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Bee Pollen

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated May 16, 2014

Bee Pollen
Ken Welsh Collection/Photodisc/Getty Images

Bee pollen is a natural substance that contains trace amounts of minerals and vitamins. Widely available in dietary supplement form, bee pollen is also very high in protein and carbohydrates. Some people use bee pollen supplements to achieve certain health effects, such as relief of allergy symptoms.

Health Benefits of Bee Pollen:

To date, scientific support for the health effects of bee pollen is fairly limited. However, there's some evidence that bee pollen may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at several key findings from the available studies:

1) Allergies

One of the most common uses for bee pollen is the management of seasonal allergies, such as hay fever. It's thought that ingesting pollens will help the body to build resistance to these potential allergens and, in turn, reduce allergy symptoms.

Although very few studies have tested the use of bee pollen as a remedy for seasonal allergies, some animal-based research indicates that bee pollen may provide anti-allergy effects. In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, for instance, tests on mice revealed that bee pollen may inhibit activity in mast cells (a class of cells involved in releasing histamine in response to allergens and, as a result, triggering the symptoms associated with allergies).

See more Natural Remedies for Allergies.

2) Antioxidant

Bee pollen appears to offer powerful antioxidant effects, according to a 2009 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

3) Osteoporosis

Bee pollen shows promise in the treatment of osteoporosis, suggests an animal-based study published in Joint Diseases & Related Surgery in 2012. In tests on rats, the study's authors determined that bee pollen may help boost bone levels of calcium and phosphate and protect against osteoporosis-related bone loss.

See Natural Approach to Osteoporosis.

Uses for Bee Pollen

Bee pollen is touted as a natural remedy for the following health conditions:

In addition, bee pollen is said to enhance energy, sharpen memory, slow the aging process, promote weight loss, and improve athletic performance.

Safety

Serious allergic reactions to bee pollen have been reported, including potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis (a type of severe, whole-body allergic reaction). These reactions occurred with small amounts of bee pollen (i.e., less than one teaspoon). Most of these case reports involved people with known allergies to pollen.

If you have a pollen allergy, it's crucial to take caution and consult your physician prior to consuming bee pollen.

Alternatives to Bee Pollen for Allergy Relief

A number of other natural remedies may help alleviate allergy symptoms. For instance, some studies show that increasing your intake of quercetin and/or omega-3 fatty acids may aid in the treatment of allergies. Herbs like butterbur and nettles may also offer anti-allergy benefits.

In addition, undergoing acupuncture or practicing nasal irrigation may relieve allergy symptoms to some degree.

Where To Find Bee Pollen

Widely available for purchase online, supplements containing bee pollen are sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Sources

Ishikawa Y, Tokura T, Nakano N, Hara M, Niyonsaba F, Ushio H, Yamamoto Y, Tadokoro T, Okumura K, Ogawa H. "Inhibitory effect of honeybee-collected pollen on mast cell degranulation in vivo and in vitro." J Med Food. 2008 Mar;11(1):14-20.

Kafadar IH, Güney A, Türk CY, Oner M, Silici S. "Royal jelly and bee pollen decrease bone loss due to osteoporosis in an oophorectomized rat model." Eklem Hastalik Cerrahisi. 2012;23(2):100-5.

Nakajima Y, Tsuruma K, Shimazawa M, Mishima S, Hara H. "Comparison of bee products based on assays of antioxidant capacities." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009 Feb 26;9:4. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-9-4.

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