Who knows why people have lavished such praise on bee pollen. We can't figure it out. After looking at the facts, we have to say there just isn't much evidence for using it to boost performance. Leave it to the birds and bees.
Where to find Bee Pollen
Okay, here's where things get gross. Put simply: bee pollen is bee spit. It's plant pollen collected by worker bees combined with their saliva enzymes and the plant nectar. It is used as food for drone bees once it's compacted into pellets and consists of the male germ seeds of plants, flowers, or blossoms on trees. Bee pollen is collected off of bees' legs by special devices placed at the entrance to hives.
Why athletes use Bee Pollen
Temporary loss of mental functioning? Heck, who knows why an athlete would bother with bee pollen. It's a dog — no bones about it. We looked at all the claims: better breathing, better endurance, big muscles, improved immunity... and have to say that it just doesn't live up to them.
- Increase endurance by supporting the adrenal glands and reducing breathing and heart rate, unfortunately, only for rodents, though
- Potentially improve memory and cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain
Ways that Bee Pollen can enhance Longevity:
- Provide our bodies with detoxifying nutrients, such as cysteine, that protect us from pollutants
Signs of Bee Pollen deficiency
No deficiency conditions are known to exist.
Potential uses for Bee Pollen
Research indicates that Bee Pollen may be useful in the treatment of:
More about Bee Pollen
Bee pollen is an over-hyped, understudied, weird supplements that doesn't appear to do much of anything for performance. But, if you feel compelled to pour solidified bee saliva onto your breakfast cereal every morning, you'd probably like to know what you're getting or, in this case, not getting. To be fair, we've included some of the potential benefits of bee pollen, though it's not one we see becoming a "power pollen" any time soon or even any time at all.
Improve lung function
Bee pollen is used in the former Soviet Union for pulmonary diseases and allergies such as hay fever. It's claimed to work via a chemical called quercetin that inhibits the release of histamine in the body. Then again, quercetin is in a lot of foods in greater quantities. Bee pollen simply isn't the best source.
Enhance endurance and recovery
Elite former Soviet athletes use bee pollen to improve performance by speeding recovery, lowering heart rate, slowing respiration (breathing), and balancing the adrenal glands. While that's all great, when we looked for scientific support, we found these actions have been shown only in rodents. So unless your hamster is going out for swimming trials, you might want to look for something with a little more support and a lot less hype.
Bee pollen is used for memory loss in traditional Chinese medicine when mixed with various other herbs in a complex formula because it appears to increase the number of red blood cells as well as boost blood flow to the brain. In fact, though, it's the combination that appears to be effective, not just bee pollen, so until we can determine exactly which nutrients are likely to be effective, it might be best to stick with ones with more support, such as Ginkgo biloba.
Detoxify the body
Okay, if you live near Chernobyl, we fully admit that bee pollen should be in your diet. Soviet scientists used bee pollen to detoxify the body from environmental pollutants, such as radiation, after industrial experiments and disasters. Nutrients in bee pollen, such as proteins, fats, Vitamins B, C, D, E, and beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, selenium, nucleic acids, lecithin, and cysteine strengthen immunity and counteract the effects of toxins by increasing red and white blood cell counts and serum protein levels, controlling nausea and poor appetite and causing a sense of well-being. Ideally, however, it's best to avoid radiation exposure in the first place.
Enhance antioxidant status
The lipid peroxidation triggered by toxins and pollutants can be normalized with antioxidant enzymes boosted by bee pollen, such as glutathione, which is one of the body's most potent antioxidants. On the other hand, there are many other sources of antioxidants that are more powerful than bee pollen. Consider Vitamins C and E and selenium for just a few examples.
Promote muscle gains
The argument goes that since bee pollen is a high-quality source of protein, it may help improve muscle gains. Bee pollen is approximately 35% complete protein. That's more than beef, eggs, or cheese. In studies, bee pollen increases fetal bodyweight by raising levels of hemoglobin, total protein, serum iron, and albumin in the offspring of mothers fed bee pollen. But to be straight with you, to get a bellyful of protein eating bee pollen, you'd have to eat a truck full — and it isn't going to be fun.
There are a lot of big claims made for bee pollen. However, real people eating copious amounts of the stuff don't really appear to have particularly sharp memory, huge muscles, silky smooth breathing, or incredible bodily cleanliness. Most of the time, they're just a bit weird.
Amount and Timing
Typical amounts of bee pollen are 1 to 1.5 grams per day in divided doses or 1 to 2 tsp 1 to 3 times per day. You can also take capsules (580 mg), chewable tablets (500 or 1,000 mg), and tablets (500 or 1,000 mg).
For acute needs, a dosage of three times the above recommended amount can be taken for a short period.
Pollen is also available as a liquid, tincture, cream, and salve. Note that the shells of the pollen grains are difficult to digest, which may limit assimilation unless the grains are processed in some way.
Synergists of Bee Pollen
No synergists have been noted.
Toxicity of Bee Pollen
Bee pollen has shown little evidence of toxicity; however, those with pollen allergies should not use bee pollen.
Bans and restrictions
- Dudov, I.A., et al., "Immunomodulatory Effect of Honeybee Flower Pollen Load," Ukr Biokhim Zh 66.6 (1994) : 91-3.
- Hope, W.C., et al., "In Vitro Inhibition of the Biosynthesis of Slow Reacting Substance of Anaphylaxis (SRS-A) and Lipoxygenase Activity by Quercetin," Biochem Pharmacol 32.2 (1983) : 367-371.
- Iverson, T., et al., "The Effect of NaO Li Su on Memory Functions and Blood Chemistry in Elderly People," J Ethnopharmacol 56.2 (1997) : 109-16.
- Kvanta, E., "Sterols in Pollen," Acta Chem Scand 22.7 (1968) : 2161-5.
- Masterov, G.D., and Nersesian, O.N., "The Role of Apitherapy in the Combined Treatment of Patients with Chronic Nonspecific Lung Diseases," Lik Sprava 3-4 (1995) : 155-8.
- Middleton, E., et al., "Quercetin: an Inhibitor of Antigen-Induced Human Basophil Histamine Release," J Immunol 127.2 (1981) : 546-50.
- Samoliuk, V.A., "The Indices of the Antioxidant System and the Status of the Cerebral Blood Supply in Patients with an Ischemic Stroke on Apitherapy," Lik Sprava 1-2 (1995) : 68-70.
- Xie, Y., et al., "Effect of Bee Pollen on Maternal Nutrition and Fetal Growth," Hua Xi Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao 25.4 (1994) : 434-7.
- Williams, M.H., "Ergogenic and Ergolytic Substances," Med Sci Sports Exerc 24.9S (1992) : S344-8.