Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
WHAT IS BEE POLLEN?
Bee pollen is a nutritious product composed of flower pistils, nectar, and bee saliva. It’s widely used as a dietary supplement and a traditional remedy.
Bees collect parts of flower pistils, mix them with nectar and saliva, and take them to the hive to nourish their offspring.
Various cultures all over the world have praised the medicinal properties of bee pollen for centuries. It was used to improve general health, vitality, stamina and energy levels, to treat infectious diseases, boost immunity, improve digestion, support the liver, and more.
Bee pollen contains around 400 kcal per 100g and consists of about 40% carbohydrates (sugars and polysaccharides), 35% amino acids (complete protein), all vitamins, all minerals, over 20 trace elements, antioxidants, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids (in a perfect 1:1 ratio), various enzymes, growth regulators, hormones, and other bioactive components.
Bee pollen is also an excellent source of beneficial anti-inflammatory polyphenols and other flavonoids including Quercetin, carotenoids, immune-modulating polysaccharides [15, 16, 17], Luteolin, Myricetin, Isoquercetin, and Kaempferol [7, 10], and some antiviral, antibacterial and anti-cancer compounds (polysaccharides, phytosterols, and fatty acids) [18, 19, 5]
PROSTATE INFLAMMATION AND PAIN
According to the European Association of Urology Bee Pollen can be regarded as an effective and safe complementary treatment for pain and inflammation associated with prostate conditions .
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A review of 10 clinical trials and 590 patients tested the efficacy of different pollen extracts, including bee pollen, for prostate inflammation and pelvis pain. Around 84% of patients responded to the treatment. It significantly improved their quality of life without causing any adverse effects .
In 100 patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostate enlargement, a specific bee pollen-based product (Cernilton) improved sexual dysfunction and quality of life .
Bee pollen may reduce the need for prostate biopsy in people with elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Among 61 patients, a one-month treatment reduced PSA in those with pelvis inflammation but not in those with prostate cancer .
Bee pollen may reduce prostate pain and inflammation in people with benign prostate enlargement and pelvic pain.
IMMUNE SYSTEM-STIMULATING, ANTIVIRAL & ANTIBACTERIAL PROPERTIES
Preliminary research brings up the potential of Bee Pollen to fight a number of pathogenic microbes [7, 8, 9, 10]. For centuries, Bee Pollen has been regarded as a traditional immunity-boosting remedy against various bacterial and viral infections [1, 2, 3]. It is rich in immune-stimulating polysaccharides, such as glucans and galactans, known for their potential anti-cancer effect [4, 5, 6].
Bee Pollen has been shown a potent inhibitory effect against a range of bacteria, such as E. coli, (urinary tract infections), S. aureus (respiratory and skin infections), or P. aeruginosa (severe hospital-acquired infections) [38, 39, 40].
It may also help prevent the growth of Candida albicans and other fungi.
RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS & CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
Although Bee Pollen has immune-boosting and antimicrobial properties, yet studies haven’t tested it against the new coronavirus. On the other hand, there is some evidence suggesting the potential of Bee Pollen to prevent respiratory viral infections.
In mice with lung injuries, Bee Pollen reduced inflammation and improved lung function .
In professional swimmers, a six-week supplementation with Bee Pollen reduced the number of training days missed due to upper respiratory tract infections (4 days vs. 27 days with placebo) .
In test tubes, Bee Pollen was able to inhibit the spreading of three flu virus subtypes (H1N1, H3N2, and H5N1). Since the flu virus shares some features with COVID-19, it is possible that the same effects may include Covid-19 .
For those who want to use Bee Pollen to prevent Covid-19 infections, I would suggest to use it together with other natural remedies known for their antiviral benefits. I believe Bee Pollen will much more effective against Covid-19 when combined with other potent antiviral and antibacterial agents such as Bee Propolis, Black Seed Oil (Nigella sativa) or Neem Oil.
ALLERGIES & HAY FEVER
Even though plant pollen may trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals with the oversensitive immune system and those who experience seasonal allergies such as hay fever, traditional medical uses of bee pollen include allergy prevention.
Bee pollen was able to reduce allergic response, protect the lungs and lower IgE levels in mouse models of allergy. It also prevented the activation of mast cells, which is the key mechanism behind an allergic reaction as mast cells release histamine which causes allergic symptoms [35, 36]. Flavonoids such as myricetin in Bee Pollen are known for their anti-allergic properties and are believed to be responsible for the observed effects.
Many individuals claim that taking locally collected bee pollen for at least three months (beginning in January or earlier) before hay fever season starts helped them to either completely eliminate symptoms or significantly alleviate them. Dr Leo Conway, M.D., of Denver, Colorado, administered bee pollen to his patients with allergies and hay fever. As a result, all reported relief from allergies, asthma, hay fever, sinusitis, migraines, cystitis, and other problems. Unfortunately, there have been cases of allergic reactions to bee pollen too. For this reason, if you decide to try this natural remedy start from a few grains and increase slowly until you take 1 full tablespoon 3 times a day before meals for the last few weeks before the season. All adults who are allergic to bee products and children younger than 2 should not take it. It is very important to use only good quality pure bee pollen which was locally collected as bee pollen sourced from another environment may not be effective. Ingesting local bee pollen long before allergy season starts may trick the immune system making it used to pollen and less sensitive thus preventing or reducing reactions to pollen from local plants. Bee pollen should be kept in a fridge.
However, people prone to allergies (and especially bee products allergies), should either avoid or be very cautious with bee pollen starting from very small dosages and gradually increasing if an allergic reaction does not occur .
PROSTATE INFLAMMATION AND PAIN
Bee pollen may reduce prostate pain and inflammation in people with benign prostate enlargement and pelvic pain. It may also reduce the need for prostate biopsy in men with elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) . According to the European Association of Urology Bee Pollen can be regarded as an effective and safe complementary treatment for pain and inflammation associated with prostate conditions .
In 100 subjects with prostate enlargement or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), bee pollen-based product was found to improve sexual dysfunction and quality of life .
According to a review of 10 clinical studies bee pollen was effective in reducing prostate inflammation and pelvis pain. In about 84% of patients, it significantly improved the symptoms and quality of life without causing any adverse effects .
Bee pollen, alone or combined with other bee products, may reduce hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms.
In a study of 54 menopausal women, bee pollen helped reduce hot flushes by 27% in almost 70% of the cases after a three-month treatment .
In a trial with 46 women who experienced menopausal symptoms after taking anti-estrogen drugs (such as tamoxifen) used for breast cancer, both bee pollen and honey were effective in reducing hot flushes and other symptoms .
Many professional athletes take bee pollen as a nutritional supplement.
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PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS)
Before and during the period, hormone fluctuations can contribute to sleep and mood disturbances, pain, and other symptoms collectively known as PMS .
The mentioned product, Femal, has been used in Scandinavia as a complementary PMS treatment for decades. Two studies of 130 women have confirmed its potential to reduce milder symptoms of PMS. It was particularly effective for premenstrual sleep disturbances (PSD) [30, 31].
BLOOD LIPIDS AND HEART HEALTH
Bee pollen is rich in flavonoids with well-known beneficial effects on the heart .
A supplement containing bee pollen (Melbrosia) reduced LDL and total cholesterol while increasing HDL in a trial of 50 women. However, it also increased triglycerides. The lack of placebo control prevents us from drawing reliable conclusions, too .
In mice with an increased risk of heart disease, bee pollen was able to [33, 34] reduce LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides, increase antioxidant enzymes, and prevent LDL oxidation and atherosclerosis.
Bee pollen is rich in heart-friendly antioxidants and may improve blood lipids. Still, large clinical trials have yet to confirm its therapeutic effects.
Bee pollen provided robust antioxidant protection in different animal models of liver injury from [42, 43, 44, 45, 46] Bacterial infection, Chemical poisoning, Alcohol consumption, Heavy metal poisoning, Unhealthy diet.
Potent anti-inflammatory effects of bee pollen stem from its high content of flavonoids and other polyphenols. In different animal experiments, it was able to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation .
In a study on mice, pine pollen was equally effective as two drugs at reducing pain and inflammation .
CANCER AND CHEMOTHERAPY SIDE EFFECTS
The findings discussed below stem from animal and cell-based studies. They should guide further investigation but shouldn’t be interpreted as supportive of the anti-cancer effects. Bee pollen-based products aren’t approved for cancer prevention or treatment.
In mice with soft tissue and skin cancers, polysaccharides from BP  Suppressed tumour growth, Enhanced the immune response and Improved blood abnormalities such as anaemia.
In test tubes, BP suppressed the growth of different cancer cells, especially prostate cancer. When combined with chemo, it increased drug effectiveness and reduced the negative impact on healthy cells [19, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57].
However, the above studies don’t imply the actual anti-cancer effects in living organisms.
Bee pollen polysaccharides have shown promising anti-cancer properties in preclinical research, but we can’t draw any conclusions in the lack of clinical trials.
According to a review of preclinical studies, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects of bee pollen may help clean wounds and support their healing. Pollen and other bee products are common ingredients in skincare products, but their therapeutic effects on wound healing require further investigation .
Different manufacturers promote their bee pollen-based products as effective for weight loss, but there’s no evidence to back up these claims.
The FDA banned one such product from China — Zi Xiu Tang — contaminated with illegal and dangerous weight-loss drug, sibutramine. They received over 50 reports of adverse events from other products that were likely contaminated as well [60, 61].
The main issue with bee pollen is the wide variation in its content of nutritional and bioactive compounds. The benefits of one particular product may not translate to other products with different compositions .
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
In clinical studies, bee pollen-based products haven’t caused any notable side effects. The potential dangers come from contaminated products that may contain illegal substances, mould, bacteria, pesticides, and other toxins [64, 65, 66].
Always start with a lower dose (see “Dosage” below) and discontinue the product right away if you experience Itching, Breathing difficulties or Swelling.
Due to the lack of safety data, pregnant and nursing women may want to avoid bee pollen just in case.
Pregnant and nursing women should avoid bee pollen, while people with allergies should approach it with caution and consult their doctor first.
According to a single case report, bee pollen may increase the risk of bleeding when combined with blood thinners such as warfarin. Avoid this combination to stay on the safe side .
HOW TO USE BEE POLLEN
Bee pollen has a pleasant flowery taste and makes a great addition to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, sweets, and juices.
It’s important to grind or crush pollen grains before consuming them to increase nutrient absorption. According to one paper, this increases the nutrient availability from 10-15% to 60-80% .
Bee pollen is also available as a supplement in the form of pills, capsules, or powder. Due to potential contamination, it’s crucial to buy BP from reputable companies or local beekeepers you trust.
Clinical trials on bee pollen are few, and they have used different, unstandardized BP extracts (150-300 mg). It’s hard to determine the precise recommended dosage, but traditional uses suggest up to 3-5 teaspoons for adults and 1-2 teaspoons for children [31, 9, 71].
Start with a much lower dose — ¼ teaspoon or just a few grains for children — and observe for the signs of an allergic reaction. If you tolerate BP well, you can gradually increase up to the maximum doses above .
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