Pine pollen can be used as an ingredient in baked goods or as a health supplement. It can be harvested in spring when the male pine tree catkins shed their bright yellow pollen. Some of the health claims made about pine pollen include increasing testosterone levels and anti-aging. This article will look at how to use pine pollen, what it’s used for, and how to harvest it.
What You'll Learn Today
- What is Pine Pollen Good For?
- Is All Pine Pollen Edible?
- When is Pine Pollen Season?
- How to Harvest Pine Pollen?
- How to Store Pine Pollen?
- How to Make Pine Pollen Tincture?
What is Pine Pollen Good For?
Pine pollen is produced by male cones or catkins of pine trees. It is a fine yellow powder containing the sperm cells required for reproduction.
When you think about pine trees, one of the first things to come to mind is pinecones. These are the female reproductive part of the plant and must be fertilized by the pollen to produce seeds.
The male cones are mostly found on the ends of the pine trees branches and are usually cream, white or red in color.
Pine pollen is beneficial for an array of things, according to many. I am no medical expert, so I can only relay the information I have found on the subject.
Some of the proclaimed health benefits of pine pollen can help with include:
- Testosterone boosting
- Fatigue alleviating
- Acne treating
- Eczema curing
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Immune boosting
- Brain health
- Weight loss
- Pain alleviating
- Prostate disease
- Cancer prevention
This all sounds pretty amazing, but it is wise to remember that comprehensive scientific and medical studies have not been undertaken to support many of these claims.
Here’s what we do know:
A study undertaken in 2012 showed that pine pollen did have an anti-aging effect on mice and cultured human cells.
It is usual for healthy cells only to have a finite lifespan and divide for a limited time. It was discovered that pine pollen delayed this, effectively slowing down the cells’ aging process.
Antioxidants help slow the aging of cells and are also useful in helping to prevent conditions such as cancer.
In a study, pine pollen was shown to have antioxidant properties as well as anti-inflammatory ones.
In another study on rats, a pollen-derived carbohydrate was found to reduce liver damage.
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) has been found to contain Testosterone at the rate of 0.8 micrograms per 10 grams of pollen.
People now use pine pollen to boost their testosterone levels, but no conclusive studies have been done to confirm or disprove its claimed effectiveness.
A study on mice with chronic arthritis showed that giving an extract of pine pollen daily for 49 days reduced arthritis symptoms. Inflammation was also reduced.
In 2013 a study was conducted with a carbohydrate produced from pine pollen on cultured liver cells. The study showed that the carbohydrate was able to stop the cancer cells from growing and dividing.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS OF TAKING PINE POLLEN
As with anything that has not undergone a lot of careful study and testing, some potential dangers and side effects could occur if taking pine pollen.
Testosterone is a hormone that affects a variety of body functions. Anyone taking pine pollen to boost their testosterone levels must know that taking too much can be detrimental.
When testosterone levels become too high, they can cause the following problems:
- Heart damage
- High blood pressure
- Enlarged prostate
- Liver disease
- Sleep problems
Another potential problem is the occurrence of an allergic reaction to pine pollen. Symptoms associated with allergies include:
- A runny or blocked nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Postnasal drip
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
Severe allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis which is a hazardous and life-threatening condition. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- A tightening of the airways and difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
- Pale, clammy skin
- Itchy hives
- A drop in blood pressure
If you believe someone is suffering a severe allergic reaction, it is always best to call 911 immediately as it is a medical emergency.
Pine pollen is a supplement and not recommended for children. It is also best not taken by adolescent males, as their testosterone levels are already relatively high.
You can use pine pollen for cooking. It has an interesting, slightly granular texture and a delicate flavor that can increase baked goods’ biscuity quality.
In taste, it has a very subtle yeasty flavor that is very easily masked. You can add it to all kinds of things, including pancakes, oatmeal, cakes, biscuits, soups, sauces, and sweets.
For baking, replace approximately 25% of your flour with pine pollen.
Is All Pine Pollen Edible?
Some pine family members have toxins associated with miscarriage and poisoning, so these should be avoided. They include:
- Australian Pine, also called Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
- Ponderosa Pine also called Blackjack Pine or Western Yellow Pine (Pinus ponderosa)
- Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)
Australian pine – contains a substance that causes stomach cramps and vomiting.
Ponderosa pine and Lodgepole pine – contain isocupressic acid, which can induce abortion.
The pollen of these trees may not be harmful, but it is far safer to avoid them and only take the pollen from other pine trees. These are native to North America:
- Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
- Jack pine (Pinus banksiana)
- Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
- Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)
- Pitch pine (Pinus rigida)
- Red pine (Pinus resinosa)
- Shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata)
- Splash pine (Pinus elliottii)
- Sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana)
- Virginia pine (Pinus virginiana)
- Western white pine (Pinus monticola)
You won’t be able to harvest pollen from all of these varieties, as some are simply too high to reach. Look for pine trees that have lower branches or young trees that are still relatively small.
When is Pine Pollen Season?
Harvesting lots of pine pollen requires you to pick it at the exact right time. You only have a few days each season when the pollen is being produced in peak amounts.
Pine pollen production happens in spring. Rather than watching the trees in your area carefully every day, another more scientific method would be to measure the temperature and calculate how often it has been above 55°F after February 01st.
Each day look at the maximum temperature that was reached in your area, for example:
Monday – 56°F = 1
Tuesday – 63°F = 8
Wednedsay – 61°F = 6
Thursday – 65°F = 10
Friday – 66°F = 11
Saturday – 67°F = 12
Sunday – 65°F = 10
Total for week = 58
Continue to add up the daily values, and when you reach around 300 in total, the pine trees will be starting to release the very first pollen; by the time the total is 635, pollen production should be at its peak.
If this is too much trouble, know that peak production is generally around mid-April, but this is dependent on local climate and weather conditions each year. Pollen production can even vary significantly even in the same geographical region.
How to Harvest Pine Pollen?
You won’t be needing any fancy equipment to harvest your pine pollen, although a sturdy ladder and someone to hold it securely can be a great help.
Other things you will need include:
- Plastic bags – to collect the pollen or catkins
- Face mask – to prevent you from breathing in too much pollen
- Disposable gloves – to stop your hands from becoming sticky
- Trays or baking sheets – to dry out the collected pollen
- Airtight containers – to store the pollen once dry
Another valuable addition would be a dehydrator to dry your pollen more quickly.
Collecting Your Pollen
Make sure you scope out suitable trees in your area before pollen season hits and confirm they are of a safe variety.
Look for the clusters of pale-colored, orange, or red catkins on the ends of the branches that are bursting full of pollen. You’ll be able to see this and test it by giving a branch a gentle shake.
You have two choices, either put the bag around the catkins and gently pull them off so you can remove the pollen later, or simply shake the catkins in the bag to release just the pollen. Even when very “ripe,” you will need to do this a lot to gather a good amount of pollen.
If you do remove the catkins, don’t take them all! At most, only a ¼ of what is available. Remember to be a conscientious forager.
To harvest the pollen from picked catkins, it is best to dry them out for a few days on a tray or in a dehydrator. Make sure the pollen can’t blow away and ensure they are spread out evenly on the tray to allow air to circulate around them.
Once dried, you can crush them gently and then, when you have enough, sieve them to extract the pollen.
- Wind. Try not to harvest on a windy day as much of the pollen will be blown away, and ladders, swaying branches, and wind do not mix well.
- Low hanging fruit. Find trees with low-hanging branches that are easy to reach.
- Be patient. The difference between harvesting pollen from a tree that isn’t at peak production and one that is are worlds apart, and you’ll be glad you waited.
- Mask. Always wear a mask! Breathing in large amounts of pollen is not going to do you any good.
- Don’t crush the catkins; they go sticky, and the pollen will become trapped.
- Sift twice. I’ve found that sifting your pollen twice helps eliminate any little bugs that have found their way into it, plus other contaminants.
In this video, you will see how to harvest pine pollen along with lots of other hints and tips:
How to Store Pine Pollen?
To maintain your carefully harvested pine pollen at its best, it’s necessary to store it correctly. Drying the pollen helps inhibit molds and enables it to last for longer when kept in an airtight jar.
Store jars in the refrigerator, or if preferred, place the pollen into a ziplock bag or vacuum pack bag and freeze.
Keep pollen away from heat and intense light as this will diminish its health-giving properties.
You can add pine pollen to honey which will preserve it for a long time due to honey’s antimicrobial properties.
How to Make Pine Pollen Tincture?
Pine pollen tincture is helpful for those who are primarily interested in pine pollen’s testosterone boosting ability. However, it is not suitable for those who want to benefit from pine pollen’s anti-aging and regenerative properties, as the amino acids, enzymes, co-enzymes, and over 200 nutrients are lost when creating a tincture. Only raw pine pollen maintains these intact.
To make a pine pollen tincture, you will need:
- Pine Pollen
- Mason Jars
- Alcohol (70% proof vodka)
- Spoon or another stirring implement
- Dropper and Bottle
- Put the pollen into the jar
- Top up the jar with alcohol, so the pollen is completely covered.
- Cover and allow the mixture to sit in a cool dark place for two weeks.
- The alcohol and pollen will separate, with the pollen sinking to the bottom.
- Use a dropper to remove the liquid from the top. If you don’t have a dropper, carefully strain the liquid through a clean muslin cloth or cotton sheet.
- Bottle your tincture in a dark glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. If you don’t have a dark glass bottle, you can simply cover a jam jar or other glass bottle in paper.
Start taking the tincture in small amounts, one dropper a day (1/2 teaspoon), and gradually work up to a maximum of 6 full droppers (9 teaspoons).
Although the medical benefits of pine pollen still require further research, there are already some interesting studies.
Besides its supplement uses, pine pollen can also be used as a food ingredient which is another way to enjoy the health benefits.
Harvesting the pine pollen can be a little hit and miss, and it’s best to wait until the trees are loaded full of it so you can gather decent amounts.
If you have enjoyed finding out about pine pollen and would like to discover more articles on foraging, there are more available on our website – see this one about elderberry.