The many health benefits associated with honey have been well documented and I’ve already written an article on why Manuka honey is good for you. But many people don’t know about the health benefits of bee pollen. Bee pollen is anti-inflammatory, has anti-cancer properties, strengthens the immune system, treats various allergies, and may even help you lose weight.
Bee pollen is an amazing source of protein, vitamins and minerals. It also contains many antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties which provide many healing properties as well as supporting a healthy body.
So, what is bee pollen and how can you benefit from using this natural food source?
What is Bee Pollen and What it Contains
Bees collect pollen from the flowers of plants and then bring it back to the hive where they pack the pollen into honeycomb cells. During the packing process, the pollen is mixed with nectar and saliva from the bees. It is then covered by a thin layer of honey and wax.
It is during this process that many of the amazing properties of bee pollen (it is sometimes called bee bread) start to develop. The lactic acid bacteria from the bees’ saliva causes the pollen to ferment which, in turn, produces a substance containing vitamins, minerals, healthy bacteria, proteins, amino acids, and lactic acid.
In terms of the effort needed to produce bee pollen, it is probably one of the most labor-intensive foods in the world. Each teaspoon of bee pollen contains about 2.5 billion grains of pollen and takes one bee around a month to gather!
In this regard, bee pollen, or bee bread, shouldn’t be confused with honeycomb, propolis, royal jelly or natural honey.
Let’s have a look at some of the health benefits of bee pollen.
Health Benefits of Bee Pollen
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
One of the most important properties of bee pollen is its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Many scientists and doctors now recognize the important role it can play in treating many health problems and diseases.
For example, a study of bee pollen found that it is rich in polyphenols (plant-based compounds that have antioxidant properties). Polyphenols play an important role in the prevention of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
The study revealed that bee pollen contains antioxidants such as phenolic acids and flavonoids. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties which boost the immune system.
Another study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine also confirmed its anti-inflammatory properties. It showed that bee pollen extract was able to reduce swelling that is caused by inflammation. It concluded by saying that “bee pollen would be beneficial not only as a dietary supplement but as a functional food.”
These studies show that bee pollen can play an important role in treating diseases and health problems that are connected with inflammation, viruses, bacteria and the immune system.
Now let’s look at some of the specific ways that bee pollen can benefit you.
Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, studies cite bee pollen as an effective way to help fight cancer.1 Studies have also shown that bee pollen can help increase the number of lymphocytes, the white blood cells which boost the immune system to kill off diseased and cancerous cells.
Another study published by the journal Phytotherapy Research showed that a bee pollen extract was able to help kill off cancer cells in patients with prostate cancer. It also was effective in reducing the side effects of chemotherapy treatment.
Relieves Menopausal Symptoms
Bee pollen has also been proven to be effective in reducing menopausal symptoms experienced by patients who have been treated for breast cancer.
Usually after breast cancer surgery, the antihormonal treatments bring on menopause-like symptoms, and bee pollen was shown to successfully treat symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, and sleeping difficulties.
Bee pollen was recommended as a treatment for women who didn’t respond to other methods alleviating the symptoms.
Healthy cardiovascular system
If you want to keep a healthy heart and lower your cholesterol, then bee pollen can help you do that.
The Polish Journal of Pathology published research to show that bee pollen extract had a cardioprotective influence in clinical studies. Bee pollen also lowered levels of cholesterol in patients.
Strengthens the immune system
The antimicrobial and antiviral activities, along with the many benefits already mentioned means that it is a natural way to boost the immune system.
A study published in Food, Chemical and Toxicology showed that bee pollen was especially effective against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
It has also been shown that pollen extracts have quite a strong antibiotic activity that is still being effective on the pathogen for human Gram-positive bacteria, for example, Staphylococcus aureus mentioned previously, and Gram-negative bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeurgionsa, and on fungi such as Candida albicans.
Bee Pollen for Depression
Bee pollen also has a beneficial effect on people suffering from depression.
Studies showed that when bee pollen was taken with prescribed antidepressants, it was able to improve the feelings of depression in a short space of time. This meant that the medication dose could be reduced and so does the side effects of antidepressants.
Bee Pollen for Healthy skin
Honey is well-known for its nurturing and soothing effect on the skin and is one of the ingredients in this face mask for glowing skin. But, did you know that bee pollen also has many beneficial healing properties for the skin?
Bee pollen contains the flavonoid kaempferol, which is an important antioxidant. Research has shown that Kaempferol protects the skin against UV radiation-induced skin cancer10 and also help repair skin which has been damaged by burns.
The antioxidant and antibacterial properties also help rid the skin of free radicals and therefore reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Bee pollen for allergies
One of the most ancient uses of bee pollen as a health remedy is to treat various allergies.
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that bee pollen was able to reduce the histamine response in the body by around 62%. This works by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to combat allergic reactions.
It has also been reported that Dr. Leo Conway used bee pollen to cure his patients of allergy symptoms using a technique called desensitization. As bee pollen is an allergen, it was used in small amounts to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to produce antibodies that will eliminate the allergic reaction.
Increases physical performance
Bee pollen is one of the ingredients in my ultimate super-food energy smoothie.
Because bee pollen contains so many beneficial properties for the body, it is no wonder that it has a wonderful overall effect on how the body performs.
There is much anecdotal evidence that many people who use this regularly experience a performance boost.
It has also been reported that it has been used by coaches to boost performance in athletes. However, there has been no scientific study to date which confirms this.
Does Bee Pollen Help With Weight Loss?
Recently there have been many bee pollen supplements being sold which claim to help with weight loss.
Bee pollen has a beneficial overall effect on the body because of the many natural health benefits that I’ve talked about here. It contains lots of minerals and nutrients. However, the FDA has reported that many bee pollen weight-loss supplements contain undeclared substances which are banned in the US. So care has to be taken if you are looking to buy these supplements.
However, can bee pollen actually help with weight loss? Bee pollen is rich in amino acids and there is enough evidence that these can help increase the body’s metabolism. The journal Nutrients published a study whereby bee pollen was able to improve muscle mass and metabolism.
It is known that metabolism is linked to weight, and a faster metabolism will help to burn more calories. However a person still needs to look at his or her calorie intake and level of physical activity in order to lose weight.
If you want to increase your metabolism, try to consume these ten foods and you also need to be aware of the ten factors that affect your metabolism.
So how can you make sure that you buy quality bee pollen that is 100% natural?
Where to Buy Bee Pollen and What to Look For
You should check the list of ingredients carefully so you don’t buy bee pollen that contains artificial ingredients like coloring or fillers. It is always best to look for certified organic bee pollen.
Bee pollen can be purchased in many health stores and from reputable online suppliers. They come as granules, powder, capsules or tablets. As Bee pollen should not be processed or heat dried to prevent essential nutrients and enzymes loss, opt to purchase a freeze-dried product.
How to Use Bee Pollen and How Much to Take
According to WebMD, there is no standard dose for bee pollen, however some people use 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of bee pollen granules daily. They gradually increase the dose up to 6 teaspoons.
Always begin by taking a small dose to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction, and then you can gradually increase your dose.
As there is no clear dosage published in the medical literature, a health care professional should be consulted before using bee pollen for any medical condition.
When using bee pollen granules or powder, start with a small dosage, chew and swallow it or mix it in cereals, yogurt, juices and smoothies. If you are taking tablets, start by cutting off a small piece of the tablet and gradually increase the dosage until reaching the manufacturer’s recommended dosage.
With capsules you can start by opening the capsule and add some of the powder to your yogurt or smoothie, and slowly increase your dose until you can take a full capsule.
Bee Pollen – Precautions
The main risk of bee pollen is for those people who have allergies to bees, bee stings, and bee products. If you have a bee allergy, then you should not take bee pollen.
It is not recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women take bee pollen because not enough is known how it can affect infants and there is a concern that it can stimulate the uterus during pregnancy.