula containing Song Hua Fen (a pine pollen product used in traditional Chinese medicine) may aid in the prevention of a liver problem called hepatic fibrosis. This variety of pine pollen was sourced from a different species of pine than what’s typically found in the pine pollen products available in the U.S.

Possible Side Effects

Pine pollen is sourced from trees, which may lead you to believe it's safe, but like any supplement without clinical trials, very little is known about possible side effects and safety. Don't take pine pollen products if you have pine allergies (and related plants) as it may trigger allergic reactions.

Like other hormones, testosterone should stay within a certain range, and there's a risk that using pine pollen supplements may make your hormone levels too high and lead to side effects such as blood clots in the legs, cardiovascular problems, increased risk of prostate cancer, acne, sleep apnea, and low sperm count. Pregnant and nursing women, children, teens shouldn't take pine pollen.

For some people, low testosterone levels may be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment, so you should always see your doctor if you're experiencing symptoms rather than self-treating.

The Takeaway

As you get older, your testosterone levels naturally decline. While there’s no evidence that pine pollen can keep your testosterone levels from falling, if it's something that you're considering trying, be sure to consult your health care provider. He or she may check your hormone levels, help you weigh the pros and cons, and discuss whether it's appropriate for you. 

Certain lifestyle changes may be helpful. These include working out regularly, getting plenty of sleep, reaching and/or maintaining a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol intake, and keeping your stress in check.

If you’re dealing with chronic stress, herbs said to act as adaptogens include Rhodiola, ashwagandha, and Panax ginseng.

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