Pine resins and pollen have found their place in the medical field since time immemorial.
For instance, tablets found on the Pozzino shipwreck contained pine resin as one of its most abundant ingredients – and they were made almost 2000 years ago! Incidentally, further research revealed that the Pozzino tablets were probably used to treat eye conditions.
Did you know that pine trees have extraordinary life spans? Various species of pine trees have an average lifespan of over 200 years! One particular species, the bristlecone pine, can live over a thousand years!
Not only does history portray the medicinal properties of different parts of the pine tree, but it also provides an insight into the depth of medical knowledge of the civilizations in the past.
So, what makes pine pollen so awesome for health?
Let’s break it down into its active compounds!
Breaking Down Pine Pollen
The various phytochemicals in pine pollen include:
- Tannins – These are a group of phenolic compounds used widely as a component of skin-care products.
- Alkaloids – These are groups of nitrogen-containing compounds that have multiple therapeutic properties including pain relief, fighting off bacteria, and preventing heart rhythm issues.
- Flavonoids – Flavonoids have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anti-aging properties.
- Steroids – This group of compounds includes cholesterol, estrogen, and testosterone.
- Saponins – These are compounds that are extensively found in plants. They have anti-inflammatory effects and also accelerate wound healing.
- Cardiac glycosides
Beneficial Effects of Pine Pollen
Pine pollen powder is rightly called a natural micro-nutrient storeroom. This is because it has over 200 nutrient-rich compounds. These include a diverse pool of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, close to 100 enzymes, lecithins, flavonoids, and mono- and polysaccharides!
In vitro and in vivo animal studies revealed that pine pollen extracts may slow down the aging of cells. As a result, pine pollen extracts are a great approach to preventing age-related diseases in humans.
Oxidative stress is an inevitable part of life. After all, the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that cause this form of damage are a byproduct of the respiratory process that gives us humans the lion’s share of our daily energy.
There are many conditions linked to oxidative stress in one way or another. For example, aging and age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, and various forms of cancers.
Pine pollen has shown strong antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a potential adjuvant therapy for many of the above conditions. However, there is much research yet to be done to confirm their effects in humans.
Boosts the Immune System and Nourishes the Skin
As mentioned previously, pine pollen extracts are rich in saponins and flavonoids.
Flavonoids have recently become a popular topic of research due to their growing array of related health benefits. These include antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
These properties play an essential role in boosting immunity, supporting skin health, and preventing cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Flavonoids are also known to possess anti-diabetic properties.
Saponins are used widely in skin-care products because of their numerous benefits like anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects. They also have skin moisturizing properties.
Though the available research is scarce, scientists have recently found that pine pollen contains clinically significant levels of testosterone and its precursors.
A study on Scots pine showed that every 10 g of the pine pollen extract contains 0.8 micrograms of testosterone. It also contains 1.1 micrograms of epitestosterone and 5.9 micrograms of androstenedione.
While it has been used to boost the body’s testosterone levels because of the above reasons, the efficiency and health benefits due to increased testosterone levels after using pine pollen extracts are still under research.
Increases Strength, Stamina, and Libido
Pine pollen is believed to be the premier phytoandrogen, able to increase strength, endurance, and stress tolerance.
It also provides a sense of well-being, elevates mood, and confidence. As an androgen analog, it optimizes lean body mass, improves libido, and sexual response.
Promotes liver health and prevents liver cancer
Masson pine pollen extracts have been proven to have inhibitory effects on hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis in animal models. This is attributed to the inhibitory effect of the extract on hepatic stellate cell proliferation.
Fibrotic changes, along with free radical damage, often lead to an increased risk of liver cancers. Antioxidants are, therefore, employed as the first line of defense against liver cancers.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of pine pollen extracts make them promising preventive strategies against liver fibrosis and cancer.
Beneficial Effects in Arthritic Patients
Experimental studies have shown that pine pollen extracts lead to a significant reduction in the production of inflammatory chemicals like cytokines. Animals with chronic inflammatory arthritis (eg., osteoarthritis) treated with pine pollen showed a substantial decrease in symptoms.
Extracts from the bark of French maritime pine trees have also shown antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and cartilage-protective effects both in vitro and in vivo. These extracts play a defensive role and reduce the damage by halting the pathogenesis in early stages before it even occurs!
They were found to be extremely useful in relieving the symptoms of early stages of osteoarthritis in three clinical studies when used as an adjunctive therapy. Furthermore, the use of pine pollen extracts reduce the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and spares the patients from their troublesome gastric complications.
Regulating Prostate Function
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that is very commonly observed in aging men.
It leads to an increased frequency and difficulty in initiating urination. While the actual cause is still obscure, hormones, specifically dihydrotestosterone, is believed to play a role in the development of the disease.
Some studies claim that, despite phytoandrogens being significant components of pine pollen extracts, they are effective in treating prostate hyperplasia.
Do note that only a handful of studies attest to these claims, and much research is required before coming to a conclusion.
Possible side effects and precautions
Due to its natural origin, pine pollen has very few side effects, and the safety profile is also well established.
The primary concerns with pine pollen include increased testosterone levels, possible allergic reaction to pollen, and a possibility that it may aggravate symptoms of asthma.
Raised testosterone levels, either in the form of synthetic testosterone or phytoandrogen, can increase the risk of the following diseases:
- Cardiovascular Diseases: There’s a current debate on whether testosterone replacement leads to no change or has a detrimental effect on the cardiovascular health of an individual.
- Prostate Cancer: High testosterone levels increase the risk of prostate cancer. Conversely, androgen deprivation therapy is used to treat prostate cancers.
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Lower Urinary
Tract Symptoms (LUTS): The leading theory is that increased
testosterone levels lead to an increase in the incidence of BPH and LUTS.
However, studies are stating that pine pollen extracts may even be beneficial
in treating BPH despite one of its major components being testosterone. Further
research is required to come to a conclusion.
Until then, it is better to be safe than sorry!
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): Raised testosterone levels have been associated with increased risk of developing OSA.
Allergic reactions and Asthma
The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) suggests that the two main components of the pine tree contributing as allergens are pine nuts and pollen.
Pine pollen allergies may present with simple symptoms similar to that of a “hay fever” such as:
- Itchy, red eyes
- Runny nose, with or without nasal congestion and sneezing
- Dry cough
Rarely, allergic reactions can present in a severe form like anaphylaxis. In this type, the patient may experience a varied array of symptoms including abdominal pain, severe itching, inability to breathe due to a build-up of fluid in the larynx and even loss of consciousness due to a sudden drop in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock)!
If you encounter any of the above symptoms, be sure to seek immediate medical attention as it can be life-threatening!
Pine pollen may aggravate asthma. So for those you with asthma, be extra careful while using pine pollen extracts.
Pine pollen extracts are a natural adjuvant to testosterone with a wide variety of beneficial health effects and a well-established safety profile when taken in optimal doses.
While pine pollen has been used as a natural testosterone supplement since ancient times. It has also been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that are effective against liver fibrosis, liver cancer, and chronic inflammatory arthritis. But, due to a deficiency of research on its beneficial effects against prostatic hyperplasia, it should be used with caution.
Patients with allergies, asthma, and elderly men with a risk of prostatic enlargement have to exercise extreme caution while using pine pollen extracts. They should always do so under medical supervision.