When most people think of allergens, they create a mental list containing things like ragweed, dust and, of course, pollen.
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Allergy sufferers know all too well how these irritants get up their noses, causing fits of sneezing and coughing and making them feel generally unwell. It may surprise many, who have long cursed anything in the pollen family as an evil component that causes hours of misery, that bee pollen can actually have a curative effect on allergies, reducing the sniffles and sneezes that keep you up at night and make your days in nature less than brilliant.
What Is Bee Pollen?
Bee pollen is a substance that comes from the bodies of bees. This substance, which is often consumed as a food, contains a host of antioxidants and vitamins. Bee pollen is harvested directly from hives, and harvesting poses no risk to the bees themselves. Bee pollen can contain trace amounts of bee saliva. Bee pollen is often confused with other bee-related products, including honey, bee venom and honeycomb. The similar products neither contain any bee pollen nor offer the same health benefits as bee pollen.
How Is It Used?
Bee pollen is available in a variety of forms and is used as a supplement, to prevent the development of medical issues or reduce the severity of chronic ones – like allergies. The method of bee pollen consumption most appropriate for you will depend on the type of bee pollen you elect to consume.
Always follow package directions when available as, although natural, bee pollen can have adverse effects if used incorrectly or to excess. Additionally, heed any expiration dates on bee pollen you are using.
What Does It Do?
When you consume bee pollen, you help your body build up a resistance to this and similar products. Your body has an immune response to this common allergen and, in doing so, builds up antibodies that can help you fight off other allergy attacks in the future. Like manufactured anti-histamines, bee pollen consumption results in a drop in histamine within your body. Because of its similarity to anti-histamine, bee pollen can help with more than just allergies. It can actually have positive effects for sufferers of asthma and those prone to the development of sinus infections as well.
Is It Safe?
Bee pollen is generally believed to be safe. Medical professionals do warn that you should use this remedy with caution if you are specifically allergic to pollen, however. Some people with acute pollen allergies experience serious allergic reactions when taking bee pollen. These reactions can include shortness of breath, hives or even, in the most serious cases, anaphylaxis. As with any treatment you are considering, you should always speak to your doctor before starting a bee pollen regimen.
Additionally, bee pollen use has been tied to increased bleeding if taken in conjunction with blood thinners. The use of bee pollen during pregnancy or breastfeeding is not recommended, so expectant and new mothers should seek an alternative treatment.
Is There More Than One Kind?
While there aren’t generally marketed varieties of bee pollen, it does come in more than one form. It can come in pill, powder, liquid or granule form. Bee pollen purists argue that consuming it in its natural granular form is the most effective way to reap the benefits of bee pollen.
Bee pollen can also be found in an array of products, usually sold at health food stores. Bee pollen is often added to natural dietary supplements. Creams for use in treatment of diaper rash and eczema also often contain bee pollen.
How Do I Take It?
Your method for bee pollen consumption will depend on the type of bee pollen you elect to use. If using a processed pill or powder, consult package directions for best methods of consumption and appropriate amounts.
The most natural way to consume bee pollen is orally intake of granules. The granules have a generally pleasant taste and can be consumed by themselves or, more commonly, added to foods you are already consuming, such as yogurt or cereal.
To ready your body for regular bee pollen consumption and reduce the likelihood of severe side effects if you have bee pollen intolerance, it’s best to start small when taking it. If using granules, begin with a small amount – about half a teaspoon. Consume this amount for several days and, if you notice no adverse effects, start adding more bee pollen into your diet. Work up to anywhere from one to three tablespoons over the course of a month.
Some foods help your body absorb the bee pollen more effectively and more rapidly. Consume your bee pollen with fruit whenever you can, as the fibers in the fruit help activate the pollen and can aid in cleansing your digestive tract – an additional, advantageous, benefit.
If you suspect that you may have bee pollen intolerance and want to test prior to beginning your regimen, place a few granules in your mouth and wait a few minutes. If you don’t experience any adverse effects, chew and swallow the granules. Pay attention to your body for the next day or so to see if you notice any issues. If you do, do not move forward with your plan to add bee pollen to your diet.
How Do I Store It?
If you are using a powdered or pill form of bee pollen, follow package instructions in regards to storage to ensure that you don’t inadvertently impact the integrity of the bee pollen.
When using granules, special attention must be paid to storage to ensure that bee pollen retains its beneficial properties. Store it in the refrigerator, as it is highly perishable. Both sunlight and heat can diminish the nutritional value of bee pollen, so avoid direct exposure to heat and light at all times, even while you are using your bee pollen. If you store your bee pollen properly, it has a long shelf life. You can expect it to last approximately a year in the proper conditions.
Are There Other Benefits?
As with many natural supplements, many of the purported benefits of bee pollen are not clinically proven. Some state that bee pollen can help with general health maintenance, reduce stomach problems and even aid in the treatment of alcoholism. Some also claim that bee pollen can help reduce the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Many naturalists claim that bee pollen can help increase athletic performance.
Because the use of bee pollen for the treatment of these conditions has not been proven, you should exercise caution and perhaps not depend on bee pollen alone as your treatment option. As with anything, always consult your doctor prior to use and if you experience any side effects after you start your bee pollen regimen.