Products from bees carry extraordinary health benefits in many cases. From manuka honey to propolis to beeswax, there is no shortage of ways that our buzzing friends could improve our health…not to mention the fact that they pollinate our flowers. A new study, though, warns that we should be aware of some risks with one supplement: bee pollen.
Their health advice is that we should be aware that bee pollen supplements can cause severe anaphylactic reactions. Most people are unaware of this risk.
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One case study in the “Canadian Medical Association Journal” illuminates the possible hazards of ingesting bee pollen. A 30-year-old woman with seasonal allergies but no history of allergies to food, drugs, insects or latex had an anaphylactic reaction after taking bee pollen. She had swelling of the eyelids, lips and throat, difficulty swallowing, hives, and other serious symptoms. After
emergency treatment and discontinuation of the bee pollen supplements, there were no further reactions.
Anaphylaxis due to taking bee pollen has been reported in studies, but remains a lesser-known issue even by people purchasing such supplements in the health store. Bee-pollen-related anaphylactic reactions have been reported in people with no history of allergies or only seasonal allergies. In a Greek study in which participants underwent skin tests for reactions to bee pollen, 73% (of 145 patients) had positive skin test reactions to one or more types of bee pollen extracts. That is obviously a considerable number.
Patients and doctors alike should be aware of the potential for reaction. Patients with pollen allergy should be advised of the potential risk when consuming these products. We can’t know who will have an allergic reaction upon ingesting bee pollen. The best defense is to stay informed and stay careful.
Bee pollen is very high in protein and carbohydrates, and has trace amounts of minerals and vitamins. You may find it in many Chinese herbal formulas, and on its own as a nutritional supplement. As of yet, there is little scientific evidence that it carries much therapeutic value. Bee pollen is marketed to improve sports performance, allergic symptoms, and memory.