The Buzz: Bee Pollen

What’s the buzz?
Bee pollen may relieve a variety of health problems, including seasonal allergies and low energy.

What does the science say?
Bee pollen is a nutrition supplement touted as a natural seasonal-allergy reliever and immunity booster (now that’s an idea worth buzzing about!). It is made up of pollen that is collected by bees from wildflowers that are used as food for the beehive. Bee pollen is sourced for human use by a grated trap set over a hive entrance, which allows the bee to pass through but collects any pollen particles carried on its body without harming the bees.

Typically sold as granules, bee pollen is most frequently consumed by blending it into smoothies or sprinkling it over foods like yogurt or oatmeal bowls, but it can also be found in pill form.

Although bee pollen contains many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, current research does not confirm its health claims as an allergy reliever and energy booster (buzz kill!). Small studies have shown antioxidant activity and some benefits as an antibacterial agent, but the results have not been clinically proven to be effective or beneficial to human health; other health claims are also not well backed by research.

That said, anecdotal evidence suggests bee pollen may help boost energy (a different sort of “buzz” than your afternoon latte), and some swear by its use as a natural stress reliever. However, if you’re interested in testing out this product, you’ll want to proceed with caution — contrary to its suggested use as an allergy reliever, people with pollen and hay allergies have experienced increased symptoms with bee pollen, while others with bee allergies have had severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.

What’s the takeaway?
Bee pollen is rich in some nutrients; however, it is not likely the magical elixir it is touted to be. While adding a teaspoon to your smoothie or yogurt bowl from time to time is unlikely to boost your health, if you don’t have allergies to bees or pollen, then it probably won’t harm you, either. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women — and those bee-allergic folks — should avoid bee pollen altogether, and anyone with a compromised immune system should check with their doctor before use. As always, a well-rounded diet is better than any one supplement, so don’t be fooled by grandiose claims that sound too good to be true.

Read on for more about use, safety, and what the research says here.