The Rare Side Effects of Bee Pollen and How to Recognize Them
Bee pollen is one of the most beneficial products of the beehive. In small quantities, bee pollen as an invisible "impurity" in honey that gives the honey a flowery taste. If the pollen is strained out of the honey, the floral taste is lost.
What are the Side Effects of Bee Pollen?
Pollen is thought to confer desensitization to allergies, at least to allergies to pollens produced by plants on which the bees fed. In large quantities, bee pollen sometimes causes allergies of its own, but this bee pollen side effect is very rare.
The reason you don't sneeze when you take a capsule of bee pollen is that the pollen inside the capsule is only released when it hits the digestive acids in the stomach. It is only when some of the pollen released from the capsule in your stomach finds its way back up into your throat and mouth that an allergic reaction is possible. That happens with a burp, a belch, hiccups, or gastroesophageal reflux. Simply keeping the pollen down is the most important layer of protection.
Even if this happens, users of bee pollen products only have allergies to products that contain pollen to which they are allergic. If you live in the USA, you are most likely to be allergic to plants of the Composite family. This family includes the well-known ragweed. If you are allergic to ragweed, you probably are also allergic to dandelions, daisies, chrysanthemums, and chamomile. Allergies to any one of these pollens can cause problems with all the others.
If you live in Turkey, Europe, or Russia and you have seasonal allergies, chances are that you are allergic to plants in the Birch family, primarily, of course, birch trees. If you are allergic to birch pollen, you are probably allergic to hazelnut pollen. If you are allergic to hazelnut pollen, you are probably allergic to hazelnuts, which are found in products like Nutella.
How To Avoid the Bee Pollen Side Effects
There is a very simple way to avoid this complication. Choose bee pollen products that are from a part of the world that does not have any of the plants that you are allergic to, or any of the plants that are closely related to the plants you are allergic to. Take the product in encapsulated form.
I've found that New Zealand bee pollen products work best for me. The Xtend Life product, for example, is collected near the north shore of the South Island, in a region where there are few non-native plants (meaning, few plants that can cause allergies if you are not from New Zealand) and the constant ocean breeze blows even those few allergens away.
Bee Pollen and Allergies
If you don't have a severe allergy to a specific pollen (in which case you shouldn't take pollen products in general), the fact is, pollen actually protects against allergic reactions—to other pollens. A series of studies in Japan have found that the fat-soluble antioxidants in bee pollen slow down the release of histamine (the chemical that causes the itching, oozing, sneezing, and wheezing of an allergy) from the mast cells in the skin and mucous membranes that contain it. (Find out more about bee pollen and allergies)
Beekeepers, by the way, tend to have very few pollen allergies. Taking pollen or being exposed to pollen on a daily basis, oddly enough, makes you less allergic to pollen. Taking pollen from a reliable out-of-country source, ensures that you don't take any pollen to which you have a specific allergy while you are building up your resistance to allergies in general. But to make sure bee pollen works for, take a single capsule, wait, make sure there are no adverse reactions, and then take that product on a regular basis. The product I've found works best is XtendLife bee polen. That is why I recommend it.
- Celikel S, Karakaya G, Yurtsever N, Sorkun K, Kalyoncu AF. Bee and bee products allergy in Turkish beekeepers: determination of risk factors for systemic reactions. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2006 Sep-Oct;34(5):180-4.
- Ishikawa Y, Tokura T, Ushio H, Niyonsaba F, Yamamoto Y, Tadokoro T, Ogawa H, Okumura K. Lipid-soluble components of honeybee-collected pollen exert antiallergic effect by inhibiting IgE-mediated mast cell activation in vivo. Phytother Res. 2009 Nov;23(11):1581-6.