More than fifty years ago, a special extract made
from rye and other pollens was first discovered
to provide dramatic relief not only from
the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia
(BPH), but also from the symptoms of prostatitis
and prostatodynia, two other common prostate conditions.
The story of the discovery of these health benefits of pollen
extract is wonderfully recounted in the book, The Prostate
Cure, written by Harry G. Preuss, MD, and Brenda Adderly,
MHA. However, the story of pollen extract does not end with
its benefits in these conditions or even with its benefits in the
area of prostate health. Recent research has shown that pollen
extract inhibits the growth of some forms of cancer, that it
activates important protective liver enzymes, and that it protects
against damage to the heart and may improve athletic
Focus on the Prostate
Pollen extract is a special mixture of both water-soluble and
fat-soluble compounds derived from various pollens, chiefly
rye, and often marketed under the name Cernilton. Most people
know of pollen extracts in conjunction with prostate health.
This generally is associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia
(formerly called hypertrophy), which involves a renewed
growth in the number of prostate cells late in life.1 Unfortunately,
of men between the age of 40 and 59, nearly 60 percent
can be shown to already be suffering from benign prostatic
hyperplasia. This usually does not present a noticeable problem
until after the age of 50; by the age of 80, however, some
85 percent of all men suffer from one or more symptoms of
BPH. The primary effect of BPH is a progressive decrease in
the ability to empty the bladder as the prostate enlarges and
applies pressure to the urethra. The American Urological Association
Symptom Index is now a standard assessment for
Prostatitis is really a catch-all term for several types of
prostate problems.2 It always involves inflammation of the
prostate and may also include considerable pain, whereas
BPH may not involve any pain at all (as opposed to discomfort).
Prostatitis is fairly common in adult males and has been
classified into four types. Only at most five percent of all cases
consist of either acute or chronic bacterial prostatitis, i.e., cases
in which infection and the aftermath of infection are the main
issues. Nonbacterial prostatitiscomprises 64 percent of cases
and Prostatodynia makes up another 31 percent.
Nonbacterial prostatitis is the most common of the
prostatic conditions, but its cause has not been isolated. It is
characterized by an unusually high number and activity of inflammatory
cells in the prostate. The resulting inflammation
resembles that found in chronic prostatitis, but there is no history
of infection nor do cultures (for bacteria) prove positive.
Conventional medical treatments do not yield good results.
Abstaining from alcohol and spicy foods helps in some cases.
Prostatodynia, which is most common in young and middleaged
men, presents many symptoms similar to the above, but
lacks the excessive number of inflammatory cells. Just as nonbacterial
prostatitis has some symptoms that are peculiar to
it, so, too, does prostatodynia. In particular, pain and/or discomfort
in the groin, perineum, testicles, lower back and penis
seem to characterize this condition. Smooth muscle spasms
in the prostatic portion of the urethra and in the neck of the
bladder are at work here. The subsequent reflux of urine into
prostatic and ejaculatory ducts causes a chemically-induced
inflammation. Fatigue in the muscles in the pelvic region and
emotional stress appear to be powerful contributory factors in
Of these three conditions, BPH is what concerns most
men. Prostate enlargement is strongly related to normal aging.
Some of the factors involved are quite well understood.
Nevertheless, there also is substantial disagreement about
other issues. BPH can be called an aspect of male menopause
because an increased ratio of estrogen to testosterone is active
in BPH just as, conversely, in women passing through menopause
the ratio of testosterone to estrogen increases. Testosterone,
the “male” hormone, is at its peak during adolescence.
It decreases thereafter, and the rate of decrease sharpens by
about age 50. The decline in testosterone production typically
calls into play the compensatory release of other hormones,
which are stimulants to testosterone production. These cannot
prevent the decline in testosterone levels, but they can
lead to an elevated rate of transformation of testosterone
into 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and to the increased
binding to and/or decreased clearance of DHT from prostate
cells. Testosterone is converted to DHT by the enzyme 5-alphareductase.
Ultimately, it is DHT’s actions that cause the enlargement
of the prostate. DHT binds to specific receptors on
the prostate cells, the alpha 1-receptors. It then is transported
into the nucleus of these cells where it attaches to the DNA
and ultimately turns on prostate growth.
How do pollen extracts work? Clinical trials with these extracts
covering 12 weeks of treatment generally have produced
improvements in cases of BPH and prostatodynia of between
60 and 88 percent when adequate dosages were administered
and depending upon the severity of the starting condition.
The first mechanism of action is smooth muscle relaxation,
something that promotes the ability to urinate as spasms in
the smooth muscle tissues are reduced. In animal studies, pollen
extracts have been shown to inhibit urethral contraction,
which facilitates the discharge of urine. Data in these studies is
consistent with the observations that pollen extracts facilitate
voiding of the bladder and reduce residual urine.
A number of clinical studies have shown that the pollen
extracts reduce the size of the prostate in those individuals
suffering from BPH. These data indicate that pollen extracts
should either inhibit the formation of DHT by blocking the
alpha-reductase enzyme, or act to block the binding of DHT
to the alpha 1-receptor and thus improve the clearance of
DHT from the prostate. Either mechanism could be effective
in blocking the DHT-induced biological cascade that leads to
Inflammation, Immune Functions and the Liver
Inflammation underlies a large number of conditions, including
several of those improved by pollen extracts. Evidence to
support the anti-inflammatory action of the pollen extracts
comes from both animal and clinical experience. Three animal studies indicated that pollen extracts exhibit
anti-inflammatory activities. The first showed that
pollen extracts inhibit the arachidonic acid cascade,
a primary generator of free radicals in the tissues.
The second indicated that orally administered pollen
extracts counteract the inflammatory process
found with artificially-induced liver damage in rats.
The third showed that an induced inflammatory
condition in rodents was significantly reduced by
pollen extracts. It has been proven that pollen extracts
are active in human subjects against inflammation.
As noted already, several clinical studies
also have shown that pollen extracts are an effective
treatment for the inflammatory prostate conditions
prostatitis and prostatodynia.
Mechanisms of action involving inflammation
link pollen extracts to conditions that involve more
than just the prostate. It has long been known that
pollen extracts modulate the actions of the immune
system. Many years ago, researchers showed
that the water-soluble fraction selectively inhibits
the growth of some prostate cancer cell lines.
Later research was published, which showed that
a compound found in the water-soluble fraction
does not merely inhibit prostate cancer cell growth,
but actually causes the death of these cells.3 These
results were found in vitro studies (that is, in cultured
cells), yet they provide promise for research
The liver protective effects of pollen extract,
which have been researched over the years, have
received another boost from scientists in the
Ukraine. In this case, the tests were in vivo, that
is, with animals using a special extract of beecollected
pollen. First, it was established that small
doses of x-ray radiation cause oxidative damage to
fats in the liver (lipid peroxidation) and that this
damage activates antioxidant enzyme protective
systems. Next, it was discovered that the introduction
of pollen extract into the animals’ systems
normalized the activity of the glutathione enzyme
system, one of the most important of the body’s
in-built antioxidant systems.4
Immune Functions for the Heart and Recovery
Surprisingly, pollen extracts may possess the ability
to protect the heart against certain types of assault.
The ability of pollen extract to protect the
cardiovascular system against free radical damage
was demonstrated over a decade ago. Now, taking
research in a quite different direction, it has been
shown that the damage to the heart that can be
caused by excess adrenaline also can be reduced by
the use of the water-soluble fraction of the pollen
extract.5 Researchers admit that they do not have a
good explanation for how this cardioprotection is
achieved; yet their findings open up the possibility
for totally new uses for pollen extract in the future!
Similar to the cardiac protection afforded is general
immune protection. Although primarily known
as treatments for BPH, flower pollen extracts have
been thoroughly studied for their anti-inflammatory
properties and their abilities both to boost flagging
immune functions.6 One of the findings of this research
is that pollen extracts act as immunoregulators
and can reduce immune hyperactivity. The serious
reader can work through the earliest literature
on the development of pollen extracts in Europe and
discover that the early uses of pollen extracts were
a) for recovery during convalescence and b) recovery
from sports exertions.
Pollen extracts have turned out to be surprisingly
versatile in their range of health benefits. Along with
the prostate benefits, there further are general immune
benefits, effects on cancer, the liver, sports recovery
and much more.7 Every man aged 50 and above
probably should consider a pollen extract supplement
as insurance against BPH and other prostate issues.
However, given the range and variety of benefits associated
with pollen extracts, there is a good argument to
be made for men to supplement with pollen extracts
for general protection against over-training and or supporting
- 1 F. Hinman, Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy. New York: Springer Verlag, 1983.
- 2 E.M. Meares, Jr., “Prostatitis and Related Disorders,” in Campbell’s Urology, 6th edition, ed. by P.C. Walsh, et al. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company, 1992, pp. 807–22.
- 3 Roberts KP, Iyer RA, Prasad G, Liu LT, Lind RE, Hanna PE. “Cyclic hydroxamic acid inhibitors of prostate cancer cell growth: selectivity and structure activity relationships.” Prostate 1998 Feb 1; 34(2):92–9.
- 4 Bevzo VV, Grygor’eva NP. [Effect of bee pollen extract on glutath one system activity in mice liver under X-ray irradiation]. [Article in Ukrainian] Ukr Biokhim Zh 1997 Jul-Aug; 69(4):115–7.
- 5 Polanski M, Okon K, Przybylo R, Frasik W. Cardioprotective properties of hydrophilic pollen extract (HPE). Polish Journal of Pathology 1998; 49(2):109–12.
- 6 Samochowiec L, et al., “General immunological properties of fat soluble (Cernitin GBX) and water-soluble (Cernitin T60) pollen extracts,” European Journal of Pharmacology 183, 3 (1990) 906.
- 7 Graminex_Clinical_Studies_Index found at http://www.readbag.com/pollenaid-pollenaid-file-graminex-clinical-studies-index.