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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 and provides insights into their use, combination, and stacking, with a particular focus on Pine Pollen. The goal is to aid in restoring levels of androgenic hormones, such as androstenedione, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and androsterone, which play a vital role in overall health, well-being, and vitality.

Understanding the functions and potential of these herbs is essential for optimizing their impact on hormone levels. It is equally important to consider the advantages and limitations of these herbs and be aware of potential side effects. Armed with this knowledge, we can work towards restoring androgenic hormone levels to promote overall well-being, address imbalances, and optimize our health. This exploration of the androgenic approach and the potential of phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs aims to support your health and vitality.

The Androgenic Approach: Restoring Hormonal Balance

Maintaining optimal levels of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, is challenging in today's fast-paced world. However, the androgenic approach offers a comprehensive framework for reclaiming and harmonizing our health, wellness, and vitality in this demanding environment. This approach is not merely a list of herbs but is an operational framework:

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

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

Triad One: The Physicals

The first triad, The Physicals, focuses on lifestyle modifications such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise. These changes provide the foundation for healing and good health, making it crucial to address them for long-term and sustainable improvements.

Triad Two: The Mental and Emotional

The second triad, The Mental and Emotional, encompasses our mental, emotional, and spiritual lives, including our relationships, sense of purpose, feelings of control, and overall satisfaction. The Mental and Emotional and Physical triads overlap, and all three are interconnected. For instance, a loss of control in life can lead to chronic stress, triggering inflammation and elevated cortisol levels, ultimately affecting testosterone levels.

Research reveals that insufficient sleep can decrease testosterone levels, even in otherwise happy and healthy individuals. Low testosterone levels are associated with depression and aggression, which can negatively impact relationships, reduce drive and purpose, contribute to feelings of loss of control, and diminish overall life satisfaction.

Triad Three: The Internals

The third triad, The Internals, involves using phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs and supplements to restore health, wellness, and vitality by positively influencing androgenic hormone levels, including testosterone. This section focuses on The Internals and their role in hormone regulation and overall well-being.

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

Using Herbs to Heal, Repair, and Restore Testosterone

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

Phyto-androgenic and pro-androgenic herbs can directly and indirectly raise male sex hormone levels. Many of the products offered at RAW Forest Foods fall into these categories, even if that is not their explicit purpose.

Adaptogenic and tonic herbs work to balance and repair the endocrine system, which plays a vital role in hormone production and regulation. By achieving this balance, these herbs may contribute to elevating male sex hormone levels.

To better understand how to use, combine, and stack these herbs for elevating testosterone production, they are broadly categorized into three functional groups.

Defining the Three Classes of Phyto-Androgenic and Pro-Androgenic Herbs

The three functional groups of pro-androgenic herbs are as follows:

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

As mentioned earlier, pro-androgenic herbs, such as adaptogenic herbs, impact hormone levels by acting on the endocrine system.

Signaling the HPA and HPG Axis With HerbsSex Hormones and the Endocrine System

In men, the regulation and production of testosterone primarily occur through the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonadal (HPG) Axis, which involves glands within the endocrine system. For women, and to a lesser degree for men, this process involves the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis.

Both the HPG and HPA axes function similarly:

  1. The hypothalamus serves as the primary regulator of testosterone production.
  2. Testosterone is produced by the testes and adrenal glands.
  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 functioning of the HPG and HPA axes can provide valuable insights into how pro-androgenic herbs work and how different types of pro-androgenic herbs can be used synergistically.

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

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

For the purpose of this discussion, two hormones are vital in signaling testosterone production:

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

To comprehend the signaling of testosterone production, it is helpful to envision the HPG and HPA axes as a linear pathway. First, the hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Next, GnRH travels to the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland.

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. Upon reaching the gonads, LH and FSH stimulate the production of testosterone and the production and maturation of sperm.

Specifically, luteinizing hormone (LH) prompts the production of testosterone in Leydig cells, specialized cells in the gonads. Meanwhile, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) signals the production and maturation of sperm in Sertoli cells, also found in the gonads.

Functional Group One: The Producers

The Producers represent the first class of Pro-Androgenic herbs. These herbs modulate the endocrine signaling process in the body by acting on the on-off regulatory switch of the hypothalamus. They are capable of increasing the production of testosterone.

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

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb with a history of use spanning 3000 years. Classified as a rasāyana (adaptogenic), it may help reduce stress and anxiety, improve overall well-being, and enhance androgenic hormone levels. Ashwagandha has the potential to increase testosterone levels, improve sperm quality, and boost sexual function and muscle strength.
  • Cistanche tubulosa: Used for centuries in Chinese Herbal Medicine, Cistanche is an adaptogen that may improve immune system function and reduce inflammation. Within Chinese Medicine, Cistanche is known for tonifying the Kidneys, enhancing sexual function, and promoting longevity. Contemporary research indicates that Cistanche tubulosa may also benefit cognitive function, bone health, athletic performance, and testosterone levels.
  • Panax ginseng Root: Also known as Chinese Ginseng, Red Ginseng, and Korean Ginseng, Panax ginseng is a vital tonic and adaptogenic herb extensively used in Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is believed to improve immune function, cognitive function, physical and athletic performance, energy, vitality, and healthy aging. Recent research also suggests that Panax ginseng may improve sexual function in both men and women by reducing stress and enhancing sex hormone levels.
  • Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) Root: Hailing from Southeast Asia, Tongkat Ali is an adaptogenic herb used for overall health support and as an aphrodisiac to promote libido. Research indicates that Tongkat Ali can benefit male sexual function, improve libido, treat erectile dysfunction, and enhance fertility. As an adaptogen, it also exerts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects while supporting energy levels and athletic performance.
  • Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris): With a long history of use in Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine, Tribulus has been employed to improve male sexual function, enhance athletic performance, and support overall wellness and vitality. Research suggests that Tribulus may positively influence testosterone levels and nitric oxide production, both of which are crucial factors for male sexual health.
  • Shilajit (Asphaltum Punjabianum): Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine as a rasāyana, Shilajit is a unique mineral-rich exudate formed over thousands of years through organic decomposition and geological processes. It is known for its therapeutic effects on various difficult-to-treat illnesses and as a rejuvenating agent promoting longevity. Contemporary research supports Shilajit's traditional uses as a rasāyana and indicates its potential in promoting male sexual health and wellness.

Mechanism of Action: How Do Pro-Androgenic Herbs Increase Testosterone Production?

Pro-androgenic herbs exert their effects on the hypothalamus, stimulating the secretion of GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone). GnRH then travels to the pituitary gland, signaling the release of LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). LH activates Leydig cells in the testes, leading to testosterone production, while FSH activates Sertoli cells for sperm production. By initiating this hormonal cascade at the hypothalamus, pro-androgenic herbs increase testosterone levels.

Advantages of The Producers

  • The Producers work in harmony with the body's endocrine system, promoting overall endocrine health.
  • Improved LH and FSH levels enhance sperm quality, thus benefiting male fertility.
  • In addition to their primary benefits, these herbs offer numerous positive side effects, including immune system regulation, muscle and bone health, and neuroprotective properties, often referred to as "positive externalities."

Disadvantages of The Producers

  • Noticeable results may take over two weeks to manifest.
  • The effectiveness of The Producers may be limited for certain individuals, including women, men who have undergone castration, and trans men.
  • People with existing health issues or those who are frail may experience strain when using The Producers.
  • The conversion of testosterone to estrogen within the body is not adequately addressed by The Producers.

Functional Group Two: The Maximizers

The Maximizers belong to the second class of Pro-Androgenic herbs. These herbs alter the body's utilization of testosterone, indirectly leading to increased testosterone levels (a characteristic that sets them apart from other Pro-Androgenic Herbs).

Understanding the Life Cycle of Testosterone

Upon release, the majority of testosterone becomes unavailable due to binding with a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds tightly to testosterone, rendering it ineffective in exerting its beneficial effects on the body. Only a small percentage of testosterone (1-2%) remains free and active in the body, while approximately 44% is lost to SHBG.

SHBG plays a crucial role in regulating various sex hormones, including testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and estrogen (E2) to a lesser extent.

However, elevated levels of SHBG can lead to increased loss and inactivation of free testosterone. Several factors can elevate SHBG levels, such as age, obesity, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, certain medications, and high estrogenic states.

Conversely, high levels of androgenic hormones, growth hormone, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor can decrease SHBG levels.

Maximizing Testosterone with Pro-Androgenic Herbs

In addition to SHBG's impact, testosterone can be lost through a process called aromatization, which converts testosterone into estradiol (a female sex hormone) and androstenedione into estrone. Aromatization affects both men and women, leading to the loss of testosterone and the production of estrogenic hormones.

Aromatization has two effects on testosterone levels:

  • Testosterone Loss: Testosterone is reduced during the process
  • Estradiol Production: Estradiol is generated, which can disrupt the balance between male and female sex hormones.

While estrogen and estradiol play essential roles in both men and women, excessive levels of these hormones can have adverse effects on health.

Minimizing aromatization can increase testosterone levels and reduce estradiol levels, promoting a healthier balance of sex hormones.

Peak Performance Estrogen Detox

Peak Performance Estrogen Detox is a specialized product designed to support users in balancing estrogen levels, encompassing both endogenous estrogenic hormones produced by the body and exogenous hormones from external sources (primarily phytoestrogens from plants like soy and hops, and xenoestrogens from plastics such as phthalates).

The formula operates on several levels to decrease estrogen load and address estrogen dominance, including reducing aromatization to prevent the synthesis of estradiol from testosterone.

The Peak Performance Estrogen Detox formula includes various compounds, such as Apigenin, Chrysin, and Grape Seed Extract, known to lower the rates of aromatization. For example, Apigenin is a flavone extracted from chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Chrysin is a flavone found in passion fruit flowers (Passiflora incarnata), and Grape Seed Extract.

By reducing aromatase activity, these compounds contribute to a pro-androgenic effect, increasing testosterone levels and maximizing the body's utilization of testosterone. The Peak Performance Estrogen Detox formula also contains ß-Sitosterol and 12 other active compounds to support its intended function.

Advantages of The Maximizers:

  • The Maximizers have the potential to decrease estrogen and estradiol load, rebalancing sex hormones.
  • These herbs are effective for both men and women.
  • They promote and restore homeostasis.
  • The Maximizers aid in detoxification and repair processes, offering protective effects.

Disadvantages of The Maximizers:

  • Unlike Producers, The Maximizers do not directly increase testosterone levels.
  • The effects of The Maximizers may take time to become noticeable.

Functional Group Two: The SupplementersFunctional Group Two: The Supplementers

The third functional group of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs is known as the Supplementers. These herbs supply the body with androgenic hormones.

Within the broader category of pro-androgenic herbs, the phyto-androgens act as the Supplementers. In other words, they are essentially synonymous.

What are Phytosterols and Phyto-Androgenic Hormones?

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

Pine pollen serves as 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 too limited to yield significant effects.

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

As previously mentioned, Pine Pollen contains analogues of male sex hormones, such as androstenedione, testosterone, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and Androsterone. Research from 2019 identifies Pinus species as a rich source of testosterone. By supplementing with Pine Pollen, the body receives these phytosterols.

However, it is worth noting that the Phyto-Androgens naturally present in Pine Pollen likely account for only a fraction of its extensive range of benefits, including its potential to increase testosterone levels. To explore this further, you can refer to the article titled The Pro-Androgenic and Adaptogenic Effects of Pine Pollen.

Advantages of The Supplementers:

  • Quick Action: Pine pollen, containing phyto-androgen hormones, can almost immediately increase testosterone levels upon digestion or absorption. Alcohol-based extracts of pine pollen are particularly efficient in rapidly elevating testosterone.
  • Minimal Energy Cost: By supplementing the body with androgen hormones, Pine Pollen facilitates the effects of elevated male sex hormones without placing additional stress on the body's own hormone production.
  • Suitable for Both Genders: Since both men and women can experience androgen deficiencies, Pine Pollen, with its androgen hormones, can effectively raise androgen levels in individuals whose primary source of testosterone has been compromised.

Disadvantages of The Supplementers:

  • Lack of Endocrine Engagement: The endocrine system produces hormones through a network of glands that remain healthy when actively engaged. However, Pine Pollen's androgen hormone supplementation does not stimulate the body to produce hormones in the same manner as other pro-androgenic herbs like Cistanche tubulosa.
  • Absence of Negative Feedback Regulation: Hormones in the body, including sex hormones, are typically regulated through negative feedback. This mechanism functions like a thermostat in a house; when the temperature drops, the heat turns on until the desired temperature is reached. Similarly, when testosterone levels naturally decrease, the body automatically increases production until the set level is restored. However, Pine pollen does not modify the set level of testosterone as some other androgenic herbs, such as Tongkat Ali, can.
  • Unaffected Estrogen Conversion: Pine pollen does not address the conversion of testosterone into potentially harmful estrogen compounds. However, other herbs, like Nettle Root, may assist in mitigating this conversion process.

Using Phyto-Androgenic and Pro-Androgenic Herbs

Understanding the body's signaling, production, and regulation of testosterone and other sex hormones enables us to use pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs more effectively. It also allows us to learn how to combine these herbs to achieve greater effects.

The following discussion provides a generalized and simplified approach, intended for illustrative purposes. It is not prescriptive, nor does it constitute product recommendations or suggestions.

Pro-Androgenic Herbs and the Top-Down Approach

The three classes of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs can be integrated using a top-down approach, where the second class builds upon the first, and the third class incorporates the features of the second and the first. These three classes are:

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

For instance, if you choose to use only one herb or formula (product), selecting a Producer is a suitable option. If you plan to use two, consider a Producer and a Maximizer. If you opt for three, choose a Producer, a Maximizer, and a Supplementer.

It is essential to recognize that this approach is a simplification and that there may be exceptions. Each individual is unique, and a one-size-fits-all rule is not applicable. Nevertheless, the three classes offer a framework for selecting herbs, ingredients, formulas, and products, effectively constructing stacks to optimize hormone levels.

Here's an example stack, one favored 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)

This framework can be applied to create a pro-androgenic cycle, such as:

  • 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

These examples demonstrate how different methods can be mixed and matched to maximize results while avoiding redundancy.

Integrating Pro-Androgenic Herbs into an Androgenic Approach

The androgenic approach consists of three classes of herbs presented in a specific order:

  • The Physicals
  • The Mental and Emotional
  • The Internals

In our perspective, it is generally most effective and beneficial to address the physical, mental, and emotional aspects before dealing with internal issues. While this approach may not be the simplest, it tends to yield the best results. However, this article will primarily focus on the use of pro-androgenic and phyto-androgenic herbs rather than exploring these other essential areas.


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

The first class, Producers, stimulates the endocrine system to increase testosterone production. Herbs such as Ashwagandha and Tongkat Ali offer benefits such as enhanced sexual function, improved muscle strength, and overall well-being. The second class, Maximizers, focuses on optimizing the utilization of testosterone in the body by addressing factors such as Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and aromatization, which can decrease testosterone and increase estrogen levels.

While pro-androgenic herbs offer advantages, such as promoting endocrine health, improving fertility, and providing additional positive effects on the body, it is crucial 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 supply the body with androgenic hormones.
  • 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 identity may not align with their biological sex, and we aim to be inclusive and respectful of all individuals and their diverse identities. If you have specific preferences for how you wish to be addressed or if you require information related to a particular gender identity, please let us know, and we will strive to accommodate your needs accordingly. Our intention is to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.


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