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The Androgenic Approach and the Three Classes of Pro-Androgenic Herbs

This article introduces three classes of phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs. It explains how to use, combine, and stack these herbs, including Pine Pollen, to aid in restoring levels of androgenic hormones, such as androstenedione, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and androsterone.

By understanding the functions and potential of these herbs, we can use them effectively and optimize their impact on hormone levels. It is important to consider both the advantages and limitations of these herbs, as well as potential side effects. With knowledge and tools, we can work towards restoring androgenic hormone levels for overall well-being, recovering from imbalances, or optimizing our health. Join us as we explore the androgenic approach and the potential of phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs to support your health and vitality.

Maintaining optimal levels of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, is difficult in today's fast-paced world. These hormones play a vital role in our overall health, well-being, and vitality. Thankfully, we can restore and balance these essential hormones through the androgenic approach, which encompasses three distinct classes of herbs: phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs. One particularly notable herb in this regard is Pine Pollen.

What is the Androgenic Approach?

The androgenic approach is not just a list of herbal remedies. It provides a comprehensive framework for reclaiming and harmonizing our health, wellness, and vitality in a challenging environment. By exploring the three complementary categories of the androgenic approach—The Physicals, The Mental and Emotional, and The Internals—we can gain insights into how phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs can enhance the production of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone.

The Three Classes of Pro-Androgenic and Phyto-Androgenic HerbsThe Three Classes of Pro-Androgenic and Phyto-Androgenic Herbs

The Androgenic Approach Framework is a triad of:

  • The Physicals
  • The Mental and Emotional
  • The Internals (Pro-Androgenic and Phyto-Androgenic herbs)

Triad One: The Physicals

The first triad of the androgenic approach framework is The Physicals, which consists of lifestyle modifications such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise. The Physicals provide the foundation for healing and good health. Without addressing them, true, long-term, and sustainable improvements will be nearly impossible to achieve.

Triad Two: The Mental and Emotional

The second triad of the androgenic approach framework is The Mental and Emotional. The Mental and Emotional aspect covers our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives, including:

  • The platonic and romantic relationships we maintain;
  • The sense of purpose and drive we possess;
  • The feelings of control and direction we experience;
  • The overall level of satisfaction we feel in our lives.

There is overlap between the Mental and Emotional and Physical triads of the framework, and all three intersect. For example, a sense of loss of control in life can lead to chronic stress, which can cause inflammation and elevate cortisol levels, ultimately resulting in lower testosterone levels.

Research shows that inadequate sleep can decrease testosterone levels in otherwise happy and healthy individuals. Low testosterone levels are correlated with depression and aggression, which can damage relationships, decrease drive and purpose, contribute to feelings of loss of control, and reduce satisfaction levels in life.

Triad Three: The Internals

The third triad of the androgenic approach framework is known as The Internals. This triad involves the use of Pro-Androgenic and Phyto-Androgenic herbs and supplements to restore health, wellness, and vitality by positively affecting androgenic hormone levels, including testosterone levels. The focus of this discussion here is on The Internals.

The Internals - Pro-Androgenic and Phyto-Androgenic Herbs and Supplements

  • Explanation of how herbs can heal, repair, and restore testosterone
  • Importance of androgenic hormones for both men and women
  • Connection between adaptogenic and tonic herbs and hormone regulation

Using Herbs to Heal, Repair, and Restore Testosterone

Androgenic hormones, including androstenedione, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and androsterone, are vital for health and are present in both men and women.

Pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs can directly and indirectly raise androgenic male sex hormones. Many of the products we offer at RAW Forest Foods fall into these categories, even if that is not their explicit purpose.

This is because adaptogenic and tonic herbs tend to balance and repair the endocrine system, which is responsible for making and regulating hormones. Adaptogens and tonics work with the endocrine system to restore health by achieving balance, which may include raising levels of male sex hormones.

By delving deeper into the different types of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs, we can better understand how to use, combine, and stack these herbs to elevate testosterone production. Here, this broad category of herbs is broken down into three functional groups.

Defining the Three Classes of Pro-Androgenic Herbs

The three functional groups of pro-androgenic herbs are:

  1. The Producers
  2. The Maximizers
  3. The Supplementers

As previously mentioned, the endocrine system is responsible for producing and regulating hormones. Pro-Androgenic herbs, such as adaptogenic herbs, affect hormone levels by acting on the endocrine system.

Signaling the HPA and HPG Axis With Herbs

Sex Hormones and the Endocrine System

In men, testosterone is primarily produced and regulated through the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonadal (HPG) Axis, which consists of glands within the endocrine system. In women, and to a lesser degree in men, this is accomplished through the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis.

Both the HPG and HPA axes operate similarly:

  1. The hypothalamus serves as the primary regulator of testosterone production.
  2. The testes and adrenal glands produce testosterone.
  3. The pituitary gland acts as the mediator between the hypothalamus, the testes, and the adrenal glands.

Understanding the basics of testosterone production and the HPG and HPA axes can provide insight into how pro-androgenic herbs function and how different types of pro-androgenic herbs can be used together.

How Testosterone Production is Signaled: Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone And Luteinizing Hormone

The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonadal (HPG) Axis and the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis function both as lines of communication within the endocrine system and as glands that secrete hormones.

For the purposes of this text, two hormones are involved in signaling the production of testosterone:

  1. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), sometimes referred to as luteinizing-releasing hormone.
  2. Luteinizing hormone (LH).

To understand how testosterone production is signaled, it can be helpful to think of the HPG and HPA axes in a linear way. First, there is the hypothalamus. Second, the pituitary gland. Thirdly, the gonads or the adrenals.

The hypothalamus, located in the brain, secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Once produced by the hypothalamus, GnRH travels to the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland.

At the pituitary gland, GnRH signals the release of two hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

Once secreted by the pituitary gland, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) travel to the gonads. Once LH and FSH arrive in the gonads, they signal the production of testosterone and the production and maturation of sperm.

Luteinizing hormone (LH) signals the production of testosterone in Leydig cells, which are specialized cells in the gonads. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) signals the production and maturation of sperm in Sertoli cells, which are specialized cells in the gonads.

Functional Group One: The Producers

The Producers are the first class of Pro-Androgenic herbs. These herbs modify the endocrine signaling process in the body by working at the on-off regulatory switch of the hypothalamus. The Producers can increase the production of testosterone.

Examples of Pro-Androgenic herbs that signal an increase in testosterone production include:

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): a rasāyana (adaptogenic) Ayurvedic herb that has been used for 3000 years. It may help reduce stress and anxiety, improve overall well-being, benefit androgenic hormone levels, potentially increasing testosterone levels, improving sperm quality, and enhancing sexual function and muscle strength.
  • Cistanche tubulosa: has been used for centuries in Chinese Herbal Medicine. As an adaptogen, it may help improve immune system function (immunomodulatory) and reduce inflammation (anti-inflammatory). Within Chinese Medicine, Cistanche is used to tonify the Kidneys, improve sexual function, and improve longevity. Contemporary research suggests that Cistanche tubulosa may benefit cognitive function (nootropic), bone health, athletic performance, and testosterone levels.
  • Panax ginseng Root: commonly known as Chinese Ginseng, Red Ginseng, and Korean Ginseng. Panax ginseng is one of the most important vital tonic and adaptogenic herbs used in Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is believed to improve immune function (immunomodulatory), cognitive function (nootropic), physical and athletic performance, energy and vitality, and support healthy aging. Recent research indicates that  Panax ginseng may also improve sexual function in both men and women by reducing stress and improving sex hormone levels.
  • Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) Root: has been used for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia as an adaptogenic herb to support overall health and as an aphrodisiac to promote libido. Research indicates that Tongkat Ali benefits male sexual function, improves libido, treats erectile dysfunction, and enhances fertility. As an adaptogen, research suggests that it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and supports energy levels and athletic performance.
  • Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris): has a long history of use in Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine, where it has been used to improve male sexual function, enhance athletic performance, and support overall wellness and vitality. Research indicates that Tribulus may benefit testosterone levels and nitric oxide production, both of which are important factors for male sexual health.
  • Shilajit (Asphaltum Punjabianum): has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine as a rasāyana. Unlike any other medicinal herb or mushroom, Shilajit is a mineral-rich exudate formed over thousands of years through a process of organic decomposition and geological formation. It has been used both as a cure for the most difficult-to-treat illnesses and as a rasāyana to rejuvenate and rebuild the body and promote longevity. Contemporary research supports the traditional rasāyana uses of Shilajit and indicates its usage in promoting male sexual health and wellness.

How Do Pro-Androgenic Herbs Increase Testosterone Production?

Pro-androgenic herbs work on the hypothalamus to elevate the secretion of GnRH. As we learned earlier, GnRH travels to the pituitary gland, where it signals the release of LH and FSH. LH and FSH then travel to the testes, where LH activates Leydig cells to produce testosterone, and FSH activates Sertoli cells for sperm production. Initiating this cascading hormone response at the hypothalamus is how pro-androgenic herbs increase testosterone levels.

Advantages of The Producers

  • The Producers work with the body to engage the glands of the endocrine system, promoting endocrine health.
  • By increasing LH and FSH, sperm quality improves, thus enhancing fertility in men.
  • In addition to their primary benefits, these herbs have many beneficial side effects, including immune system regulation, muscle and bone health, and neuro-protective properties. These are classified as "positive externalities" of the herbs.

Disadvantages of The Producers

  • Results may take 2+ weeks to become noticeable.
  • Inefficient for women, men who have been partially or fully castrated, and trans men.
  • May strain the body of those who are unhealthy or feeble.
  • Does not fully address the conversion of testosterone to estrogen within the body.

Functional Group Two: The Maximizers

The Maximizers are the next class of Pro-Androgenic herbs. These herbs alter how the body utilizes testosterone. By changing the utilization of testosterone, The Maximizers affect the testosterone already present and can indirectly raise testosterone levels (which is different from other Pro-Androgenic Herbs).

Understanding the Life Cycle of Testosterone

Upon release, the majority of testosterone becomes unavailable due to a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds so tightly to testosterone that it can no longer have its beneficial effects on the body.

Only 1-2% of testosterone present in the body remains active, known as free testosterone. Roughly 44% of testosterone is lost to SHBG.

SHBG's role is to regulate different sex hormones, including testosterone, the biologically important androgen hormone DHT, and estrogen (E2) to a lesser extent, in the body.

However, problems can arise as levels of SHBG increase, causing greater loss and inactivation of free testosterone.

Many factors can increase SHBG levels, such as age, obesity, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, and some medications. High estrogenic states, long-term calorie restriction, and anorexia can also cause SHBG levels to rise.

High levels of androgenic hormones, growth hormone, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor can cause a decrease in SHBG.

Maximizing Testosterone with Pro-Androgenic Herbs

In addition to Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, testosterone can be lost through a process called aromatization. This occurs in both men and women and involves the conversion of testosterone to the estrogenic female sex hormone estradiol, as well as the androgenic hormone androstenedione into the estrogenic hormone estrone.

Aromatization has two effects on testosterone levels:

  • Testosterone is lost during the process
  • Estradiol is produced, which can negatively affect the ratio of male to female sex hormones.

Correct levels of estrogen and estradiol are important for both men and women, but too much of either can have deleterious effects on health.

Safely decreasing aromatization can increase testosterone and decrease estradiol levels. Controlling aromatization is another way to use Pro-Androgenic herbs to maximize androgenic hormone levels in the body, while also promoting healthy levels of estrogenic hormones.

Peak Performance Estrogen Detox

Peak Performance Estrogen Detox is specifically developed to support customers in balancing estrogen levels, including endogenous estrogenic hormones produced by the body and exogenous hormones from outside the body (primarily phytoestrogens from plants, including soy and hops, and xenoestrogens from plastics like phthalates).

The formula works on several levels to decrease estrogen load and resolve estrogen dominance, one of which is through lowering aromatization. This prevents the synthesis of estradiol from testosterone.

The Peak Performance Estrogen Detox formula contains several compounds, including Apigenin, Chrysin, and Grape Seed Extract, that lower the rates of aromatization. Apigenin is a flavone extracted from chamomile ( Matricaria recutita), Chrysin is a flavone extracted from passion fruit flowers (Passiflora incarnata), and Grape Seed Extract.

By lowering aromatase activity, these compounds have a pro-androgenic effect on testosterone levels, maximizing how the body utilizes testosterone. In addition to these three maximizers, the Peak Performance Estrogen Detox formula also contains ß-Sitosterol and 12 other active compounds.

Advantages of The Maximizers:

  • The Maximizers may reduce estrogen and estradiol load.
  • Effective for both men and women.
  • Promotes and restores homeostasis.
  • Aids in clearing and repairing.
  • Protective.

Disadvantages of The Maximizers:

  • Does not directly increase testosterone levels.
  • Effects may be slow.

Supplementing Phyto-Androgens with Pine PollenFunctional Group Three: The Supplementers

The third functional group of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs is the supplementers. These herbs supplement the body with androgenic hormones.

Within the main grouping of pro-androgenic herbs, the phyto-androgens are the supplementers. In other words, they are synonymous.

What are Phytosterols and Phyto-Androgenic Hormones?

Phyto-androgens are plant sterols or steroid hormones that are similar to human androgenic male sex hormones. They can increase testosterone levels through supplementation.

Pine pollen is the primary example of both phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs and supplements. While other sources of phyto-androgens exist, such as David's Lily, their levels are typically too low or their production is too limited to be significant.

Using Pine Pollen as a Phyto-Androgenic Herb to Increase Testosterone

As previously mentioned, Pine Pollen contains analogues of the male sex hormones androstenedione, testosterone, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and Androsterone. A 2019 research paper states that "Pinus species are a rich source of testosterone." By supplementing with Pine Pollen, the body receives these phytosterols.

However, we believe that the Phyto-Androgens naturally present in Pine Pollen only account for a small percentage of its wide range of benefits, including its ability to increase testosterone levels. To learn more, see the article  The Pro-Androgenic and Adaptogenic Effects of Pine Pollen.

Advantages of The Supplementers:

  • Quick: Pine pollen contains phyto-androgen hormones that can increase testosterone levels almost immediately upon digestion or absorption. The alcohol-based extracts of pine pollen are the most efficient at elevating testosterone quickly.
  • Minimal energy costs: Pine Pollen supplements the body, allowing for the effects of elevated male sex hormones without placing additional stress on the body to produce more androgen hormones.
  • Men and women: Men and women both suffer from androgen deficiencies, but women have a lower capacity to produce androgens because the majority of androgens are produced in the testes. Pine Pollen, which contains androgen hormones, can raise androgen levels in both women and men whose main source of testosterone has been compromised.

Disadvantages of The Supplementers:

  • Lack of engagement: The endocrine system produces hormones through a network of glands that stay healthy when they are active. However, Pine Pollen supplements with androgen hormones do not engage the body to produce the hormones, unlike other pro-androgenic herbs such as Cistanche tubulosa.
  • Negative feedback: Most hormones in the body, including all the sex hormones, are regulated through negative feedback. This mechanism works like the thermostat in a house. When the temperature drops, the heat turns on until the set temperature is reached. Similarly, when testosterone levels naturally decrease, the body automatically increases production until the set level is reached. Pine pollen does not change the set level of testosterone (other androgenic herbs, such as Tongkat Ali, can).
  • Estrogen: Testosterone can be converted to harmful estrogen compounds, and precautions should be taken to minimize this conversion. Pine pollen does not reduce this conversion, but other herbs such as Nettle Root can help.

Using Phyto-Androgenic and Pro-Androgenic Herbs

As our understanding of how the body signals, produces, and regulates testosterone (and other sex hormones) increases, and as we gain more knowledge of the different types of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs, we can use these herbs more effectively. We can also learn how to stack and combine them for even greater effect.

The following discussion is generalized and simplified, provided for illustrative purposes only. It is not prescriptive, nor is it a product recommendation or suggestion.

Pro-Androgenic Herbs and the Top-Down Approach

The three classes of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs are presented in a top-down approach, where the second class builds upon the first, and the third class builds upon the second and the first. The three classes are:

  1. The Producers;
  2. The Maximizers;
  3. The Supplementers.

For example, if you plan to use only one herb or formula (product), choose a Producer. If you plan to use two, choose a Producer and a Maximizer. If you plan to use three, choose a Producer, a Maximizer, and a Supplementer.

This is a simplified approach, and there are exceptions. Each person is unique, and it is impossible to create a one-size-fits-all rule. However, the three classes provide a framework for choosing herbs, ingredients, formulas, and products and for effectively building stacks.

The following stack is a favorite at RAW Forest Foods:

  • Cistanche tubulosa Extract Powder (Pproducer)
  • Peak Performance Estrogen Detox (Maximizer)
  • Forest Prana Elixir Pine Pollen and Nettle Root Tincture (Supplementer and Producer)

The framework outlined here can be applied to create a pro-androgenic cycle:

  • Mountain Manna Himalayan Shilajit Extract Capsules or Powder OR Tahna Prana Elevated Tongkat Ali Extract Capsules or Powder
  • Forest Prana Elixir Pine Pollen and Nettle Root Capsules or Powder
  • Forest Manna RAW Pine Pollen™ Capsules, Powder, or Tablets

Hopefully, these examples illustrate how you can mix and match different methods to maximize your approach while avoiding redundancy.

Integrating Pro-Androgenic Herbs into an Androgenic Approach

The androgenic approach consists of three classes of herbs presented in an order of operations:

  • The Physicals
  • The Mental and Emotional
  • The Internals

In our opinion, it is generally most effective and beneficial to work through the physical, mental, and emotional aspects before addressing internal issues. While this approach may not be the easiest, it is the most effective. However, this article will focus on the use of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs, rather than these other important areas.


The androgenic approach provides a comprehensive framework for restoring and balancing androgenic hormone levels, such as testosterone, to promote overall health and vitality. By understanding the three classes of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs and their functions within the framework, we can effectively utilize these herbs to optimize hormone levels.

The first class of herbs, known as Producers, works by stimulating the endocrine system to increase testosterone production. These herbs, such as Ashwagandha and Tongkat Ali, can enhance sexual function, muscle strength, and overall well-being. The second class, called Maximizers, focuses on optimizing the utilization of testosterone in the body. By reducing the binding of testosterone to Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and controlling aromatization, these herbs indirectly raise testosterone levels and promote a healthy balance of estrogenic hormones.

While pro-androgenic herbs offer advantages such as promoting endocrine health, improving fertility, and providing additional positive effects on the body, it is essential to consider potential limitations and individual circumstances. Results may take time to become noticeable, and these herbs may not be as effective for certain individuals or specific health conditions. However, with a comprehensive understanding of the androgenic approach and the proper use of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs, we can work towards restoring and optimizing androgenic hormone levels for overall well-being and vitality.

Key Takeaways from the Article:

  • The androgenic approach encompasses three categories of herbs: phyto-androgenic, pro-androgenic, and androgenic modulators. These herbs can help to restore and balance androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, in the body.
  • The androgenic approach is based on three triads: The Physicals, The Mental and Emotional, and The Internals. These triads cover lifestyle modifications, mental and emotional well-being, and the use of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs.
  • Pro-androgenic herbs fall into three functional groups: Producers, Maximizers, and Supplementers. Producers increase testosterone production, Maximizers optimize the utilization of testosterone, and Supplementers support hormone regulation and balance.
  • Pro-androgenic herbs work on the endocrine system by affecting the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG axis) in men and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) in women.
  • Producers increase testosterone production by elevating the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which then signals the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). LH activates Leydig cells for testosterone production.
  • Maximizers affect the utilization of testosterone by addressing factors such as sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and aromatization, which can decrease testosterone levels and increase estrogen levels.

Product Resources

Links to the products referenced in this article:

Forest Prana Elixir Pine Pollen and Nettle Root (Previously Elevated Pine Pollen and Nettle Root)

Tahna Prana Elevated Tongkat Ali Extract

Mountain Manna Himalayan Shilajit Extract

Mountain Alchemy Pine Pollen Elixir — Formulated with Tribulus terrestris (Previously Pine Pollen Alchemy and the Endocrine Strengthening Formula)

Forest Manna RAW Pine Pollen™

Further Reading And Selected Resources

* Throughout this discussion, as well as the website as a whole, when referring to biological processes, the terms "male" and "female" and "men" and "women" are used to denote biological sex. We recognize that one"s gender and one"s biological sex may not align.


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