The Health Benefits of Pine Pollen

How the Supplement Affects Testosterone Levels

Close-up of a green Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) cone

David and Micha Sheldon / Getty Images

Pine pollen is gaining popularity among men looking to boost their testosterone levels. 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).

Pine pollen is often referred to as a “superfood” or “nutritional powerhouse” and touted as a top source of many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids. But very little is known about the nutritional content of pine pollen. And the science supporting any health advantages is weak.

Health Benefits

Pine pollen is used to promote healing and 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, and prevent 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.

Scientific evidence supporting any of these benefits is lacking. There have been limited in vitro and rodent studies that have investigated pine pollen's potential in a few key areas.

Increased Testosterone

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.

Many men who take pine pollen believe that it can offer such benefits as improved athletic performance, greater muscle mass, enhanced sexual function, and increases in energy and libido.

However, there is only one study dating back to 1971 that investigated testosterone and pine pollen. Researchers who published the report were simply examining the testosterone concentration in the Scotch pine pollen. But to know for sure if pine pollen provides any benefit to men who are trying to increase testosterone levels, far more research is needed.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Limited in vitro studies have suggested that pine pollen may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. And a limited study conducted on mice provided early evidence that pine pollen may be helpful in the treatment of chronic inflammatory disorders such as arthritis.

But studies conducted in test tubes and on rodents are generally only helpful in determining if more studies are warranted. So it is unclear if pine pollen has any potential in the treatment of any medical condition in humans.

Anti-Aging

A small study performed on mice and published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity investigated the potential of pine pollen to combat markers of aging. The study authors concluded that pine pollen may have the potential to slow the process of aging and attenuate age-related diseases in humans. But this area of investigation is in its very preliminary stages and more studies are needed to see if there is any potential in humans.

Disease Prevention

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.

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.

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 as it may trigger allergic reactions.

Also, like other hormones, testosterone levels 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.

For some people, low testosterone levels may be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. Rather than self-treating, speak to your healthcare provider if you're experiencing symptoms.

Pregnant and nursing women, children, teens shouldn't take pine pollen.

Dosage and Preparation

There is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for pine pollen or related products. The correct dose for you (if any) may depend on factors including your age and your medical condition.

Always speak to your healthcare provider before taking this or any supplement as it may interfere with other medications or with treatment for another condition.

What to Look For 

Pine pollen is sold in many health foods stores and online. The supplement is usually sold in powder form, although there are also some extracts on the market. Many brands combine pine pollen with other ingredients so it is important to read the label before you buy.

Keep in mind that dietary supplements like pine pollen are largely unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to government standards, it is not legal to market a dietary supplement as a treatment or cure for a specific disease or to alleviate the symptoms of a disease. But the products are not tested by the FDA for safety or effectiveness.

In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances. Some consumers look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality

Other Questions

Are there other natural ways to boost testosterone?

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.

What are some natural alternatives to deal with stress?

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

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