You and your patients no doubt already know about the various health benefits of honey.
Such potential benefits include: A topical treatment for burns and wounds; a way to combat allergies (provided it is honey from bees local to your area); treatment for acid reflux; and a means to fight certain types of infections.1,2 In fact, the health benefits of honey have been documented as far back as the Sumerians (circa. 2100-2000 BC), which may also explain why it is a staple ingredient in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine.
However, you and your patients may not be aware that bee pollen also has health benefits for your patients. Some recent interesting research appears to show that bee pollen may have its own health benefits, unique from honey.
What is bee pollen?
Bee pollen, as opposed to the pollen from individual flowers, is a unique mixture of pollen and nectar from the plants and flowers that the bee visits, along with bee saliva, all of which is formed into granules to become food.3 This is then harvested from the actual honeycombs.
If your patients are prone to allergies, they should take the same caution with bee pollen as they do with honey, in terms of trying to only use locally sourced products, as their immune system may react to non-local pollen.
General bee pollen benefits
Bee pollen often includes a large number of vitamins and minerals, depending on the composition of the various pollens.4 Some of these vitamins and minerals can include vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, folic acid, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper.
Additionally, bee pollen has a number of health-protective qualities that may make it an excellent general supplement for your patients. According to a 2016 general review in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, some of the benefits of bee pollen include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antibacterial, and antifungicidal effects.4
Bee pollen to treat malnourishment in the elderly
If you have elderly patients, you no doubt are aware of the difficulty that can sometimes come from ensuring that they are getting enough proper nourishment. This can often be compounded if they are in rehab following an injury or severe illness. While there are numerous high-nutrition bars and drinks on the market, many of these have excess sugar, calories, and chemical additives that your older patients really do not need.
A 2014 article in the journal Nutrients examined bee pollen as a potential solution to this dilemma.5 The researchers started with a group of older rats that were all malnourished due to having their food restricted for 12 weeks. All the rats showed both weight loss and reduction in lean muscle mass when their food access was restricted, and they became malnourished.
The researchers then attempted refeeding the rats with standard rat chow that had 0 percent, 5 percent, or 10 percent bee pollen supplements added in.5
They found that only the rats that were given the chow that included the 10 % bee pollen supplements showed successful refeeding, including weight gain and an increase in lean muscle mass.
If your patients are already aware of the health benefits of honey, getting them to add in bee pollen supplements should not be hard, as long as they ensure that the pollen is locally sourced. Additionally, bee pollen supplements should not be given to children under the age of one.
- Honey: Health benefits and uses in medicine. Medical News Today. Accessed 6/16/2017.
- Mandal, M. D., & Mandal, S. (2011). Honey: Its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 1(2), 154–160.
- Bee propolis. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Accessed 6/16/2016.
- Denisow B, Denisow-Pietrzyk M. (2016). Biological and therapeutic properties of bee pollen: A review. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 96(13), 4303–4309.
- Salles, J., Cardinault, N., Patrac, V., et al. (2014). Bee pollen improves muscle protein and energy metabolism in malnourished old rats through interfering with the mTOR signaling pathway and mitochondrial activity. Nutrients, 6(12), 5500–5516.