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Bee Products

Although many intriguing claims are made for the healing powers of bee products, there is little evidence to support most of them. Yet bee pollen, royal jelly and popular nutritional supplements and continue to be the subject of scientific studies.

What they are?

There are three types of bee products (apart from honey) available in health food shops: bee pollen, propolis and royal jelly.  The most familiar of these is in the bee pollen. After the bees gather pollen from plants, they compress it into pellets, which beekeepers then collect from the hives. (A second type of pollen, also sold as bee pollen, is collected directly from plants, not from bees at all.) Bee pollen contains protein, B vitamins, carbohydrates and various enzymes. Propolis (also called bee glue) is a sticky antibiotic resin that bees collect from the buds of pine trees and use to repair cracks in their hives. Then there’s royal jelly, a milky white substance produced by the salivary glands of worker bees as a food source for the queen bee. (The specialized nutritional content of royal jelly may account for the fertility, large size and increased longevity of the queen bee.)

What they do?

Bee products, especially bee pollen, have been touted as virtual cure-alls. Proponents assert that, among other things, these products slow ageing, improve athletic performance, boost immunity, contribute to weight loss, fight bacteria and alleviate the symptoms of allergies and propolis may be effective as a salve for cuts and bruises, the scant research that has been conducted does not support the extravagant claims generally made for bee products.

Major Benefits

Bee pollen seems to help prevent the sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and other symptoms of seasonal pollen allergies. Some scientists believe that ingesting small amounts of pollen can desensitize an individual to its allergenic compounds, much as allergy shots do. Because your body produces antibodies when exposed to even a tiny amount of pollen, your immune system then remembers it, preventing an extreme reaction that causes classic allergy symptoms. Testing of this theory is under way and until results are available there appears to be no harm for most people in trying bee pollen. Various advocates maintain that to get the full anti allergy benefit, you need to use bee pollen that comes from a local source, which will desensitize you to the specific pollens in your own environment.

Additional Benefits

Bee propolis may play some role as a skin softener or wound healer. Research has shown that although propolis contains antibacterial compounds, these are not as effective as standard antibiotics or over the counter ointments in fighting infection. (Propolis, however does not have the undesirable side effects of standard antibiotics.)

Because royal jelly enhances the growth, fertility and longevity of queen bees, many people think that it will do the same thing for humans. However, there’s no evidence to support this view, though royal jelly may be useful as an adrenal tonic in managing stress.

Common Uses

  • May help hay fever symptoms
  • Aids in healing skin abrasions


  • Tablet.
  • Capsule.
  • Soft gel.
  • Liquid.
  • Powder.
  • Cream.
  • Lozenge.
  • Dried and fresh pollen.


  • People with asthma or allergies to bee stings should be very careful when using bee products, and should avoid royal jelly entirely
  • Reminder:  If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements

How to take it?


The amount of bee pollen needed to relieve allergy symptoms varies from person to person. In general, start with a few granules a day and increase the dose gradually until you’re up to 1-3 rounded teaspoons a day.

Guidelines for use:

Before the hay fever season, start taking very small amounts of bee pollen each day - a few granules or a portion of a tablet. If you don’t suffer any adverse reaction, slowly increase your dosage until you experience relief from allergy symptoms. Take bee pollen supplements with plenty of water; you can also mix dried or fresh pollen with juice or sprinkle it over food.

Possible side effects

Because some individuals will have an allergic reaction to bee pollen, begin with a small amount so that you can determine if it will have an adverse effect on you. Watch for hives, itchy throat, skin flushing, wheezing or headache. Stop taking it immediately if any of these side effects occur.

Case Study

A Killer Drink
From childhood, Peter H knew he was allergic to bee stings and avoided the buzzing, venom carrying insects like the plague. But, surprisingly, it was a health food drink that almost killed him.

As was his habit, Peter often skipped lunch while he worked and then stopped at a health food shop on the way home for a quick pick me up.

On the fateful day, he took the advice of an enthusiastic sales person and ordered ‘The High Energy Smothie’, a special new yoghurt drink. Little did he realize it contained a generous scoop of some energizing bee product in addition to the touted ginseng, spirulina and wheat grass.

The last thing Peter remembers about his close brush with oblivion was ‘putting the glass to my lips’. When he woke, he found himself in an intensive care unit recovering from anaphylactic shock. His advice to others with a bee allergy;’ Watch those energy drinks. They can be lethal.’