Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yellow Yellow everywhere! Woodlands Pine Pollen and Allergies

Take a deep breath or not? What damage can all this stuff do to a house or automobile? Each Spring we see a great deal of evidence that the pines are blooming. On top of that, we have other trees pollinating at the same time. Do our air conditioners filter the stuff out in the house? I suppose I am not the only person to ask these questions. We see this stuff on top of water, on our cars, all over everything!

As it turns out, the Pine Tree emits a pollen that is extraordinarily large and heavy, covered with a substance that makes it less of a threat to humans with allergies than the other tree pollens. Those pollens we can't see are typically worse for those who have allergies. Pine pollen is colorful but aggravating as a dust and probably not a risk to us. It's yellow color comes from it's sulfate content, as one might expect. Logically, we reason that if everything is covered in a yellow substance and that substance is pine pollen, we would be putting the material in our lungs also. That would be true, but not in the volume we might expect by what we observe. Once the material falls, it is unlikely to be inhaled, although it is being blown about on the ground. It is just too heavy to be effectively lifted back up to our nostrils. The pollen is 50-90 micro-meters in diameter, 2-3 times the size of the pollens which tend to stimulate our histamine reactions, which we commonly know as an "allergy". Each pollen grain has a very small amount of allergen, so the combination of an abundance of the grains in the air, the specific allergen itself and personal reactivity to the allergen, all combine to form individual allergic reactions.1 Saying all of this, there are disagreements as to how well the wind lifts and propels the pine pollen. It is said that pollen travels hundreds of miles in some cases. In our case,I would tend to say that almost all of it rests nearby the source.
Would it be surprising to find out that the pollen is actually considered a healthy product to consume? Yep, all that yellow powder is considered by some as healthy stuff to eat. It is purported to be a remedy for all sorts of things. Personally, I would not say it is or isn't a remedy or treatment for such conditions as osteoporosis or chronic arthritis or Fibromyalgia, or regulates the immune or cardiology systems. There are probably some of you out there who has an opinion on the health aspect of consuming honey made from pine pollen or the use of a pollen extract supplement. If so, please leave us your comment.

In regard to an automobile, the only advice I could come up with is to make sure you rinse the car first and not scrub the auto with the pollen present. It is abrasive material. Running or strenuous work outside? Just common sense. I would take certain precautions to not inhale much air during the time when the pines are pollinating, mostly because of the other allergens in the air at the same time, not specifically because of the pine pollen itself, unless tests have found you to be allergic to the pine pollen. If you are allergic to pollens, you should pay attention to the count by weather forecasters.

When we look at the blooms on the trees, what do we see at this time of year? Something very elegant for both the female and male parts of a tree! The male cones are where the pollen is disseminated and combined with the female cone, is how the tree propigates.


1Sampter's Immunologic Diseases

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1 comment:

Boudica said...

With all due respect, pine pollen is not too heavy to move. For over 100 years, biologists have documented its movement from 600 to 3000 km from source. It is time for the allergy community to cease spreading this urban legend.

Pine pollen does not cause allergies in many humans but the reasons have nothing to do with its ability to disperse.

For more detail see
"Conifer Reproductive Biology" blog