Pine Pollen: A Medicine Rooted in History and Fruiting with Modern Academic Research

The medicinal use of Pine Pollen dates back over 1500 years in China, with the use of it as a medicine first recorded in the Xin Xiu Ben Cao (Tang Materia Medica), which was authored between 657-659 C.E.. The Tang Materia Medica is considered to be the first official Materia Medica of China.

Historical Texts and the Development of a Codified Chinese Medicine

The first comprehensive [Chinese] medical and pharmacological text was the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Shen Nong's Herbal Classic), which was completed during Qin and Han dynasty (approximately 200 C.E.). The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing is composed of three sections and it recorded 365 different medicines, including 252 medicinal herbs, 67 medicinal animal extracts, and 46 medicinal minerals. The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing is the first pharmacological text that recorded the use of Pine Pollen.

The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing would later become the Xin Xiu Ben Cao (Tang Materia Medica, circa 657-659 C.E.), after several hundred years of refinement by classical medical experts. Throughout the subsequent dynasties, the original text was further developed until during the Tang Dynasty, the Xin Xiu Ben Cao (Tang Materia Medica)(657-659 C.E.) was produced.

This, as mentioned above, was the first official medical text of China, and included Pine Pollen as a medicine. The Xin Xiu Ben Cao predates Western medical texts (the Nuremberg Pharmacopoeia, 1542 C.E.) by nearly 900 years. But this early reference of Pine Pollen did not end there. It was subsequently mentioned in many Chinese (and Korean and Japanese) texts, and today continues its place as an important component of Chinese medicine.

Pine Pollen in the Classical Model of Chinese Medicine

While Pine Pollen has been used in China and other parts of Asia for thousands of years, use of it is just dawning in the US. The first recorded use of it as a medicinal plant was some 5000 years ago, in the first Chinese medical text, The Pandects of Materia Medica. This text is still used today in both Classical and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

 The Pandects of Materia Medica, Chinese medical text

In Chinese Medicine, Pine Pollen is considered to be a tonic herb, capable of a wide array of healh benefits:

  • Lung Tonic (responsible for immune function and skin;
  • Kidney Tonic (responsible for endocrine system and reproduction health, youthfulness/longevity, brain, hair, and bones);
  • Liver Tonic (responsible for liver health/regeneration, detoxification systems, digestion, emotional health);
  • Heart Tonic (responsible for cholesterol levels, Shen or spirit/spirituality, cardiovascular health);
  • Spleen Tonic (responsible for moving and promoting Jing, our essence as humans).

In Chinese Medicine, the tonic effects of Pine Pollen may be translated into:

  • Moistening the lungs;
  • Relieving rheumatic arthritic pain;
  • Relieving fatigue;
  • Increasing endurance;
  • Regulating/strengthening the immune system;
  • Improving skin quality;
  • Strengthening the heart;
  • Strengthening the gastrointestinal (GI) system;
  • Improving digestion and the stomach;
  • Increase brain health and function;
  • Relief from prostate issues;
  • Improved gross motor skills (agility);
  • Promote healthy weight loss.

In China, because Pine Pollen is such an important and powerful supplement, vast amounts of clinical and medical research has gone into not only its safely but also its efficacy. Clinical research in China and the US show that it is an effective daily supplement which may assist in:

  • Dramatically improves vitality and stamina;
  • Raises low testosterone in men;
  • Increases male fertility by raising sperm count;
  • Combats and reverses the effects of Andropause;
  • Balances the Estrogen to Testosterone ratio in Women and Men;
  • Prevents prostate disease;
  • Promotes liver cell activity aiding in liver detoxification and rehabilitation;
  • Regulates metabolism;
  • Treatment of Stress/Cluster and Migraine Headache;
  • Increases energy unlike any other food or supplement can;
  • Improves muscle tone;
  • Eliminates sexual dysfunction due to low androgen levels;
  • Aids in weight management and promotes weight loss;
  • Improves overall health, greatly promoting immune function;
  • Easier and quicker time getting back into shape;
  • Gentle daily cellular detoxification;
  • Burns off brain fog and increases attention span and brain function;
  • Improves skin elasticity (anti-aging);
  • Clears acne;
  • Dissolves and removes age spots on skin and in the body.*

Further Historical and Contemporary Citations

Below, we have worked to translate historical citations of Pine Pollen in Chinese, Japanese, and Korea medical texts.

Much of the following has never been published in English before, and we have done our best, working with a Chinese TCM expert, in providing a contextualized translation of these ancient texts. The translations we are providing here are all original content (© 2014, RAW Forest Foods LLC) produced just for our customers.

We hope you enjoy having access to this information.

Tang Materia Medica (Tang Dynasty, 657-659 C.E.):

“Pine Pollen is also named Pine Yellow because it resembles cattail pollen. Long-term use of Pine Pollen may decrease weight (assist in weight loss). The medicinal application is greater than the use of Pine Bark, Pine Leaf, and Pine Resin”.

Ben Cao Yan Yi (The Expanded Herbal Foundation) (Song Dynasty, 1116 C.E.):

“The yellow powder of the pine flower is called pine yellow. People in the mountainous areas collect the pollen at specific times and use it in the preparation of a delicious pastry. However, because Pine Pollen could not be preserved for any great length of time, it was seldom transported to distant places. Pine yellow (Pine Pollen) looks like cattail pollen but with a lighter taste. Pine yellow (Pine Pollen) can treat postnatal high fever, headache, dry mouth and lips, agitation, thirst, and muddled and unpleasant moods, too.”

Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) (Ming Dynasty, 1590 C.E.):

“Pine pollen has a sweet, mild taste, with no toxicity. It assists the cardiopulmonary system (heart and lungs), nourishes Qi, expels wind, stops bleeding, and can be used for brewing into wine.”

Ben Cao Cong Xin (New Compilation Of Materia Medica) (Qing Dynasty, 1757 C.E.):

“Pine pollen is effective to cure several conditions of of variola, sores, injuries, as well as rotten [gangrene] wounds which will not scab on their own.”

Concise Compendium Of Materia Medica/Jing Bian Ben Cao Gang Mu (Li, Shizhen, 2010):

In the Jing Bian Ben Cao Gang Mu, Shizhen Li describes the Pine tree as tall and straight, with rough and thick bark like fish scale, which blooms during February and March from a 4” to 5” flower (the male pine catkin). Li refers to Pine Pollen as Pine yellow, and the pine cone as being shaped like a pig’s heart.

Li describes the taste of Pine Pollen (Pine yellow) as sweet and mild with no toxicity. According to Li, Pine Pollen nourishes the Heart and Lung, tonifies Qi, expels wind, and stops bleeding (hemorrhaging).

Chinese Pharmacopoeia (1985 edition):

The following is translated from the 1985 edition of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia.

Pine pollen is the dried pollen collected from fringes of the Pinus massoniana lamb., Pinus Tabulaeformis carr., Pinus Yunnansis franch., trees during bloom at the beginning of spring.

Features: light yellow fine powder, light weight, smell, and taste, with smooth feeling when twisted by fingers.

Identification: Under microscope, raw pine pollen is with elliptic cell with 45-55 micrometer length, 29-40 micrometer diameter, smooth surface and inflated gasbags at both sides which shows obvious reticular texture and polygonal mesh shape.

Property: Sweet, mild, a medicine for the Liver and Spleen.

Main functions: Eliminating dampness, astringency, and hemostasis. Aids in the treatment of eczema, impetigo, skin erosion, dripping ichor, traumatic bleeding, diaper-induced dermatitis.

Usage and dosage: External use

Shelf life: Store in dry place and keep away from moisture

Detailed Explanation of 800 Kinds Chinese Medicine (2009)

Name: Pine pollen, pine pollen flower,pine yellow.

Source: Pinus Massoniana Lamb., Pinus Tabulaeformis Carr., and Pinus Yunnanensis Franch mainly in Zhejiang,Jiansu, Lia ning, Jilin, Hubei, Yunnan Provinces.

Collection and processing: Collect the pine Catkins when pine trees bloom during April and May and then naturally dry the pine pollen catkins to eliminate the impurities.

Specification and character: Pine pollen is light yellow fine powder and shown as tiny round cells under microscope. It is with light weight and easily to lifted in the air, with sense of smooth, mostly floating in the water, lighter smell and taste. The high quality pine pollen is those yellow, fine and smooth pollen with not impurities and great fluidity.

Identification: Under microscope, raw pine pollen is with elliptic cell with 45-55 micrometer length, 29-40 micrometer diameter, smooth surface and inflated gasbags at both sides which shows obvious reticular texture and polygonal mesh shape.

Property: Sweet and mild in property; medicine for liver and spleen. Tonify spleen and liver yang which could nourish liver and eliminate the wind, also with function of astringency and hemostasis.

Ancient and modern applications:

  1. Tonifying spleen and qi, having great effect on gastropathy, duodenal ulcer as well as chronic constipation. The general dosage is 3 grams mixed with hot water. It also the function of anti-aging and senile diseases prevention such as prostatitis, prostatic hyperplasia, erectile dysfunction, climacteric syndrome, constipation, liver cirrhosis and fatty liver.
  2. Eliminate inner wind. It can help wind dizziness, spinning head, swelling, numbness and skin diseases. The method of application suggested is to dissolve the pine pollen with certain concentration ethanol(liqueur).
  3. Used for alcoholism, headache, dizziness, obstructed throat, diarrhea with clear intestinal juice and withering mental condition. The typical TCM formula contains pine pollen(30g), dried tangerine peel(15g), coptis chinensis root(15g), licorice root(6g) and stir frying these ingredients and mill to powder, 6g a time twice a day(morning and evening).
  4. Used for lingering dysentery with the dosage of 10g pine pollen taken by water in which rice has been cooked.
  5. Used for infant eczema. External use of the mixture of pine pollen, calamine and egg oil on infected part, 3 times a day.
  6. Used to treat diaper dermatitis because its hygroscopic effect. Smear the pine pollen on infected skin.
  7. Used to prevent traumatic bleeding because its astringent function. External smear the pine pollen on the trauma or wound.
  8. Facial beauty function mixed with poria cocos and whitish colored honey.

Usage and dosage:

External use: Smear on the affected part after mixing with liquid.

Modern research:

The composition of Pine Pollen includes fatty acids, pigment, protein, more than twenty different amino acids (including methionine, lysine, valine, threonine, and leucine). Pine Pollen contains fourteen vitamins and twenty four elemental minerals (including iron, phosphorus, sulphur, selenium, potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, and copper). It also contains eighteen different natural active enzymes, plant hormones, aromatic compound, and other compounds.

Pharmacologic actions include enhancing immunity, anti-aging functions, lowering blood fat, digestive function improvement, inhibit of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, increasing hematopoietic function, promoting and strengthening growth, expansion of coronary arteries, increasing vascular strength and protecting liver health.

Historical and Contemporary Use in Japan and Korea.

Historically, the traditional medical practices of Japan and Korea were greatly influenced by classical Chinese culture and medicine. Many of the prominent early medical works from China were quickly exported and translated into Japanese and Korean, including the Tang materia medica/ Xin Xiu Ben Cao and the Compendium of Materia Medica. These texts both enriched the medical theories of those countries and positively influenced the health of the populations. Throughout history and into today, the traditional medicines of Japan, North, and South Korea have been heavily influenced by classical and Traditional Chinese medicine.

Similar to China, Pine Pollen has a long history of use in Japan. In early Japan, it was first used as a panacea of sorts, treating many diseases throughout both Japanese royalty and the common classes. Looking back at historical treatment logs, it is clear that Pine Pollen was being prescribed in Japan according to the classic Chinese texts. Additionally, records show that ancient Japanese were consuming it as a food and medicine, aside from prescriptions from the medical text. This is especially true of people from the Japanese Ibaraki Prefecture, who have a long history using Pine Pollen. An ancient saying in Japan translates to “The softness of pollen is even superior to rice, cotton, and rabbit fur.”

Today, Pine Pollen is even more popular in Japan than it was historically. Within the medical field, it has enjoyed positive scientific research. Doctor Saito of the Urology Department Nagasaki University, Japan, specifically has researched the medicinal application of Pine Pollen for treating male urological diseases and illnesses, including as a treatment for prostate disease.

Other Japanese medical research into Pine Pollen has studied its anti-aging effects, including reversal of graying hair and promoting hair regrowth after loss due to age (androgenic alopecia). According to the research, these results are shown after approximately half a year of use. In contemporary Japan, it is also used as a beauty aid for lightening scars and freckles and is referred to as “The source of beauty”.

Pine Pollen is also used as a food in contemporary Japan. Pine Pollen Powder Cold Noodles has been a featured dish at many Japanese, highlighting the importance of Pine Pollen in Japan.

Similar to Japan, Korea (present day North and South Korea) also has both historical and contemporary use of Pine Pollen.

The famous Korean medical work Dongui Bogam was compiled by the royal physician Heo Jun (1539 – 1615, and was first published in 1613 during the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Historically, South Korea and North Korea were a unified whole under the Joseon Dynasty. The Joseon Dynasty (also known as the Chosun, or Li Dynasty). The Li Dynasty ruled over the Korean peninsula from 1392 to 1910—519 years. And during this period The Dongui Bogam as mentioned, was written during this time period, and was one of the most important medical texts to come out of the Dynasty. The title of the text literally means “Mirror of Eastern Medicine,” which, to put it lightly, makes reference to the deep, fundamental influence that Chinese medicine had on Korean medicine.

The original Dongui Bogam was written in Chinese and only fragments of it was transcribed into Korean for popular use by common Koreans, as only the elite were fluent and literate Chinese. The value of the Dongui Bogam as an authoritative medical text to the development of Korean medicine is on par with the the influence of the Compendium of Materia Medica was to Chinese medicine.

It is in the Dongui Bogam where we see the first mention of Pine Pollen in Korean medicine (publication 1613). In the text, Pine Pollen is recoded and described as the following:

“Pine Pollen is sweet in mild and sweet in taste, nourishes the Heart and Lung meridian, tonifies the Qi, and stops hemorrhaging.”

The Dongui Bogam is regarded as highly influential and important in traditional Korean medicine and it is today considered one of the classics of Oriental medicine. The importance and historical significance of the texts is reflected in its designation (July, 2009) on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme.

Koreans during the Joseo Dynasty held Pine Pollen as a food in high regard. The compendium of Korean life under the Joseon Dynasty, known as the Annals of Joseon Dynasty, are the official annual records of life under the Dynasty, and were kept from 1413 to 1865. In this text, the use of Pine Pollen as a food and as a brewed wine in mentioned. Furthermore, speaking to the significance of its harvest, the book details how the yearly harvesting of the pollen was imposed labor for the Korean people. Depending on the harvest and the available work force, monks were also recruited for the harvest. Presentation of the Pine Pollen harvest was a tribute at the Royal Palace. Today, Pine Pollen tea and food from the Royal Palace is still a well-known food in South Korea. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of beauty products from South Korea (considered by many to be the world’s preeminent source of beauty and skin care products) containing Pine Pollen.

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