Ask any herbalist or natural health practitioner and they'll tell you about the supposed health benefits of bee pollen until they're blue in the face, but what they're telling you might be a little too good to be true.
Bee pollen is a combination of flower pollen, nectar, digestive enzymes, honey, wax, and other bee secretions that are left by foraging bees as they collect pollen from plants and transport it back to their beehive.
The practice of ingesting bee pollen has become something of a phenomenon in the natural health world, despite there being an absence of hard science to back up any of the claims.
With that being said, it should be noted that healthcare providers feel that the benefits of using bee pollen don't outweigh the risks. So before you start taking bee pollen, make sure you conduct some research of your own and speak with a medical professional if you have any concerns.
Bee pollen is the primary food source for a beehive and consists of sugars, protein, minerals and vitamins, fatty acids, and other components that give the bees nourishment.
For human consumption, bee pollen comes in numerous forms such as capsules, granules, and even powders. The capsules can be taken orally while the granules and powders can be added to your favorite foods and smoothies.
Depending on who you ask, using bee pollen for medicinal uses can have life-changing properties or it's nothing more than an unsubstantiated health craze. It's hard to know fore sure bee pollen is actually good for you due to the lack of scientific studies, but despite that, people still preach the gospel when it comes to spreading the word about this supposed superfood.
Here are a few of the most buzzworthy claims:
Multiple studies conducted on rats and mice have shown that bee pollen can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
In a study conducted on rats, researchers concluded that some of the flavonoids included in "bee pollen may partly participate in anti-inflammatory action and that bee pollen would be beneficial not only as a dietary supplement but also as a functional food."
There are even reports that say that daily bee pollen consumption can help you avoid illness by boosting your immune system and killing off bacteria. One key study into the effects of bee pollen for this use showed that the substance can significantly reduce the activation of mast cells which are known to release chemicals that trigger allergic reactions to particles in our environments.
Another study conducted on the effect of bee pollen on rats showed that the pollen helps keep the liver healthy, and in some cases, can even help the healing process after damage has been done to the liver.
The researchers concluded that chestnut bee pollen could be used as a method of treating liver damage.
One of the biggest claims by bee pollen advocates is that doses of pollen may aid the healing process of wounds and can possibly prevent infections from forming in said wounds.
In a test conducted on animal test subjects, researchers found that bee pollen had a similar healing effect at treating burn wounds as silver sulfadiazine, one of the key topical antibiotics. A similar study concluded that bee pollen extract could be effective in preventing infection of newly formed skin during the healing process.
Bee pollen can help blood flow through the nervous system, which can improve your mental state. By improving the blood flow and improving your mental state, your body is able to better handle the negative effects of stress.
People who consume bee pollen as a weight loss supplement should know that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says some of those products pose a health risk because they contain undeclared ingredients that can harm those with high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and bipolar disorder.
Herbalists will tell you that bee pollen can be used to treat allergies, but there is no proof to back up this supposed health benefit. Before using bee pollen as a method of dealing with seasonal allergies, consult with your doctor.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, some people may be allergic to bee pollen when taken orally, and that the reactions range from "mild to fatal."
If you take a dosage of bee pollen and begin to notice wheezing, discomfort, or a rash, chances are you are allergic to the substance and should contact a medical professional to discuss further steps. There are rare cases where an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can take place.
People with bee or pollen allergies aren't the only ones who should probably avoid taking bee pollen in any form. It's also recommended that pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers refrain from messing around with the substance.
There is some concern that taking bee pollen during a pregnancy could stimulate the uterus and threaten the pregnancy. Due to the lack of research conducted on the effects of bee pollen on infants, nursing mothers should avoid it until they are completely finished breastfeeding their children.
It's also suggested that people taking blood thinners, such as warfarin, avoid adding bee pollen into their daily routine as the substance can negatively interact with blood thinners and decrease their effectiveness.
Although the health benefits of bee pollen are still up for question, the nutritional value is a little more concrete. Each tablespoon of bee pollen contains the following:
If the questionable "health benefits" and possible side effects don't scare you, there are numerous ways to incorporate bee pollen into your diet. Here are just a few:
Before you incorporate bee pollen into your diet, make sure you are not allergic to either pollen or bees. You can test this allergy by ingesting a single granule of bee pollen and wait to see if there are any symptoms of allergies or other side effects.
If you don't show any signs of side effects, slowly start increasing your bee pollen intake until you reach your desired dosage.
Like any supplement, the appropriate dose of bee pollen changes from person to person thanks to factors like age, health, and other conditions having to be considered.
There is also a lack of scientific information regarding the effectiveness and proper dosage of bee pollen so you will need to follow the directions on the back of your product or consult a medical professional to discuss a proper plan for usage.
Despite this, natural health specialists suggest starting with 1/4 teaspoon of bee pollen and gradually increasing up to two tablespoons a day.
Like other supplements and dietary products, bee pollen should be stored in a cool, dark place such as a pantry, medicine cabinet, refrigerator, or even freezer. The main thing, however, is to keep bee pollen out of direct sunlight.
Now that we know the basic facts about bee pollen, its supposed health benefits and concerns, and proper dosage information, feel free to try out this health craze for yourself. Just remember to smart and safe no matter what you do.