Bee Pollen

Other Name(s):

pollen

General Description:

Pollen is found in flowering plants. Bees collect pollen while they are searching for nectar. Pollen can be gathered from bees or harvested from plants by machines. Bee pollen contains the male reproductive cells (gametes) of flowers and digestive enzymes from bees.

Pollen is rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes and amino acids. It is also an excellent source of antioxidants. Bee pollen is composed of approximately 55 percent carbohydrate, 35 percent protein, 2 percent fatty acids and 3 percent minerals and vitamins. The exact composition varies depending on the plant source from which the pollen was obtained. The protein in bee pollen has decreased digestibility compared with other sources of protein.

Medically Valid Uses:

There are currently no well-established uses for bee pollen. Although many claims are made for pollen, there are no solid scientific studies supporting its use for any particular disease, condition or nutritional aid.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Most of the claims made for bee pollen remain unsubstantiated. Many physicians feel that the use of bee pollen is not worthwhile  when weighed against the dangers associated with its use. Nevertheless, bee pollen has been used to improve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia and chronic prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), alleviate allergies and protect the liver from effects of some toxins. Bee pollen is also claimed to lower cholesterol, reduce the effects of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), improve metabolism, increase hormone levels, stamina and sexual strength, reduce depression and alleviate problems associated with bleeding. Bee pollen may also strengthen the respiratory system and help with intestinal disorders such as colitis, diarrhea and constipation.

Dosing Format:

An optimal dosage has not been established for bee pollen. However, some recommendations are for 500 mg two to four times per day. It is best to take only a small amount at first to test for a possible reaction.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before taking any dietary supplements.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

A small percentage of the population is allergic to ingested pollen. Allergic reactions range from mild to fatal. Wheezing, discomfort and a rash are possible signs of a reaction to bee pollen supplements. Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction), although uncommon, does occur. People who are susceptible to allergies or asthma should avoid bee pollen. Although this is counter to the claim that bee pollen helps allergies, studies show that people with allergies are more likely to have a bad reaction to bee pollen than those who are non-allergic.

There are no known significant food or drug interactions to bee pollen.

Additional Information:

The nature of bee pollen is entirely dependent on the flower from which the pollen was obtained. Carbohydrate and protein content can vary widely from one plant species to another. Pollen taken from plants growing in areas of environmental contamination (particularly heavy metal contamination) may be affected by the toxins in that area.

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

  1. Mansfield LE, Goldstein GN. Anaphylactic reaction after ingestion of local bee pollen. Ann Allergy. 1981;47:154-156.

  2. Noyes JH, Boyd GK, Settipane GA. Anaphylaxis to sunflower seed. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1979;63:242-44.

  3. Horak F, Stubner P, Berger UE. Immunotherapy with sublingual birch pollen extract. A short-term double-blind placebo study. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 1998;8:165-71.

  4. Habib FK, Ross M, Buck AC, In vitro evaluation of the pollen extract, cernitin T-60, in the regulation of prostate cell growth. Br J Urol. 1990;66:393-97.

  5. Ohkoshi M, Kawamura N, Nagakubo I. Clinical evaluation of Cernilton in chronic prostatitis. Hinyokika Kiyo. 1967; 21:73-76.

  6. Wojcicki J, Samochowiec L, Bartlomowicz B. Effect of pollen extract on the development of experimental atherosclerosis in rabbits. Atherosclerosis. 1986;62:39-45.

  7. Vourdas D, Syrigou E, Potamianou P, Double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of sublingual immunotherapy with standardized olive pollen extract in pediatric patients with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and mild asthma due to olive pollen sensitization. Allergy. 1998;53:662-72.

  8. Stanley RG, Liskens HF. Pollens. Springer-Verlag: New York; 1974.

  9. Berzo VV, Grygor'eva NP. Effect of beta-carotene oil and bee pollen on ion transport in rat brain slices following radiation chemical exposure. Radiats Biol Radioecol 1999;39(2-3):341-4.

  10. Anan'eva TV, Dvoretskii, AI. Effect of bee pollen extract on glutathione system activity in mice liver under x-ray irradiation. Ukr Biokhimzh. 1997;69(4):115-7.

  11. Masterov GD, Nersesian ON. The indices of the antioxidant system and the status of the cerebral blood supply in patients with an ischemic stroke on apitherapy. Lik Sprava. 1995;(3-4):155-8.

  12. Cohen SH, Yunginger JW, Rosenberg N, Fink JN. Acute allergic reaction after composite pollen ingestion. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1979;64(4):270-4.

  13. Bell RR, Thornber EJ, Seet JL, Groves MT, Ho NP, Bell DT. Composition and protein quality of honeybee-collected pollen of Eucalyptus marginata and Eucalyptus calophylla. J Nutr. 1983;113(12):2479-84.

  14. Mahan LK. Nutrition and the allergic athlete. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1984;73(5 Pt 2):728-34.

  15. Prichard M, Turner KJ. Acute hypersensitivity to ingested processed pollen. Aust N Z J Med. 1985;15(3):346-7.

  16. Geyman JP. Anaphylactic reaction after ingestion of bee pollen. J Am Board Fam Pract. 1994;7(3):250-2.

  17. Bauer L, Kohlich A, Hirschwehr R, Siemann U, Ebner H, Scheiner O, Kraft D, Ebner C. Food allergy to honey: pollen or bee products? Characterization of allergenic proteins in honey by means of immunoblotting. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1996;97(1 Pt 1):65-73.

  18. Puente S, Iniguez A, Subirats M, Alonso MJ, Polo F, Moneo I. [Eosinophilic gastroenteritis caused by bee pollen sensitization]. Med Clin (Barc). 1997;108(18):698-700.

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