It’s allergy season once again, along with the stuffiness, sneezing, and itchy nose and eyes it brings. If you suffer from these symptoms, getting relief from them may be at the top of your to-do list.
Although newer over-the-counter allergy relief medicines don’t make you as drowsy as the older versions did, some people still experience sleepiness from taking them.
If you’re looking for alternatives, a quick online search often turns up one term related to allergy relief: bee pollen.
Many claims are made about bee pollen, including one that maintains it can actually make your allergies disappear altogether. You can find plenty of personal testimonials online about how bee pollen can cure your allergies once and for all.
But is that true? Let’s take a look at what we currently know about bee pollen and allergies.
While we know about some of the benefits of bee pollen, there’s a lot we still don’t know. The fact is, despite the many online claims that bee pollen can eliminate allergies altogether, there is still no firm scientific evidence to support that.
Those who write about the allergy-curing properties of bee pollen often maintain that you must use pollen from local bees.
The thinking goes that since it comes from local plant species you’re allergic to, locally sourced pollen will protect your immune system from reacting to airborne allergen exposure from those same plants, perhaps by desensitizing you to it.
This theory is unproven. But it might not hurt either.
Bee pollen consists of the powdery substance that plants make to reproduce. The bees collect this on their legs and bodies and take it back to the hive as a food source.
Bee pollen may also contain some flower nectar and bee digestive enzymes. In addition to antioxidants, it contains vitamins and minerals, enzymes, protein, and carbohydrates.
Once the bees return home with the pollen they collect, it is covered with a small amount of beeswax and honey by other bees. This is called “bee bread,” and it’s the main protein source for the bees in the colony.
Because the pollen grains are collected from many different types of plants, bee pollen varies in shape, color, and nutritional content. Although bees normally collect pollen from just one type of a plant at a time, sometimes they will gather it from many different flowers.
Since it’s a natural product that is always different based on geographical location and flower type, it’s hard to know exactly what’s in the bee pollen you get.
Bee pollen is sold as natural granules you can measure out and take by the spoonful. You can also mix it into other foods like granola or yogurt or make smoothies with it. It generally has a bitter taste, although people who take it regularly seem to get used to it.
It’s also available in capsules, and you may find it in a tablet form combined with other things like royal jelly and flower pistil extract (the structure from which the bees collect the pollen).
Some people prefer to soak the granules in water for several hours before using them. They claim this makes bee pollen easier to digest.
You may experience an allergic reaction to bee pollen, however, so it’s best to start with a very small amount to make sure it’s safe for you. Some recommend testing it by placing a single granule under your tongue the first time you try it and then building up from there, one granule at a time.
If you experience any allergy symptoms, discontinue using it right away! If you have capsules or tablets, open the capsule and take a very small amount or use a knife to cut off a bit of the tablet to test.
Do not give honey to infants under 1 year. It is best to consult your doctor about giving bee pollen to children under 12.
If you use granules, you’ll want to refrigerate or freeze the container. Raw bee pollen can get moldy if not properly stored.
If you get capsules and granules, these are usually fine to store at room temperature. Check the label for the preferred storage method and expiration date.
Many reputable large retailers, both brick and mortar and online, sell bee pollen. You’ll also find it at health food stores and herbal supplement shops.
If you have local apiaries near you, you may be able to get it there, and you’ll probably be able to find several boutique-type shops online that will ship it to you.
Of course, if you think it’s ideal to get bee pollen from local bees, you’ll want to look for a beekeeper nearby. However, it’s worth mentioning that even if you get local bee pollen, there’s no guarantee that it’s made from the specific plants you’re allergic to.
One thing advocates of bee pollen strongly recommend is that you know where the pollen is sourced. To avoid paying too much or ending up with inferior product, you should know who you’re buying from and make sure it’s a legitimate business.
Here are some of the other health benefits bee pollen is known to have:
- Nutrients. Bee pollen is known to contain important dietary substances like proteins, carbs, enzymes, and amino acids.
- Antioxidants. Certain chemicals present in the body called “free radicals” can cause cancer and type 2 diabetes. Bee pollen contains significant amounts of antioxidant substances that help counteract these free radicals.
- Protection against liver damage. One 2013 study showed bee pollen helpful in
healing liver damagein rats.
- Anti-inflammatory properties. Bee pollen has been
scientifically shownto help with inflammation, resistance to disease and genetic mutations.
- Relief for breast cancer patients. One small 2015 study showed that pollen can reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and other
symptoms experienced by breast cancer patientsduring treatment.
- Wound healing. A 2016
scientific studyshowed an ointment made from bee pollen was helpful in promoting healing from burns.
Some people do have allergic reactions to bee pollen. These can be severe, so take things slow when getting started with it.
You should also be very careful about taking bee pollen if:
- You are allergic to bee stings.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is not known whether bee pollen is safe for babies.
- You take blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin). This may increase your risk of bleeding and bruising.
However, there appear to be no known negative interactions with other herbal supplements or foods.
Bee pollen offers positive nutritional benefits and is known to be helpful for certain conditions. However, much is still unknown about it, including how it affects your allergies. If you want to try it, be cautious and consult with your physician first, and be sure to buy it from a reputable source.
Many who regularly use bee pollen for allergies swear by it, but more research needs to be done to confirm these claims.