Recently we covered the numerous healthy benefits of bee pollen. Yet this powerful health promoter has additional benefits when it comes to hormones, fertility, and healthy aging.
Because it originates from plants, it’s natural that bee pollen contains some of the healthy components of the plant itself and its health benefits are somewhat dependent on the plant it comes from. To create bee pollen, the pollen from the plants is mixed with nectar and/or the saliva from the bees as it makes the trip back to the beehive. Once in the hive, it becomes fuel, so it has to be nutrient-rich, and this composition lends it to being a beneficial health food for (most) humans as well as bees.
Bee pollen contains carbohydrates, protein, and lipids, as well as important micronutrients including minerals and vitamins. Roughly 32.8 percent of dried pollen is protein, and it contains all the essential amino acids and is a rich source of the B-complex vitamins. Additionally, it has several key phytonutrients, including polyphenols and carotenoids, all of which might seem to work together to promote health and well being.
Bee pollen also has the power to interfere with the reproductive hormones, which can be beneficial in some cases and detrimental in others. One of the flavonoids found in bee pollen, chrysin, is an aromatase inhibitor. Aromatase is an enzyme that has many jobs in the body, including converting testosterone into estrogen. Inhibiting this enzyme can lead to higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of estrogen in women.
This result might be beneficial for those with high levels of estrogen or low levels of testosterone, but it can lead to health problems for those who already have normal levels. It might also exacerbate symptoms in women with high levels of testosterone and low levels of estrogen.
Consuming bee pollen might help in cases of infertility. One study with rats found that consuming bee pollen helped regulate ovarian functions. Rats consuming more than 5 kg per 1000 kg of feed mixture (11 pounds per 2,204 pounds) had an increased production of steroid hormones, namely estradiol and progesterone. They also had a reduction in the release of IGF-I. The study also found there was an increase of markers of apoptosis, which is another important regulator of the ovarian cycle. Another study performed on porcine ovarian granulosa cells in vitro confirmed the ability of bee pollen to regulate IGF-I, although the researchers did not see any significant change in progesterone levels.
Not only does bee pollen act as an aromatase inhibitor, which decreases estrogen production, but it also might affect estrogen activity, thanks to the phytoestrogens that could bind to estrogen receptors. One study found that bee pollen induced anti-estrogenic properties despite displaying no estrogenic activity. It remains to be answered whether this activity could be beneficial for estrogenic cancers and other health problems stemming from excess estrogen.
It might also help in cases of male infertility. A study on rats found that consuming chrysin provides benefits to the male reproductive system. Additionally, bee pollen can also help boost testosterone levels in men. One study found that chrysin helps increase steroidogenesis in Leydig cells from mice. The researchers postulated this was due to increased sensitivity of cAMP stimulation, which begins the process of steroidogenesis.
Studies have also found that consuming bee pollen has the potential to diminish menopausal symptoms. One study on women with breast cancer taking aromatase inhibitors and tamoxifen found that 70 percent of participants saw improvement in menopause symptoms through taking a bee pollen and honey concoction. This effect was similar to those who took just the honey but higher than the placebo.
Another study on postmenopausal women found that a mixture that includes bee pollen, royal jelly, and perga (fermented flower pollen) called Melbrosia might provide an alternative hormonal treatment to relieve menopause symptoms. Participants consumed Melbrosia for a period of 12 weeks, and there was a significant reduction in scores on three symptom questionnaires. The Kupperman Score decreased an impressive 16 points, which is similar to results using estrogen patches, gels, or intranasal preparations.
What does all of this mean? It means that bee pollen has the potential to disrupt hormones. This might provide help for hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone, high estrogen, and menopausal symptoms. However, for men and women with their hormones already in balance, this effect could create a negative shift that might induce symptoms. Therefore, care should be taken when consuming bee pollen, and it should be stopped if you notice any symptoms pointing to changes in your hormones. Always check with your healthcare practitioner on whether bee pollen is a good fit for you.