How to deal with allergies can bee pollen help

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman’s World, and Natural Health.

Arno Kroner, DAOM, LAc, is a board-certified acupuncturist, as well as an herbalist and integrative medicine doctor. He operates a private practice in Santa Monica, California.

Bee pollen is a natural mixture of flower pollen, nectar, bee secretions, enzymes, honey and wax used as a nutritional supplement. Natural health practitioners promote it as a superfood due to its nutrient-rich profile that includes tocopherol, niacin, thiamine, biotin, folic acid, polyphenols, carotenoid pigments, phytosterols, enzymes, and co-enzymes.

It’s widely available in dietary supplement form used for the following health conditions:

  • acne
  • allergies
  • arthritis
  • asthma
  • eczema
  • high cholesterol
  • osteoporosis

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

How to deal with allergies can bee pollen help

Health Benefits

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:

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.

A 2008 mice study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed 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.

While bee pollen shows promise for treating seasonal allergies, there is a lack of human studies to confirm its use as an allergy treatment.

Cholesterol

Bee pollen may help to lower high cholesterol. Two animal studies one published in the journal Nutrients in 2017 and another published in the journal Molecules in 2018 found bee pollen lowers LDL and total cholesterol levels.

However, research in humans is needed to confirm these results before bee pollen can be recommended for lowering cholesterol.

Liver Health

Several animal studies show bee pollen hay help protect the liver against damage and may even help repair liver damage from alcoholism and drug use.

A 2013 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found bee pollen promotes healing in liver cells and protects against damage with fewer side effects than milk thistle.

Osteoporosis

Bee pollen shows promise in the treatment of osteoporosis, suggests an animal-based study published 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.

Possible Side Effects

Serious allergic reactions to bee pollen have been reported, including potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include itching, swelling, shortness of breath, light-headedness, and severe whole-body reactions.

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.

Interactions

Taking bee pollen with warfarin (Coumadin) might result in an increased chance of bruising or bleeding.

Dosage and Preparation

Bee pollen is sold as granules. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for bee pollen.

Alternative health proponents recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon dose gradually increasing up to 2 tablespoons a day, and watch for symptoms of an adverse reaction including itching, swelling, shortness of breath, light-headedness, and severe whole-body reactions. Children should start with just a few granules.

Bee pollen can be sprinkled over cereals, yogurt, or oatmeal, added to homemade granola, or mixed into smoothies.

Bee pollen should be stored in a cool, dark place, like a pantry, refrigerator, or freezer, and kept out of direct sunlight.

What to Look For

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

Look for products that are all natural with no additives that have not been heated or dried, which can destroy its enzymes.

Other Questions

I’m allergic to bees. Is it safe to use bee pollen?

It is not recommended that people with bee allergies take bee pollen as it may cause serious side effects, including anaphylaxis.

What does bee pollen taste like?

While individual tastes vary, bee pollen has a generally sweet and flowery taste but can be slightly bitter. Its texture is powdery.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re considering the use of bee pollen for a health condition, make sure to consult your physician first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

In this Article

  • What Is Bee Pollen?
  • How Is Bee Pollen Used?
  • Is Bee Pollen Safe?

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. 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, or stomach problems, 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.

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 can cause a serious allergic reaction — including shortness of breath, hives, swelling, and anaphylaxis.

Bee pollen is not safe for pregnant women. Women should also avoid using bee pollen if they areВ 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.

Sources

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database: “Bee Pollen.”

Last Updated: May 20, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Zora Degrandpre, ND. Dr. Degrandpre is a Licensed Naturopathic Physician in Vancouver, Washington. She is also a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. She received her ND from the National College of Natural Medicine in 2007.

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If you suffer from seasonal allergies, then you know what an inconvenience they are. You might even be willing to try products that aren’t proven to see if they help. Bee pollen is one of those products. Proponents claim that because harvested bee pollen contains small amounts of the allergens that cause allergies, it can gradually improve your symptoms until they’re gone. While pollen does contain many helpful nutrients, there are no studies proving that it works as a health supplement or allergy treatment. [1] X Trustworthy Source MedlinePlus Collection of medical information sourced from the US National Library of Medicine Go to source However, as long as you don’t have an allergy to pollen and check with your doctor first, then trying it out as a supplement shouldn’t cause any harm. Give it a try and see if your allergies improve within a few weeks.

If nothing else has helped your allergies and you want to try bee pollen as a treatment, first check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe. If they approve, then give pollen a try. It usually comes in a jar filled with little pellets of pollen that you take orally. You can either put them into food or drinks, or swallow them plain. There are no agreed-upon dosages for using pollen as a supplement, and different products give different doses. [2] X Trustworthy Source MedlinePlus Collection of medical information sourced from the US National Library of Medicine Go to source As a general rule, start off with only a small amount to get your body used to the pollen and make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. Then work your way up to the full dosage. Take the pollen for 30 days at a time to see if it helps your allergies.

How to deal with allergies can bee pollen help

How to Treat Allergies with Bee Pollen

Allergies, it is something people have a lot of trouble with. When you wake up and your nose is completely clogged, you feel like you cannot ever get all the mucus out of your nose, your head hurts, your eyes are red and at times, it’s even hard to breathe, as you start coughing. Yes, allergy season can be terrible and for most people, it starts in March, or rather, when the local flowers start blooming. Pollen allergy is really common, but people tend to try various solutions which do not include over the counter medicine. Natural remedies are for some people the best way of solving any problem, no matter how severe it might be. Well, allergies are believed to be treated by bee pollen. How is that possible? Whatever do you mean by bee pollen? Here is more about bee pollen and its possible medicinal properties.

Bee Pollen – A Bit Different Than Pollen

How to deal with allergies can bee pollen help

Pollen is a bunch of very small particles which flowers use to reproduce. They are tiny and coarse and contain male microgametophytes, which produce male gametes, or sperm cells. It then transfers to the female pistil or cone, depending on the type of plant. This is a normal part of cross-pollination or even self pollination.

Bee pollen is what bees collect on their legs, body and head, when they descend on a flower to collect pollen. Bee pollen can contain, other than pollen itself, bee enzymes and even some flower nectar. The pollen is covered by beeswax and honey, which makes what people call bee bread, their main food source, mostly proteins. Is bee pollen the real deal with allergies?

Not a Proven Allergy Treatment

How to deal with allergies can bee pollen help

There have been no studies confirming that bee pollen is amazing or even any good in treating allergies. There is far too much variance between the pollen collected to be able to tell whether it is effective. A single bee will collect pollen from multiple flowers and add to that that bees collect pollen all over the world and you can understand the idea behind it.

It is worth noting, however, that people think because the pollen comes from the local plants you are allergic to, using that local pollen will help your immune system because it might desensitize it. Having a stuffy nose is better than coughing and barely breathing.

Bee Pollen Distribution

Bee pollen is sold in granules, tablets or capsules. People often measure it in spoons, and say that it has a very bitter taste. Most people who use bee pollen also get used to the taste. Make sure to take a rather small dose of the pollen, because you might get an allergic reaction. A very small dose is always recommended, to see how your body copes with it.

While bee pollen is an unproven way of treating allergies, people will still try it because it comes from nature itself and millions of flowers. Oftentimes, a placebo does work for some people.

How to deal with allergies can bee pollen help

Alyssa Girdwain ・ January 23, 2019

Basically, bee pollen feeds a hive (and it’s a superfood for humans, too). To create it, bees collect flower pollen and pack it into small granules using saliva and a bit of honey. It’s chock full of nutrients like protein, amino acids, and a litany of vitamins—and it’s also believed to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Dr. Moday likens the effect of bee pollen to allergy shots, which create resistance against an allergen so the body reacts less when it’s around.

Its ability to fight inflammation is, in part, why people eat bee pollen for allergies. (It goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: You should always consult a doctor before taking anything to treat a medical condition.) That’s because one way to manage allergies—if you have mild symptoms and want to avoid over-the-counter meds because they don’t work or have bothersome side effects—is to help your body build up a tolerance through exposure to the culprit. “The idea is that when you ingest pollen on a daily basis, it’ll desensitize your immune system over time,” says board-certified allergist Heather Moday, MD, owner of Moday Center for Functional and Integrative Medicine in Philadelphia.

Dr. Moday likens the effect of bee pollen to allergy shots, which create resistance against an allergen so the body reacts less when it’s around. “For some people, it’s not going to make much of a difference,” she says. “For others, it may take away symptoms and be a better option than signing up for shots or taking antihistamines.”

Keep in mind, though, that ingesting bee pollen can only help if you have a pollen allergy, so rule this out if you’re plagued with other year-round allergies to certain foods or furry friends. Plus, its effectiveness as a natural allergy treatment hinges on a few things: For starters, Dr. Moday says if you’re severely allergic to pollen and get chronic sinus infections or asthma attacks, this won’t help—in fact, it’s best to avoid ingesting bee pollen to prevent mild reactions, hives—or worse, anaphylactic shock. But if you’re on the less severe side of the seasonal allergy spectrum, regularly eating bee pollen could help quell symptoms like congestion, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes.

To work, it’s key to eat pollen that contains your specific allergen, so it’s a good idea to get allergy tested to find those triggers. For example, if you have a birch tree pollen allergy, you’d need to eat bee pollen from a hive located near birch trees to feel the difference. Of course, there’s no way to ensure this. Researchers aren’t totally convinced of bee pollen’s ability to relieve allergy symptoms, but small studies have shown a significant decrease in allergy symptoms amongst women who consistently consume bee pollen specific to their allergy.

All regions have different plant life, so buying a jar at a California farmer’s market on a work trip probably won’t help your allergies when you’re back home in New York.

And Dr. Moday says it’s important to eat local bee pollen as it’s more likely to contain your particular allergen from your personal environment. All regions have different plant life, so buying a jar at a California farmer’s market on a work trip probably won’t help your allergies when you’re back home in New York. You can find local bee pollen at farmers markets, specialty food stores, or online. No two bee pollens are the same, so jars contain different colored granules based on what it’s made of, and can taste sweet, nutty or bitter. A word to the wise: Heat renders bee pollen ineffective, so make sure to store it in the refrigerator.

Which brings us to probably the biggest question about taking bee pollen for allergies: How much do you have to eat?

For it to have a chance at being effective, you have to make bee pollen a part of your daily routine in order to build up a tolerance, according to Dr. Moday. Start off with a 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon and work up to a tablespoon daily—try sprinkling it on top of yogurt, acai bowls, and oatmeal or blending it into your smoothies. “It takes a while for your body to become desensitized,” Dr. Moday says. “This has to be done before the season starts, like a few months out, to really get any response.” If you sprinkle it on your oatmeal every now and again during allergy season, you’ll still be a congested mess. Talk about a buzz kill.

If you’re in need of smoothie recipes, here are 7 savory ones to try until fruit comes back in season.

Some people are naturally prone to suffering an allergic reaction to bee pollen, which is why it is very important to exercise due caution when using this substance as a health supplement.

How to deal with allergies can bee pollen help

Be sure that you are not allergic to bees before taking bee pollen

If you already know for sure that you are allergic to bee pollen, then you should not use it at all. Otherwise, you might be putting yourself at unnecessary health risk.

Some of the most commonly reported allergic reactions to bee pollen, along with suggestions on how to deal with them, are as follows:

Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms may occur independently of each other but more frequently, they happen all together.

If you experience any of these, it’s very likely that you have an inflamed gastrointestinal tract due to the bee pollen.

It’s not a very serious problem but you do have to stop taking the product right away and see your doctor as soon as possible.

Skin itching and redness. Quite distinguishable from normal itching, this allergic reaction to bee pollen can cause your skin to break out in rashes and itch uncontrollably. Oftentimes, the problem goes away as soon as you stop taking the pollen. Otherwise, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Anaphylaxis. This is by far the worst thing that can happen if you turn out to be allergic to bee pollen. The effects are immediate and will be felt as soon as you swallow your first bee pollen pill. You will likely experience difficulties in breathing, dizziness, palpitations, vomiting or fainting. Immediate medical attention is absolutely necessary for such cases.

Other than anaphylaxis, which is quite rare and only happens to people who are severely allergic to bee pollen in the first place, the other symptoms of bee pollen allergies can actually be averted by doing the tolerance test prior to taking the full dosage of the product.

This can be done by taking the supplement in very small doses in the beginning, and gradually increasing to the full dosage if no untoward reactions take place. Bee collected pollen, especially the purest varieties, can be a very potent substance and can definitely affect you intensely, hence the need for the tolerance test.

Another way of reducing your risk of allergic reaction to bee pollen is to make sure the product you are using has been thoroughly tested for purity. Some pollen supplements, particularly those harvested from highly industrial areas, have been found to contain toxic contaminants that can cause serious health complications.

You can check for the purity of the supplement you are using by looking for the GMP-compliant seal on its label, and by verifying that it comes with an official Certificate of Analysis, which proves its purity and potency.

One of the best bee pollen products today is Xtend-life Natural Energy. Its pollen content comes from the pristine South Island of New Zealand, where there is no pollution and very low human population as well. It is fully certified to be pure and contaminant-free, thus reducing your chances of suffering from any allergic reaction to bee pollen.

In this Article

In this Article

In this Article

  • Health Benefits
  • Health Risks
  • Amounts and Dosage

Flowering plants make pollen as their main way to reproduce. When bees are looking for nectar to make honey, they collect pollen and store it as food for the bee colony.

Bee pollen has been used for centuries for nutritional and medicinal purposes, and modern science confirms that the sweet-tasting granules contain many health-boosting nutrients like:

  • Proteins
  • Amino acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Fatty acids
  • Vitamins like A, E, D, C, and several B vitamins
  • Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and iron

These nutrients are in other foods that make up a balanced diet, but bee pollen is a great way to make sure you’re consuming enough to support healthy bodily functions.

However, there may be more to this nutrient profile, and scientists continue to study bee pollen’s potential health benefits. It’s already officially recognized as a medicine in Germany, and doctors practicing clinical medicine in China often recommend bee pollen to help treat some conditions.

Health Benefits

Bee pollen’s more than 200 different compounds support a wide range of functions in your body. Among these nutrients is a high antioxidant content, including flavonoids, carotenoids, glutathione, and quercetin—all known to help protect your body from cell damage linked with chronic diseases.

In addition, research shows bee pollen can improve:

Heart Health

Bee pollen lowers cholesterol levels, a leading risk factor for heart disease. Studies show this effect occurs even in patients who do not respond to common cholesterol-lowering drugs and in those with active heart disease.

Its unsaturated fatty acid content also helps prevent harmful blood clots, improving blood flow around your body and reducing your heart disease and stroke risk.

Inflammation

Bee pollen has anti-inflammatory effects, and scientists have found that it blocks the activity of enzymes that cause both acute and chronic inflammation. In animals, studies show bee pollen eliminates swelling by up to 75% and point to its potential to treat or prevent chronic inflammatory diseases, cognitive decline, and liver diseases.

Immune System

The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in bee pollen are all vital to a well-functioning immune system. But in studies, bee pollen has shown it can provide extra immunity support.

Continued

For example, research shows that bee pollen can block the release of histamine, the main compound responsible for allergic reactions. Scientists have also found bee pollen to:

  • Increase the immune system response against infection and disease
  • Show antibiotic activity against pathogens like staph and fungal infection-causing bacteria
  • Improve the rate of wound healing
  • Inhibit tumor growth in some cancers

Depression Symptoms

Research shows bee pollen can boost blood circulation to the brain. This effect strengthens nervous system functions that are weakened when you’re stressed, overworked, and depressed. This effect can help relieve symptoms of mental health conditions like decreased energy, physical weakness, and brain fog.

When bee pollen is taken alongside antidepressants, scientists find patients can lower their doses and improve their condition in less time. It’s also used to help recovering alcoholics alleviate symptoms and improve nutrient deficiencies caused by the disease.

Health Risks

Bee pollen is safe for most people to take as a source of many essential nutrients, but it may cause problems for people with certain conditions. Talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet to ensure it’s safe for you.

Things to consider before taking bee pollen include:

Allergies

People with allergies to pollen or bee stings should avoid bee pollen as it may cause itching, rash, and wheezing. In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include loss of breath, feeling light-headed, fast heartbeat, clammy skin, losing consciousness, wheezing, and confusion.

Asthma

Because of the potential respiratory reactions like wheezing, people with asthma should consult with their doctor before taking bee pollen.

Low Blood Sugar

Products like honey and bee pollen may affect blood sugar levels, so people taking blood sugar medication or treating conditions like diabetes should talk to their doctor to ensure there’s no potential interaction.

Blood Thinners

Some research indicates a possible interaction between bee pollen and the effects of anticoagulant medications, or blood thinners, like warfarin (Coumadin).

Pregnancy or Breastfeeding

Taking bee pollen is possibly unsafe during pregnancy. There isn’t enough research on its effects during breast-feeding, so doctors recommend both pregnant and nursing women avoid taking it.

Continued

Amounts and Dosage

Bee pollen is usually consumed 3 times a day before a meal. In a therapeutic study, adults were given 20-40 grams of bee pollen per day.

However, researchers believe that effective amounts of bee pollen vary based on age, health, and other conditions. But there is not adequate research that defines the best dose.

Because products can have different levels of nutrients depending on the bee pollen’s source, follow dosage instructions provided by your doctor and report any negative side effects.

Sources

Brigham and Women’s Hospital: “Bee Pollen.”

Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Bee Pollen: Chemical Composition and Therapeutic Application.”

Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: “Biological and therapeutic properties of bee pollen. A review.”

Mayo Clinic: “Honey.”

Medicine Reports: “Antitumor activity of bee pollen polysaccharides from Rosa rugosa.”

National Health Services: “Anaphylaxis.”

Nutrients: “Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course.”

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “Antioxidant Potential of Propolis, Bee Pollen, and Royal Jelly: Possible Medical Application.”

Trends in Food Science & Technology: “Pollen and bee bread as new health-oriented products: A review.”

University of Florida: “The Benefits of Pollen to Honey Bees.”

Other name(s):

General description

Pollen is found in flowering plants. Bees collect pollen while they’re searching for nectar. Pollen can be gathered from bees. It can also be harvested from plants by machines. Bee pollen contains the male reproductive cells of flowers. It also contains digestive enzymes from bees.

Pollen is rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes, and amino acids. It’s also a great source of antioxidants. Its exact makeup varies. This depends on the plant from which the pollen was taken. The protein in bee pollen is harder to digest than other sources of protein.

Medically valid uses

There are no well-established uses for bee pollen. Many claims are made for pollen, but no solid studies support these claims.

Unsubstantiated claims

Note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been backed up by scientific studies.

Many healthcare providers feel that the benefits of using bee pollen don’t outweigh its risks.

But people use bee pollen for many reasons. These can include helping symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia and inflammation of the prostate (chronic prostatitis). It’s also used to ease allergies and protect the liver from effects of some toxins. Bee pollen is also claimed to lower cholesterol, reduce hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), improve metabolism, and increase hormone levels. It may also improve stamina and sexual strength, reduce depression, and ease bleeding problems.

Dosing format

There is no best dosage for bee pollen. It’s best to take only a small amount at first. This way, you can test it in case you have a reaction.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Some people may be allergic to bee pollen when it’s taken by mouth. Allergic reactions range from mild to fatal. Symptoms can include wheezing, discomfort, and a rash. In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction can happen. This is called anaphylaxis. People who have allergies or asthma should not use bee pollen.

There are no known food or medicine interactions linked with bee pollen.

More information

The nature of bee pollen depends on the flower where it came from. Carbohydrate and protein content can vary from one species to another. Pollen taken from plants growing in areas with environmental contamination may be affected by the toxins in that area. This is especially true for heavy metal contamination.