Bee pollen (also called bee bread or ambrosia) may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about herbal remedies.
However, bee pollen is celebrated by herbalists and alternative medicine lovers across the globe for its medicinal compounds and health benefits, which are believed to help decrease inflammation, boost immunity, and promote wound healing.
So - is there any truth to these claims, and should you be incorporating bee pollen into your natural remedy collection?
Are there any dangers associated with bee pollen ingestion, and what else do you need to know before starting treatment?
Well - we’ve got the answers you need! Keep reading to learn all you need to know about bee pollen
What Are The Dangers Of Bee Pollen?
Like any other natural or prescribed remedy, bee pollen doesn’t come without its side effects.
Although human research on the impact of bee pollen is sparse, some reported side effects of ingestion include:
- Reactions with other medications
- Phototoxic reactions
- Allergic reactions
- Renal failure
Although you may be looking at some of these side effects and thinking they are quite severe, keep in mind that they are also very rare.
Let’s explore them in depth below:
Reactions With Other Medications
According to a 2010 case study, bee pollen may interact with Warfarin, a medication prescribed to treat blood clots and reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes.
When taken with warfarin, bee pollen may increase the chances of blood clotting, bleeding, and bruising - however, much more research on this is needed before any conclusions can be made.
One study documented the case of a patient who developed a phototoxic reaction after taking a bee pollen supplement mixed with numerous other natural ingredients.
These symptoms disappeared after the patient stopped using the specific supplement.
It’s unclear whether this reaction was caused by bee pollen alone or because of its reaction with the other ingredients.
Bees often collect pollen from allergenic plants. Bee pollen can retain this allergic potential, which, according to a 2015 study, may cause allergic reactions in some users.
These symptoms can include hives, difficulty breathing, itchiness, and swelling of the face, lips, and tongue.
Does Bee Pollen Affect Blood Pressure?
Some of the naturally occurring compounds found in bee pollen may help to reduce high blood pressure.
For example, one study found that extracts of pollen and propolis, a resin-like material made by bees, could interfere with the inflammatory pathways in the body that lead to hypertension.
However, this study was performed exclusively on hypertensive male rats, and there’s no human research to confirm these findings. It does still represent very interesting findings surrounding bee pollen’s ability to affect blood cholesterol levels.
Researchers published in Nature have found that increased cholesterol levels can influence our blood pressure - the presence of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body can affect the way our blood vessels contract and release.
This in turn influences the amount of pressure needed to circulate blood.
Animal studies have found that extracts of bee pollen may help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
The antioxidants found in bee pollen may also help to prevent lipids from oxidizing. When lipids oxidize, they group together, restricting our blood vessels.
Does Bee Pollen Have B12?
Bee pollen boasts an impressive profile of vitamins and minerals, which may help improve our health and wellbeing.
One of these is B12.
Vitamin B12 (sometimes called folate) is one of the most important water-soluble vitamins in the body. B12 is essential for the formation of blood cells and DNA.
B12 binds to the proteins we eat and converts this into energy. Almost every cell in our body needs B12, and deficiencies can lead to symptoms such as weak muscles, increased heart rate, weight loss, nausea, and more.
Bee pollen is a rare non-animal source of B12.
Bee pollen also contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B7, and Vitamin B9.
Further to this - bee pollen also contains:
- Enzymes such as diastase, catalase, and amylase
- Proteins including valine, lysine, and isoleucine
These are some of the most valuable vitamins, minerals and amino acids in the human body. These are needed in the right doses to support a healthy mind and body.
So, if you’re struggling to up your vitamin intake, ingesting bee pollen can give you a healthy boost of many important compounds such as iron, zinc, calcium, and much more.
What Does Bee Pollen Taste Like?
Before you start taking bee pollen, you’ll of course want to know what it tastes like.
So, what can you expect this up-and-coming herbal treatment to do for your tastebuds?
Well, bee pollen has been described as having a rather distinctive taste characterised by a burst of sweetness and a dash of floral undertones
Texture-wise, it is often described as a blend of chalky, crunchy, and mostly chewy.
Some say this is reminiscent of honey - but this is open to debate. The taste of bee pollen may differ depending on the type of flower in the pollen.
We think bee pollen is delicious and incredibly unique - unlike anything we’ve ever eaten before!
How Should You Take Bee Pollen?
Bee pollen is most commonly sold as small natural yellow granules, however, can also be found as powder, pills, tablets and capsules.
We believe granules are the best way to take it as when used this way, they can be measured out by the spoonful and mixed into your food for a great flavour boost.
However, if you like the taste of bee pollen on its own, there’s no reason why you can’t eat it straight from the container.
We’d recommend incorporating it into a breakfast or lunch recipe, though as it’s a great complement to many food and drink (think breakfast bowls like bircher, smoothies, salads etc.) and can make certain flavour profiles pop.
Plus, if you’re not a fan of the taste or texture, adding a dash of pollen to your breakfast can disguise the taste, so you’ll still get the nutrients you need, even if you’re not that into the granules!
Is Bee Pollen Good For Anxiety?
Modern life is nothing short of stressful for many of us. Whether it’s the stress of a demanding job, a family issue, your physical health, or something more, anxiety is on the rise - and no one is truly immune from it.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, you may have explored endless avenues to find management strategies that work for you.
Whether that’s medication, meditation, healthier eating habits, or exercise, we can do plenty of things to make ourselves feel better.
Unfortunately, though, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for some, doesn’t work for others.
If you’re still looking for ways to manage your anxiety and make life feel more manageable, research indicates that adding bee pollen to your daily diet may provide some help.
According to a recent study, bee pollen could help reduce anxiety symptoms - however, this study was performed exclusively on rats, with no human research to confirm its results.
The study found that bee pollen increased the level of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the brain (similarly to the famous ‘brain mushroom - Lion’s Mane).
This is a promising discovery, as an impaired BDNF system may affect the normal hippocampal function and increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders.
As we’ve already discovered, bee pollen is a powerful source of B12. A B12 deficiency can cause a number of psychiatric issues, from depression and hallucinations to anxiety and panic disorders.
Eating a B12-rich diet, and incorporating supplements such as bee pollen into the mix, can help to reduce your chances of developing a deficiency.
This may play a role in helping you to maintain and improve your mental health, and also reduce symptoms of anxiety.
There’s still minimal human research being undertaken to support a direct link between bee pollen and improved anxiety, but studies so far sure and intriguing.
Is Bee Pollen High In Sugar?
The average tablespoon of bee pollen contains around 40 calories, 1g of fibre, 7g of carbs, and 4g of natural sugars.
Is this something you should be concerned about? Well, probably not.
These natural sugars are essentially identical to those found in honey. With the help of the enzymatic action of the bee's salivary glands, many of these natural sugars are converted into a predigested form.
This essentially means that these sugars are less likely to be stored as fat (like refined or processed sugars) and will burn well in the body.
The sugar content of bee pollen may vary. You should also remember that around 10% of the carbohydrates in bee pollen are also natural sugars, including glucose and fructose. This will increase the sugar content of your bee pollen.
Sugar isn’t all bad. Natural sugars provide the body with essential nutrients, keep your metabolism in check, and provide energy - however, eating too much of any sugar can result in weight gain or tooth decay.
So, don’t go eating tubs after tub of bee pollen
If you’re having issues with sugar in your life, bee pollen is unlikely to be your biggest problem, you should focus on cutting back refined sugars in other areas of your diet to stay within your recommended daily sugar intake (e.g. soft drinks, alcohol, cereals etc).
That being said - if you have diabetes or take a blood sugar medication, take extra caution before taking bee pollen.
Bee pollen can affect your blood sugar levels, so always consult a doctor before starting treatment.
Is Bee Pollen Easy To Digest?
When raw and unprocessed, bee pollen is easily accessible to the digestive system.
Bee pollen also contains a number of valuable enzymes that can help break down the food in your gut, so you can absorb nutrients efficiently.
Bee pollen is available in several forms, including granules, powder, or pills, and there’s no evidence to suggest that any of these methods are less digestible than others.
In fact, thanks to its high mineral content, it’s easily digested by the body!
So, whether you’re taking bee pollen on its own or mixing it into an existing recipe, there should be no reason why your body can’t digest pollen efficiently.
However, if you suffer from a digestive disease such as irritable bowel syndrome or gallstones, you may experience a sensitivity to bee pollen.
There’s no evidence to support this; however, if you have a sensitive gut, introducing any new food or supplement may risk digestive upset. Always start out with a small dose and see how your body reacts.
Before taking any alternative medicine or supplements such as bee pollen, be sure to contact and speak with your doctor first.
The Bottom Line
Bee pollen has a brilliant taste and texture, and although preliminary studies suggest it has positive effects on our health, there is a need for much more research to find out exactly how it works.
However, many herbal remedy lovers celebrate the power of bee pollen and swear by it to maintain a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle.
If you’re looking for new ways to get a well-needed vitamin or mineral boost or want a versatile supplement that can be easily added to food - you should definitely give bee pollen a go!