Bee pollen is a superfood, so try this “life-giving dust” to boost your health!
Bee pollen has many healthy benefits: it is part of apitherapy, which uses honey bee products (raw honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom) for healing purposes.
Bee pollen has been used throughout history for medicinal purposes and is mentioned in the Bible.
It has been documented to have been actively used around the year 1135 in Spain (1). It was used in ancient China (2) and ancient Egypt.
The Egyptians called it “the life-giving dust” (3).
What exactly is bee pollen?
Bee pollen is a mixture of flower pollens collected by honey bees. It is very rich in nutrients and contains 250 substances (4).
It has proteins, amino acids, phytonutrients, and antioxidants (flavonoids, polyphenols, carotenoids, and others), lipids (linoleic, γ-linolenic and palmitic acids), many vitamins (A, E, D, C, B complex), minerals, enzymes and coenzymes (5).
The nutritional content depends on the plant source of the pollens collected, geography, and climate, so the precise nutrient content varies in different bee pollens (6).
What are the health benefits?
Bee pollen has many healing properties.
- It is an immune booster as it strengthens the immune system and helps the body to fight infection (10).
- It is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-cancerous, and it has anti-tumor properties, stimulates the immune system, and is useful against allergies and in burn wound healing (7, 8).
- Bee pollen is an adaptogen, which helps the body adapt to stress.
- It strengthens the system to withstand potentially harmful factors by increasing the fitness and strength of the body.
- It modulates the central nervous system and improves cognitive function (memory, learning, comprehension, thinking, and concentration) (9).
- It is a potent anti-inflammatory (11) and is compared to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; for example, Ibuprofen).
- Studies show bee pollen reduces inflammatory molecules of the immune system and increases non-inflammatory immune system molecules (12).
- It has antimicrobial properties and can be used as an antibiotic. It is effective against yeast and various types of bacterial strains (13).
- Bee pollen is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals in the body, which cause oxidative stress and DNA damage (14) and are protective against chronic disease.
- It is used to supplement nutrients and vitamins. In animal studies, feeding bee pollen to mice and rats increased vitamin C and magnesium content of tissues and increased red blood cells and life span of the animals (15).
- Bee pollen can improve gut health.
- It is a prebiotic (i.e., it feeds the good gut bacteria; read more about prebiotics and their role in gut health in our article “The Best Time to Take Probiotics”), which supports the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
- It reduces the overgrowth of ‘bad,’ pathogenic bacteria (16).
- Bee pollen has cardiovascular benefits.
- It can reduce total cholesterol and protect arteries against atherosclerotic changes (17).
- One study shows that a high-antioxidant extract of bee pollen decreases oxidative stress and can inhibit LDL oxidation (18).
- Bee pollen is thought to have anti-cancer properties.
- It can inhibit the growth of specific cells, indicating a potential antitumor effect (19).
- Some components of bee pollen can be toxic to cancer cells and cause cell death in prostate cancer cells (20).
- Bee pollen is anti-estrogenic, which means it can help reduce the risk of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast, uterus, and prostate cancers (21).
- It has anti-anxiety effects, based on studies on rats, and this effect is thought to be due to the flavonoid content of bee pollen (22).
- It is anti-allergy and stops mast cells from releasing histamine (23).
- Histamine release is the primary cause of classic allergy symptoms.
- One study found that pollen decreased histamine release from mast cells significantly (24).
How do you take bee pollen?
Bee pollen is available as granules.
You can take it on its own or mix it into food.
Try it on yogurt, in oatmeal, or in a smoothie.
It does have a mildly bitter taste, which is why it’s best to mix it into the food that you like.
There is no standard dose or RDA for bee pollen.
It is best to be cautious and start ‘low and slow,’ in other words, start with a low amount (e.g., 1/8 teaspoon) and increase slowly.
This strategy is best to ensure that you do not have an unknown allergy to bee pollen.
If all goes well, you can improve your dose.
Remember, more is not always better in nutrition, so do not take excessively large amounts.
Are there any contra-indications?
Some people may be allergic to bee pollen, which can cause sore throat, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, anaphylaxis, and even death in extreme cases (25).
Avoid taking bee pollen if you are allergic.
Bee pollen can also interact with the drug warfarin, so consult your doctor if you are taking warfarin (26).
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to consult your doctor before taking bee pollen.
Honey is another great product that we get from bees, and it has many of its own health benefits!
Check out our article “The Sweet Benefits of Raw Honey” to learn more about it.