A Literature Review
Pollen and pollen extracts have long been used to maintain good health. Perhaps the better-known pollen product is bee pollen, which has been used as a tonic for centuries. Another pollen product, pollen extract, is beginning to become known for helping to maintain urogenital health. Literature on pollen extract focuses on three physiological effects: Smooth muscle contraction, anti-inflammatory action, and effects on enzymes.
Smooth Muscle Relaxation
Smooth muscle contraction is important in prostrate problems because muscle contraction plays a role in allowing the bladder to void. When the muscles at the neck of the bladder are tense, urinary problems may result. Spasms and unwanted tension in the muscles that line the bladder are found in many cases of prostatitis. (1) If muscle contraction is inhibited, and muscle relaxes, it may facilitate the discharge of urine. (1)
Early research on pollen extract and smooth muscle was done in 1985. It used a pollen extract with a high degree of corn pollen and studied its effect on the smooth muscle of mice and pigs. (2)
What about Pollen?
People sometimes confuse pollen with pollen extracts. Pollen is the substance found in plants that fertilizes other, like plants. It consists of fine, powdery, yellowish grains or spores, sometimes in masses. Bees collect this for the hive. When this pollen is gathered from bees and the bee hive it is generally known as bee pollen.
In a pollen extract, the pollen is gathered from plants and then is extracted in the laboratory.
Bee pollen is also known as a healthful food and as a general tonic for good health. Many athletes use it, as it is said to enhance performance. To find out more about "Mountain Meadow Bee Pollen" click here. Bee Pollen
Pollen extracts contracted mouse bladder and inhibited contraction of both pig and mouse urethral strips. The researchers end their discussion by noting that, "Therefore, the pollen extract may inhibit the urethral contraction and reduce the intraurethral pressure, and thus may facilitate urine discharge..."
Anti-inflammatory action is important because many prostate problems are due to its inflammation. Inflammation may cause pain or enlargement of the prostate. Enlargement results in a pinching and constricting of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis. If the urethra is constricted, urine will not flow easily, and dribbling or "spurting" may result.
Evidence that pollen extract has anti-inflammatory properties comes from both animal and clinical studies. Animal studies have shown that pollen extract counteracts the inflammatory process in induced liver damage in rats and that pollen extract significantly reduces induced inflammatory conditions in rodents (1).
Clinical studies speculate that anti-inflammatory action is responsible for improvement in patients with prostatitis and prostatodynia.
In a small trial, Buck, et al., (3) treated 15 patients with nonbacterial prostatitis or prostatodynia with pollen extract. At the time of the trial, the patients had suffered from symptoms for periods ranging from five months to seven years. Symptoms included dysuria (difficulty in urinating) and frequency of urination.
Treatment with pollen extract lasted anywhere from 1 month to 18 months. Seven patients became symptom-free, six improved significantly, and two failed to respond.
The authors suggest that pollen extracts' benefits are due to an anti-inflammatory effect but caution that further study is necessary to discover the exact mode of action.
Effects on Enzymes
Pollen extracts may affect the hormone 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) may be due to too much DHT, increased binding of DHT to the prostate cells, or decreased clearance of DHT (1)
Another herb frequently used for prostate health is saw palmetto, and studies have indicated its effectiveness. Saw palmetto appears to work by inhibiting an enzyme important in the production of DHT. Pollen extract is superior to saw palmetto because it works through several mechanisms, not just one. This means that users may experience greater benefits, more quickly, through pollen extracts.
According to Dallas Clouatre, Ph.D.., "Saw palmetto does have an established track record with prostate problems. Unfortunately, it typically takes a very long time to work, about two or three months minimum, and you have to take quite a bit.
"But the truth is the anti-inflammatory effect, the antioxidant effect, the smooth muscle relaxing effect of the flower pollen extracts are extremely important as part of their overall influence on the prostate. And so what you're looking at is an item that either has only one mode of action, the saw palmetto, or a compound, the extracts, the flower pollen extracts which have at least three modes of action. This is how I would compare the two different items. It's not the Saw Palmetto is bad, I think the flower pollen extracts are better."
According to Dallas Clouatre, Ph.D., in his book, Pollen Extract for Prostate Health,(1) data have indicated that pollen extracts should either inhibit the formation of DHT by blocking the contributing enzyme of act to block the binding of DHT to the receptor. The tentative conclusion is that pollen extracts inhibit the binding of DHT to the receptor; in other words, they improve the clearance of DHT.
Other studies have only looked at clinical results. Buck, et al., writing in the British Journal of Urology, (4) conclude that pollen extract "has a beneficial effect in BPH and may have a place in the treatment of patients with mild or moderate symptoms of outflow obstructions." In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 60 patients with outflow obstruction due to BPH took pollen extract or placebo for six months. At the end of the six months, 60 percent of the pollen extract group were improved or symptom-free of nocturia (night urination), compared to 30 percent in the placebo group. Fifty-seven percent of the pollen extract group showed improved bladder-emptying, compared to only 10 percent of the placebo group.
A 1993 (5) study looked at 90 patients who had exhibited prostatitis symptoms for at least one year and were given a pollen extract for six months. Some of the patients had complicating factors such as urethral strictures. For patients without complicating factors, symptoms were reduced. The prostate reverted to normal size in 15 of 39 cases and there was improvement in the time to peak flow. Overall, 79 percent of these patients showed a clinical response and 36 percent were cured of symptoms, while 42 percent had improved symptoms. Patients with complicating factors responded poorly. The authors of the study note that pollen extract does have an important role in treatment of prostatitis and prostatodynia, but that further study is needed to determine its mode of action.
1. Clouatre, Dallas, Ph.D., Pollen Extract for Prostate Health, 1997, San Francisco, CA: Pax Publishing.
2. Kimura, Masayasu, I. Kimura, K. Nakase, T. Sonobe, and N. Mori, "Micturition Activity of Pollen Extract: Contractile Effects of Bladder and Inhibitory Effects on Urethral Smooth Muscle." April, 1986. Planta Medica
3. Buck, A.C., R.W.M. Rees, and L. Ebeling. "Treatment of Chronic Prostatitis and Prostatodynia with Pollen Extract." British Journal of Urology, 1990.64
4. Buck, A.C., R. Cox, R.W.M. Rees, L. Ebeling, and A. John. "Treatment of Outflow Tract Obstruction Due to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia with the Pollen Extract, Cernilton," British Journal of Urology. 1990. 66.
5. Rugendorff, E.W., W. Weidner, L. Ebling, and A.C. Buck. "Results of Treatment with Pollen Extract (Cernilton) in Chronic Prostatitis and Prostatodynia." British Journal of Urology. 1993.71
The article "Pollen Extract: A literature Review" is reproduced with the permission of AIM International
© 1998 by AIM International. Partner's Magazine, Aug. '98
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