For years, herbalists have touted bee pollen as an exceptionally nutritious food. They've even claimed it is a cure for certain health problems. Yet after years of research, scientists still cannot confirm that bee pollen has any health benefits.
What Is Bee Pollen?
Bee pollen contains vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, lipids, and protein. It comes from the pollen that collects on the bodies of bees as they fly from one flower to another. Bee pollen may also include bee saliva.
It's important to avoid confusing bee pollen with natural honey, honeycomb, bee venom, or royal jelly. These products do not contain bee pollen although there are combination products that contain one or more of these substances.
How Is Bee Pollen Used?
Bee pollen is available at many health food stores. You may find bee pollen in other natural dietary supplements, as well as in skin softening products used for baby's diaper rash or eczema.
You may also hear recommendations for using bee pollen for alcoholism, asthma, allergies, health maintenance, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), enlarged prostate, or stomach problems. It’s also used as an energy tonic.
But there is no proof that it helps with these conditions. Before you take any natural product for a health condition, check with your doctor.
Bee pollen is also recommended by some herbalists to enhance athletic performance, reduce side effects of chemotherapy, and improve allergies and asthma.
At this point, medical research has not shown that bee pollen is effective for any of these health concerns. A few studies have been promising:
- One small study found evidence that bee pollen might reduce some side effects of radiation therapy for cancer.
- Other studies looked at an extract of bee pollen and found some benefits in men who have chronic prostatitis or an enlarged prostate.
- Another study found that a product containing bee pollen (and several other ingredients) seemed to reduce PMS symptoms.
But more research needs to be done before it’s known whether bee pollen truly helps with those conditions.
The many other uses of bee pollen -- from increasing strength to slowing aging -- are largely unstudied.
As a food, bee pollen does at least seem to be nutritious. It's a good source of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates.
How Much Bee Pollen Should You Take?
Since bee pollen is an unproven treatment, there is no standard dose. Ask your doctor for advice.
Can You Get Bee Pollen Naturally From Foods?
There are no food sources of bee pollen besides the pollen itself.
Is Bee Pollen Safe?
Bee pollen appears to be safe for most people, at least when taken for a short term. But if you have pollen allergies, you may get more than you bargained for. Bee pollen (like ragweed or other plants, depending on where the bee pollen comes from) can cause a serious allergic reaction -- including itching, redness, shortness of breath, hives, swelling, and anaphylaxis.
Bee pollen is not safe for children or pregnant women. Women should also avoid using bee pollen if they are breastfeeding.
Bee pollen may cause increased bleeding if taken with certain blood thinners like warfarin. Check with your doctor before taking bee pollen if you take any medications, over-the-counter medicines, or herbals.