Bee pollen, the primary storage form of food for honeybees, is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains a high concentration of proteins and amino acids.
It is superior to natural flower pollen because the bioavailability of nutrients from bee pollen is higher than from flower pollen. No wonder it is officially recognized as a medicine in Germany.
Bee pollen benefits our health in several ways such as it reduces inflammation, protects your liver, relieves stress, protects your heart and prevents free radical-mediated damage to your body.
It also strengthens the immune system and helps you fight allergies. You can consume bee pollen with other foods such as smoothies, juices, cereals, oats, etc.
Moving ahead in this article, you will see the health benefits of bee pollen in detail with usage and precautions. But before anything, let’s find out what is bee pollen.
What is bee pollen?
Pollen is collected by worker bees when they land on a flower. Worker bees carry this pollen back to the hive in pollen baskets which are present on their legs. Then pollen is stored in the hive’s honeycomb.
Bee pollen is a mixture of pollen and saliva and is stored in the honeycomb and sealed with a drop of honey. Here, it undergoes anaerobic fermentation to form bee bread or ambrosia which feeds a bee colony.
It is believed this fermentation process makes bee pollen more potent and beneficial than ordinary flower pollen by increasing the bioavailability. The bee bread serves as the primary protein source for the entire colony.
Beekeepers collect pollen from bees by keeping a pollen trap in the entrance of their hives. As worker bees pass through it, the pollen baskets get knocked off their legs into a collection bin below. This also makes worker bees to go out again to collect more pollen.
The secret of various health benefits of bee pollen
Bee Pollen is a rich source of vitamins, such as provitamin A, vitamins D and E, B1, B2, B6, and C, pantothenic acid (B5), nicotinic acid (B3), folic acid (B9), biotin (B7), and inositol.
All these vitamins are essential for normal functioning of the human body.
Macronutrients are substances which our body requires in large amounts. On the other side, we require micronutrients in only small quantities.
Bee pollen is said to have a higher protein content than the same amount of an egg on a weighing scale. It means that for every gram of bee pollen consumed, you get more protein than from a gram of egg.
The recommended daily dosage for bee pollen is – (1)
|Adult||20-40 g or 3-5 tbsp. per day|
|Children||15 g or 1-2 tbsp. per day|
Top health benefits of bee pollen
1) Reduces inflammation
Many findings suggest that bee pollen could replace nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the future. A few well-known NSAIDs are paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin, indomethacin, diclofenac, etc.
All these drugs can lead to long-term toxicities like a hepatic failure, renal failure could potentially be avoided with bee pollen.
A study done on rats with carrageenan-induced hind paw edema showed that ethanol extract of bee pollen reduced inflammation considerably.
The probable mechanism is thought to be inhibition of nitric oxide production and cyclooxygenase enzymes which play a central role in the production of inflammatory mediators, such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes, from arachidonic acid.
These findings suggest that the ethanol extract can be used as a dietary supplement as well as a functional food.
2) Potent antioxidant properties
Bee pollen has very high antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals which help to neutralize free radicals and are usually found in red or dark-colored foods and fermented foods.
Bee pollen is rich in flavonoids (polyphenolic compounds found in plants), and vitamin A which in its precursor form (i.e., beta-carotene) acts as an antioxidant. Our body encounters free radicals on a daily basis.
Exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and UV rays produces free radicals in our body. If the body runs out of antioxidants, free radicals can wreak havoc in the cells by damaging cell proteins, cell membranes, and nucleic acids. Antioxidants also help to slow down the aging process.
3) Protects from heart disease
Clinical studies show bee pollen has hypolipidemic activity as it can reduce plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels by up to 30%. Pollen extracts slow atherosclerotic changes in blood vessels and is helpful in preventing reinfarction in post-MI patients.
Bee pollen also decreases the aggregating ability of platelets and stimulates the fibrinolytic system, which is a natural clot buster. (2)
All these benefits result from the presence of unsaturated fatty acids, phospholipids, and phytosterols in bee pollen.
4) Protects against liver toxicity
Research conducted on rats who were exposed to carbon tetrachloride showed that chestnut bee pollen protected liver cells from the oxidative damage and promoted the healing of already damaged liver cells.
Carbon tetrachloride is a toxin which results in the formation of free radicals and damage to hepatocytes. Bee pollen is also superior to silibinin, a flavonoid which contains medication.
Both reduce liver damage and promote healing. But silibinin has unfavorable side effects such as severe diarrhea, etc. (3)
5) Speedy healing
Bee pollen speeds up healing when applied on burns. This beneficial effect on healing is due to the presence of kaempferol which inhibits inflammatory enzymes that delay wound healing.
Bee pollen also improves blood circulation in the wound and thus helps to provide nutrients to the proliferating cells and maintain the moisture content of the skin.
The antimicrobial activity of bee pollen helps in preventing wound infection leading to faster healing.
6) Boosts immunity
Bee pollen has potent inhibitory effects on Staphylococcus aureus, a common pathogen in humans. Staphylococcus aureus causes a wide range of infections ranging from simple boils to infective endocarditis.
Staphylococcus is also a multidrug-resistant superbug against which doctors have a very limited arsenal. So, hopefully, bee pollen can open up new avenues of treatment.
Bee pollen can inhibit mast cell activation in vitro, which are central to the pathogenesis of type 1 allergic reactions. Activation of mast cells releases histamine, bradykinin, and leukotrienes, all of which are mediators of allergies.
A few examples of type 1 allergies are asthma, wheal, urticaria, hives, anaphylactic shock (deadly). But beware, bee pollen itself can cause anaphylaxis if you are allergic to bees.
7) Dietary supplements
The high nutritional content of bee pollen makes it suitable for use as a dietary supplement. A study done on rabbits showed that adding bee pollen to their diet improved lifespan and fertility(there was an increase in brood size and milk production).
The bee pollen also enhanced the growth of baby rabbits while they were breastfed. These studies show bee pollen can be used as nutritional supplements in people recovering from vitamin deficiencies such as malnourished people and recovering alcoholics.
Alcoholics are generally deficient in multiple vitamins and minerals as they tend to prioritize drinking and forget to eat. Bee pollen may also be helpful in patients recovering from surgery as the body need nutrients for healing.
8) Eases menopausal symptoms
Research conducted in breast cancer patients shows more than one-third of the women reported improvement in symptoms. Bee pollen is thought to be safe for women regardless of a history of breast cancer.
Menopause occurs due to a reduction in estrogen levels in women. Women undergoing menopause have symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness, irritability and dryness of skin.
Women receiving anti-estrogen treatment such as those suffering from breast or endometrial cancer also suffer from similar symptoms.
9) Stress Buster
Bee pollen increases blood flow to the brain which in combination with bee pollen’s nutritional properties helps to relieve stress.
Bee pollen is especially useful in older adults who are also likely to have concomitant dietary deficiencies. Small doses of bee pollen can improve mood when given over extended periods.
10) Skin benefits
Bee pollen boosts blood supply to your skin and helps to detoxify it. It helps prevent free radical damage to your skin. All these factors help avoid wrinkling skin and make it look young and radiant.
Also, bee pollen speeds up healing and reduces scar formation.
11) Does it help to lose weight?
There is no conclusive evidence supporting the claims of weight loss by bee pollen supplements. The only supplements found to cause weight loss are the ones which contained sibutramine and phenolphthalein.
However, these are banned because of dangerous cardiovascular side effects such as stroke and myocardial infarction. So for now, it is not recommended to use bee pollen for weight loss purposes until sufficient conclusive evidence regarding its efficacy is discovered.
Potential side effects
Talk to a doctor before taking any nutritional supplements. If you are allergic to bees, beeswax, wasps or honey, you are better off avoiding bee pollen.
You must consult a doctor immediately if you experience dizziness lightheadedness difficulty breathing or swelling. All these are symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. Never take allergies lightly as they can be life-threatening.
Studies regarding the safety of bee pollen during pregnancy are lacking, and it is not safe to take bee pollen during pregnancy. The primary concerns are that pollen may stimulate the uterus during pregnancy leading to fatal complications and possibly death.
Where to buy bee pollen?
Different species of bees collect different pollen. So, bees pollen varies from apiary to apiary sometimes even in the same apiary. Always buy bee pollen from a reputed shop that you trust.
This is important as contamination with heavy metals like lead and mercury is rampant. Some manufacturers also use chemicals to enhance production and lengthen the shelf life of pollen. So, make sure to buy untreated natural pollen.
How to consume bee pollen?
Bee pollen is available as tablets and pellets. If you are taking it as nutritional supplements, check the dose to make sure you are getting adequate amounts. You can grind down the pollen and add it to cottage cheese or yogurt.
You can even add it to oats, smoothies, baked products and cereal for a wholesome meal. Pollen granules added to hot water for two-three hours release their nutritional value. This can make a nourishing drink.
Final thoughts on bee pollen benefits
Commercial bee pollen comes from apiaries. Bee pollen is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carotenoids, and flavonoids.
Bee pollen reduces inflammation, stimulates the immune system, lowers cholesterol, helps in fast wound healing and alleviates menopausal symptoms.
Different studies show it as a useful dietary supplement especially in people recovering from nutritional deficiencies and recovering alcoholics.
Always buy pollen from a trusted store. You can buy bee pollen in the form of granules or tablets. You can add it to smoothies, yogurt, cottage cheese, cereal, baked goods, or you can soak the pollen in warm water and drink it.