Bee pollen is celebrated by herbalists for a variety of benefits including:

  • improving athletic performance
  • boosting immune function
  • decreasing the symptoms of PMS
  • improving nutrient utilization
  • lowering heart disease risk factors
  • boosting liver function

There’s some scientific evidence based primarily on animal studies to back up these claims, but research in humans is lacking.

While bee pollen shows potential as a treatment for a number of conditions, there have also been reports of rare but serious side effects.

In rare cases, some reports have found bee pollen to cause serious side effects such as:

As bees travel from flower to flower picking up pollen, some of that pollen will come from allergenic plants. According to a 2006 study, bee pollen retains the allergenic potential of the pollen from the plants.

Also, according to a 2015 study, ingested bee pollen has the potential to cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

The study concludes that healthcare providers should be aware of the risk of potentially severe allergic reactions to using bee pollen as an herbal supplement. This is especially important for people who have a pollen allergy.

The Mayo Clinic also warns of rare but serious adverse reactions including:

Rarely associated with herbal supplements, photosensitivity is an abnormal skin reaction to light. A 2003 case study describes a woman in her 30s who had a phototoxic reaction after using a dietary supplement with bee pollen, ginseng, goldenseal, and other ingredients.

The symptoms slowly resolved after discontinuing use of the supplement along with corticosteroid treatments. Because the individual ingredients had not been associated with photosensitivity, the study concluded that the combination of ingredients could have potentially interacted to cause this toxic reaction.

The study recommends caution when combining multiple herbs and supplements.

A 2010 case study described a case of renal failure associated with a nutritional supplement containing bee pollen. The 49-year-old man had been taking the supplement for over 5 months and developed a number of health problems, including interstitial nephritis with the presence of eosinophils, which suggests drug-induced acute renal failure.

After stopping the supplement and undergoing hemodialysis, the man’s condition improved. The study concluded that although there is not much detailed information on the adverse effects of bee pollen, it should be taken with care, either on its own or as an ingredient of nutritional supplements.

Bee pollen might increase the effects of warfarin (Coumadin), a medication prescribed to prevent the formation or growth of harmful blood clots.

A 2010 case study suggested there’s a probable interaction between warfarin (Coumadin) and bee pollen that can lead to increased international normalized ratio (INR) for blood clotting.

The combination of bee pollen and warfarin might result in an increased chance of bleeding and bruising.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine indicates that taking bee pollen is possibly unsafe during pregnancy. There’s some concern that bee pollen might stimulate the uterus and threaten the pregnancy.

At this point, there’s not enough available information to know how the infant might be affected by bee pollen.

A 2010 study performed on animals showed that giving bee pollen to pregnant rats throughout their gestational period had harmful effects on both mothers and fetuses.

Bees collect pollen from flowers and bring it back to the hive to make food for the bee colony. It contains:

  • minerals
  • vitamins
  • sugars
  • amino acids
  • fatty acids
  • flavonoids
  • bioelements

The make-up of bee pollen differs from area to area based on a number of variables, such as:

  • plant sources
  • soil type
  • climate

According to a 2015 study, bee pollen demonstrates a variety of beneficial properties, such as:

  • antifungal
  • antimicrobial
  • antiviral
  • anti-inflammatory
  • hepatoprotective
  • anticancer immunostimulating
  • local analgesic
  • burn healing

While bee pollen shows some potential for use in the treatment of a variety of conditions, there have been some reports of rare but serious side effects. This includes:

  • allergic reaction
  • renal failure
  • phototoxic reaction

Since there’s no recommended dose of bee pollen, it’s difficult to know how much is beneficial and how much could trigger a dangerous reaction. Consult your doctor before adding bee pollen, or any other herbal supplements, to your diet.