Bees are best known for their honey, especially life-saving Manuka honey. But other products, like bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly are amazing health products too.
Because these products are harder to harvest, and therefore less commercially available, most people don’t know how they work or where to find them.
Bee pollen, for example, is available online and in nearly every natural health food store, and yet, it hasn’t made its way into every American household. And yet, pollen can do amazing things for every member of your family, from your allergic brother to your wound-prone daughter and even your stressed-out husband.
What Is Bee Pollen?
Pollen is the male reproductive elements of seed-bearing plants. Pollen is collected from flowers by pollinators, like hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies. Bee pollen refers to pollen collected by bees, which they use along with nectar to feed their colony (1).
“Bee bread”, made from salivary glands, nectar, honey, and wax, serves as the basic protein source for the bee colony (2).
Pollen you find at the health food store is collected in netlike pollen traps set up near beehives. These nets remove pollen from the hind legs of worker bees after collecting nectar. One bee colony can produce one to seven kilograms of pollen a year
The pollen is then processed to removed dirt, floral parts, and insect fragment, and dried. Pollen collected by different region contains different key nutrients and the color can range from yellow to orange, depending on sources.
“Bee Pollen is the richest source of vitamins in a single food…A nutrient powerhouse of eighteen vitamins including a B complex, all essential amino acids, fatty acids, RNA/DNA nucleic acids, enzymes, and is at least 25% protein,” explains Susan Curtis, natural health director at Neal’s Yard Remedies (3).
Here’s a breakdown of the nutrient it contains:
- 30 percent digestible carbohydrates
- 26 percent sugars (mainly fructose and glucose)
- 23 percent protein (including 10 percent of essential amino acids)
- 5 percent lipids (including essential fatty acids)
- 2 percent phenolic compounds (including flavonoids)
- 1.6 percent minerals (including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, copper,
- zinc, manganese, silicon and selenium)
- 0.6 percent water-soluble vitamins and acids (including B1, B2, B6, and C)
- 0.1 percent fat-soluble vitamins (including vitamins A, E, and D
14 Uses For Bee Pollen
Bee pollen has antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, immunostimulating, and analgesic effects. Find out about bee pollen benefits by reading on!
1. Reduces Inflammation
A 2010 study published in Pharmaceutical Biology found that pollen effectively treated mice with acetaminophen-induced liver necrosis. In plain terms, pollen healed livers severely damaged by Tylenol use. This was deemed possible thanks to its natural anti-inflammatory properties (4).
Another study, published in 2010, found that bee pollen mildly suppressed carrageenan-induced paw edema in rats. An ethanol pollen extract was also tested and found to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. Researchers concluded that honeybee pollen “would be beneficial not only as a dietary supplement but also as a functional food.”(5) Add it to your anti inflammatory diet to control chronic inflammation.
2. Protects Your Liver
As mentioned above, pollen has anti-inflammatory benefits that help protect the liver against damage caused by acetaminophen.
Further, a 2013 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that “chestnut bee pollen protects the hepatocytes from the oxidative stress and promotes the healing of the liver damage induced by CCI4 toxicity. Our findings suggest that chestnut bee pollen can be used as a safe alternative to the silibinin in the treatment of liver injuries.” Silibinin, as the researchers noted, caused significant weight loss and death due to severe diarrhea when given to rats (6).
3. Relieves Menopausal Symptoms
A 2015 German study noted that both honey and bee pollen honey improved menopause symptoms in two-thirds of patients studied. In particular, both bee products were beneficial for breast cancer patients on anti-hormonal treatment (7). Hence, pollen is a natural menopause treatment that can help with hot flashes and other symptoms.
Additionally, studies have proven that flavonoids found in honey and pollen prevent breast cancer.
4. Promotes Malnutrition Recovery
The amazing quantity of nutrients in pollen improves recovery of muscle protein and energy metabolism in severely malnourished rats. In conclusion, the researchers noted that fresh bee pollen possesses good anabolic and metabolic activity that helps prevent malnutrition as well (8).
5. Improves Fertility
Pollen stimulates your ovaries during ovulation and boosts the egg’s ability to survive the incubation period. Hence, pollen, alongside royal jelly, makes a powerful tool to increase fertility in women.
Plus, a study on pregnant rats found that pollen supplementation resulted in greater body weight and higher levels of hemoglobin, total protein, serum iron, and albumin. Their fetuses also had a higher body weight and lower death rate (9). However, pregnant women should not take bee pollen without consulting a doctor.
6. Boosts Immune System
Thanks to its ability to fight bacteria and fungus, bee pollen takes some of the strain off a weak immune system during an infection. Pollen can even kill candida, a yeast responsible for gastrointestinal inflammation and disease (10,11).
Additionally you can use bee pollen for allergies. In fact, 2008 Japanese study found that bee pollen has anti-allergic action because of its ability to inhibit the activation of mast cells, which plays an important role in the early and late phases of allergic reactions (12). Give yourself an immune system boost by adding pollen to your breakfast at least once a week.
7. Acts as an Antioxidant
Pollen contains powerful antioxidants with high scavenging activities against active oxidative stress. Oxidative stress plays a role in aging and disease. In fact, a 2005 study suggested that bee pollen has similar activity to fermented foods (13).
8. Relieves Stress
Pollen increases blood flow to your nervous tissue to strengthens nerves weakens by stress. This, in turn, increases mental capacity and boosts focus as well as promotes recover from stress-induced inflammation. As an analgesic, pollen can also relieve pain caused by stress or injury (14). Use it to treat stress and anxiety naturally.
9. Promotes Healing
Pollen improves blood circulation to burns and infected wounds to hasten the healing process. It also moisturizes the site of injury, reduces inflammation, and relieve pain (15). To use, grind up the pollen and combine with honey before applying it as a wound healing salve.
10. Boosts Prostate Health
Pollen can treat prostate conditions such as prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and prostate cancer (16). Hence, it can be quite beneficial for middle-aged men.
11. Bee Pollen Weight Loss
Metabolites of honey, including lecithin, control cravings, promote fat-burning and lower cholesterol. Better yet, honey is a great alternative to fat-boosting and liver-damaging sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. In fact, it’s one of the best foods for weight loss.
Bee pollen, like honey, is an active ingredient in natural skin care. It stimulates the growth of new skin tissue, prevent dehydration, increases blood supply to skin cells, and helps slow premature aging. It’s also great for diaper rash, acne, and eczema (17).
13. Boosts Blood Circulation
Rich in the flavonoid rutin, bee pollen strengthens the walls of your blood vessels to improve blood circulation and promote heart health.
How to Use Bee Pollen
Pollen is normally available as bee pollen granules. Mix them with yogurt or honey and take it straight or grind them into a powder. This powder is a great addition to smoothies and dressings. Bee pollen has a slightly sweet, floral taste that makes it easy to enjoy. you can also use bee pollen extract or bee pollen tablets.
To use, start with 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of bee pollen a day and increase the dose to up to two tablespoons daily for up to 3 months.
If you are allergic to pollen, honey or bee stings, pollen may trigger an allergic reaction. Symptoms could include itching, swelling, light-headedness, shortness of breath, even life-threatening anaphylaxis.
If you have these allergies or suffer from hay fever or asthma, stop taking pollen and talk to your doctor.Pregnant women should also speak to their doctor before taking pollen as it can stimulate the uterus and cause miscarriage.
Protecting the Bees
Bees, clearly, are irreplaceable contributors to natural health because they produce bee pollen and many other essential natural health products.
Manuka honey, for example, is so useful in treating infections that it is being studied in hospitals. In New Zealand, where it produced, medical-grade honey is already being used to treat burns and external wounds. It’s so powerful that it can kill nasty antibiotic-resistant infections that are thriving in hospitals and clinics worldwide. These infections are a serious threat to public health since no antibiotic on the market can kill them.
More importantly, bees are one of the most critical pollinators in the world. Without them, most of the world’s crops would have to be cross-pollinated by hand. Can you imagine how long that would take? Simply put, bees are critical for food safety and the agricultural industry. According to Times Magazine “bees add at least $15 billion in crop value through pollination in the U.S. alone.” (18)
Bees also play a big role in biodiversity and play an integral part in the food chain.
Sadly, because they are pollinators, bees have been dying out by the millions due to the application of powerful herbicides and pesticides. While farmers apply pesticides to target insects that destroy crops, beneficial insects, like lady bugs, spider, and butterflies are killed too.
On the other hand, herbicides kill off native wildflowers, weeds, and other plants that serve as important pollen sources for honeybees and butterflies. In result, many bees are dying of malnutrition (19). Other factors, like pathogens, parasites, and climate disruption aren’t helping bee populations either. In fact, it’s estimated that the “honeybee population in the United States is less than half of what it was at the cessation of World War II” (20).
What You Can Do at Home
To do your part to protect the bees, support organic farming, ban pesticides and herbicides from your garden and lawn, and plant bee-friendly flowers, such as bee balm, joe-pye weed, foxglove and red clover.
If you can, build a home for the bees in your area by setting up your own bee-friendly hive. Also, purchase your bee products from local and sustainable beekeepers or make your own at home.
Without bees, the world is a bleak and hungry place. Do your part and enjoy all the gifts they have to give.