Biohacking With Pine Pollen: The Nutrient-Packed Compound With Potential Anti-Aging Effects
One of the absolute most common questions I get asked as a biohacker is what supplements or compounds I put into my body on a daily basis. I think it’s a bit of a difficult question to answer correctly – not only mostly because I take around 30-40 different things depending on the day, but also because I don’t like answering it as a blanket statement, as many people expect that what works for me, is going to work for them as well – which just isn’t necessarily the case. You’ve likely heard me say multiple times on the podcast that we all react differently to different things, which is something I always recommend people keep in mind.
But in saying that, there are some compounds that for the most part, seem to work fairly effectively for most people who I know use them, and the topic of this post definitely fits the bill here. But not only that, if I had to cut down my supplement intake to only five things that I would be allowed to take daily, pine pollen would be part of those five, along with shilajit, lion’s mane mushroom, and a few others.
It may not end up being as important for you, though for me, pine pollen is critical in maintaining my body’s overall levels of wellbeing. So let’s get into more about this herbal super-compound that’s been used in traditional medicine for several thousand years.
Pine pollen is quite simply the pollen of the scots pine, a pine tree that grows all the way from Western Europe, to the far Eastern side of Asia. It’s produced as part of the plant’s reproduction cycle, and is what bees and other insects will transmit between plants to facilitate the growth of new pine trees. Basically, it’s tree sperm.
But don’t let the thought of this stuff basically being tree jizz putting you off – pine pollen is an extremely nutrient rich compound. It’s around 30% protein by weight, contains more than 200 different micronutrients and minerals, 18 different amino acids, is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, as well as is packed with phyto-androgens, something we’ll especially discuss in a little while. So without even going into specifics, you can think of pine pollen as something of a natural multivitamin, that’s crammed with a ton of things your body needs.
As far as we know, pine pollen has been used as a medicinal tool for at least 1,500 years, with the first texts recording its use emerging from China, sometime around the year 650. Though in these texts it would be described as pine pollen having already been in use for several hundred years. It wouldn’t be until 900 years later in the year 1542 that the first Western texts would appear in Germany heralding its use, meaning like with many herbal compounds, societies in Asia were much further ahead than those in the Western world.
Traditionally in China, pine pollen was used as a tonic herb to assist in healing the lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, and spleen. Overall, it was seen as a general tonic for vitality, health, and strength, which could be reflected in the incredible amount of important nutrients and minerals that pine pollen contains.
As always though, I want to delve into some of what the modern science says about pine pollen, and what we know about its effectiveness as a tool for maintaining health. Unfortunately, though it’s here that I have to say at least in the West, there isn’t a ton of supporting research.
Although pine pollen has significant scientific backing in China, it’s not something that has been significantly researched in the UK, the United States, or other majority English-speaking countries. And a lot of the Chinese research on the compound hasn’t been extensively translated either to my knowledge.
In saying that though, the studies that do exist in English show an interesting set of potential benefits for the use of pine pollen, the first being its potential anti-aging properties.
In one study from 2004 in the Modern Medical Journal, pine pollen was shown to significantly increase the levels of serum superoxide dismutase in test subjects, which is an important enzyme that helps to break down harmful oxygen molecules in cells – basically, it protects your body from oxidative stress, or general cellular damage. Even more interesting however, is that the same study also showed that pine pollen could increase the body’s natural production of glutathione, which is our master antioxidant. Glutathione is essential for detoxifying the body, reducing oxidative stress, and preventing almost all types of cell damage, and not enough glutathione in the body is being linked to accelerated aging in humans. So for that reason alone, the fact that pine pollen can boost your natural glutathione levels, means it may well slow the overall aging process in your body.
In another study from 2012, pine pollen was shown to have the effect of delaying senescence in certain cells, which could be extremely exciting news for those interested in the world of anti-aging products. In case you’re not aware, senescence is the phenomenon where your cells cease to divide and replicate, effectively ending their life cycle. This is one of the crucial factors that leads to aging, as our cells no longer are able to rejuvenate themselves, leading to the general breakdown of the human body.
While there will likely be a lot more research on the anti-aging properties of pine pollen emerging over the next few years, these two studies alone show some of the incredible promise pine pollen has in this regard on potentially slowing the aging process in humans, by giving our cellular defence systems a natural biohacking boost.
But that’s not all pine pollen is great for, according to more studies that have emerged on this natural biohacking powerhouse.
Pine pollen has also shown to significantly increase immune system function, delay the effects of fatigue by increasing endurance of test subjects, repair damage done to the liver in those who have damaged it by alcohol or toxins, act as a powerful antioxidant, and even reduce swelling in those who may have damage to the prostate. All-in-all, it seems that pine pollen could be very versatile in assisting humans with our overall general health, and aid in repairing damage to the body. This is likely due to how many nutrients and minerals pine pollen contains, as I mentioned earlier in this post.
The human body needs to maintain adequate levels of hundreds of micro-minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and compounds for us to function normally. And the simple fact is that almost all of us who live a modern lifestyle, especially in large cities, are deficient in many of these micronutrients. This mostly down to the fact that the mass-produced food the vast majority of society eats is so deficient in nutrients due to how quickly and cheaply most of it is grown, or produced – there are even some studies that suggest certain foods we eat today could have nutrient levels up to 50% lower than in foods humans ate 100 years ago. All of this is because the soil our food is grown is being depleted, and that animals raised for food are being grown more quickly, all leading to a lower nutrient density of most of these foods than they would have contained only a few generations ago.
While pine pollen is definitely not a panacea for everything that ails us, the fact it is so nutritionally-dense, means it could be making up for a ton of nutritional deficiencies that people are suffering from due to poorer quality food. Overall, this could be why so many people report feeling more energetic, active, and healthy when pine pollen is integrated into their diet. I can’t certainly say this is for sure, though my research and common sense leads me to conclude that it’s a likely culprit.
There’s also another quite important thing that pine pollen has been used for, both traditionally and in the modern world, and that’s as a tool for aiding in sexual health, as well as reproduction. And that all comes down to the fact that pine pollen is naturally high in testosterone, as well as being able to aid your body in producing more of it. And before that scares any of the ladies listening away from taking it, which are some common misconceptions about testosterone, and how important it is for women, as well as men.
There are a lot of people who still hold the belief that testosterone is a men’s hormone – and to start with, that’s just not true. Although testosterone is critical for men’s health, and affects a man’s sex drive, mood, and even appearance, it has important functions in women as well.
Testosterone is a hormone that is part of the androgen group, which to many people are commonly only referred to as male hormones, though we now know this is scientifically incorrect. Women’s bodies naturally produce androgens both in the ovaries and adrenal glands, and these androgens are important for several hundred functions in the female body. And yes, that includes testosterone.
Depending on the age and health of a person, testosterone levels can vary wildly. But as a general rule of thumb, a woman of the same level of health, and at the same age will have only around 10% of the testosterone level of a man. This is by far not anywhere close to being exact due to how much this can vary, so don’t crucify me for making this generalisation – I’m just using it for illustrative purposes. But in saying that, although these levels are significantly less in women, it’s far from being unimportant.
In women, testosterone is at least partly responsible for helping to regulate mood, energy levels, sex drive, and even fertility. On top of this, it has an effect on controlling weight gain, muscle composition, and bone density, so is crucial for women who are especially active, or who want to maintain athletic and physical performance. Also, in at least one study, testosterone was shown to have a positive effect on protecting the brain, as well as assisting with cognitive and mathematical tasks in women. So testosterone isn’t just a hormone that helps women with physical health, it’s essential for mental wellbeing as well.
What I’m trying to get at is that yes – testosterone is important for men. However, it’s also very important for women, and the old thinking that it’s only something men need to be focusing on maintaining a positive level of is incorrect. In short, if you’re a woman and want to be performing optimally, you need optimal testosterone levels as well. It’s essential for overall wellbeing in both women, as well as men. But of course, because it’s not needed in as high quantities in women, the dosage of pine pollen in women should also not be as high as in men – something I’ll talk about in a minute.
So that little section of destroying some health myths aside, again pine pollen is very high in natural androgens, including testosterone. However, these androgens, due to their limited bioavailability, shouldn’t be thought of as a direct injection into your body – although pine pollen is extremely high in these compounds, generally less than 30% will actually be bioavailable for your body to use.
But the effects of these compounds, especially on sex drive and physical performance, should not be understated.
As a man, my testosterone levels skyrocketed when I began a protocol that included heavy doses of pine pollen. When I was tested a few years ago, mostly because I was extremely stressed and my body worn out all the time due to overworking myself, my testosterone levels were only around 320 ng/dl. Which for someone in his early 30s, was extremely low. Less than two years later, it had jumped up to over 900 ng/dl, an increase of almost three times of my initial baseline. And as a comparison, at age 34, this level of testosterone would generally be attributed to someone ten years younger than me. And while I won’t in any way claim that all of this was due to pine pollen – because it almost certainly wasn’t – I do believe it did play a big part.
For men as well, most report better erections, greater ease in staying hard or becoming aroused, better sexual performance, higher levels of endurance, and even greater athletic performance when taking pine pollen. And let’s face it, if all of that is leading to a better sex life in part because of pine pollen, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth at least testing its integration into your life.
For me – and of course this is completely anecdotal – pine pollen is something that seems to have a powerful overall effect on my mood, sex life, and endurance, especially at the gym. And as I said at the start of this podcast, it’s one of the five must-have supplements I take every day, that would be essential for me to keep taking into my body if I had to seriously limit the number of things I was allowed to take.
So now let’s talk about dosage. For me, when I’m heavily going to the gym and conducting higher-than-normal levels of physical exercise, I’ll take pine pollen usually twice per day. Once in the morning, and once in the late afternoon. Some people also champion pine pollen’s benefits as a pre-workout supplement, though in that respect, it didn’t seem to work that incredibly well for me. I’d be very interested if any of my listeners did see benefits of pine pollen as a pre-workout, so send me a DM on Instagram if you test it out in this manner and it works for you.
When I’m travelling, or not working out as intensively, I’ll generally just take one tablespoon of pine pollen in the morning, in my weird herbal morning cocktail I take every day. And if you want to know some of the other ingredients that are in that, check out episode #17 of the Bio Alchemy podcast where I talk about it in detail.
For women, I generally recommend taking pine pollen every second day, so you’re not ingesting more testosterone than your body needs to increase its general levels of wellbeing and optimal performance. From speaking to a few females I know who take pine pollen regularly, the sweet spot seems to be around a teaspoon every two days, though possibly every day if you’re undergoing intense physical exercise. As I always recommend, this should be down to individual testing and seeing what works best for your body. Take more or less as you need it, and pay attention to what your body is telling you when you take any supplement.
And ladies, don’t be afraid that you’re going to start sprouting hair from your face, or that you’re gonna be talking real deep like Thor after you take pine pollen. Although pine pollen is high in natural testosterone content, even taking several tablespoons a day wouldn’t contain anywhere near enough bioavailable testosterone to start making physical changes in your body, so it’s not something you need to be worried about. Naturally increasing your levels of testosterone to make you feel better is one thing, but enough to start making you talk like you have a voice that sounds like gravel in a blender is a completely different story.
So obviously, it’s at this point you’re saying to yourself “so Leon, where do I get hold of some of this magic pine pollen?” Well, that’s a damned good question.
There are a few things to consider when buying pine pollen, and the first is quality.
Normally at this point you’d hear me say “make sure you buy organic”, though with pine pollen it’s not that simple. Pine pollen is generally wild harvested, from pine trees that are growing completely wild in the wilderness. For this reason, you don’t really have to look for an organic certification, as most will be organic anyway, without actually being certified organic – if that makes sense. What I’m saying is that the product if wild harvested should be organic, the provider just hasn’t paid for the organic certification. For that reason, always look for wild harvested labelling.
Secondly, you need to look out for pine pollen that has ideally had the cell wall cracked. What this means is that it’s gone through a process whereby the outer “shell” of each pollen granule has been cracked open, to allow your body to be able to access the goodness within. This is quite important, as the outer membrane of the pine pollen granule is extremely difficult for the body to digest, and without this cell wall being cracked, the bioavailability of the pine pollen is very low, because your body just can’t get to the important nutrition within. A key thing to look for here is also that the cracking process isn’t high-heat, as heat destroys a lot of the nutrient value of pine pollen, so if it’s been cell cracked with heat, chances are you’re eating garbage.
I don’t personally buy the pine pollen I use on a daily basis from a retail source. Just for your information though, the reason being is that I source and import pine pollen for my own personal use in bulk directly from those who harvest it – however, this won’t be an easily accessible option for most people, due to the time and cost involved. It’s not cheap to do it this way, so just buy it at a retail source yourself, providing you are sure of the quality.