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Bee Pollen for Cancer

By Shamala Pulugurtha

Cancer is currently responsible for one out of every four deaths in United States, reports an article published in the June 2011 issue of the journal “CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.” The disease occurs when the cells of the body divide rapidly but do not die as quickly. It can affect any organ in the body and lead to life-threatening complications. Treatment generally involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Certain supplements and natural products such as bee pollen may also help manage cancer.

Bee Pollen

Bee pollen is a combination of flower pollen and nectar collected by the worker bees. It is gathered for commercial use from the entrance of the hives. Bee pollen is a rich source of several vitamins and minerals along with carbohydrates and proteins, and is often used as a nutritional supplement. It is also a powerful antioxidant and can help prevent or treat alcoholism, allergies, prostatitis and diabetes. The supplements are available as tablets, granules, jellies and capsules. No clinical trials have determined the optimum dosage and form of bee pollen, but your health-care provider may help establish a regimen that is right for you.

Role on Cancer

Bee pollen extracted from Cystus incanus and Salix alba plants may reduce the chromosome damage to healthy cells induced by chemotherapy medications, according to a study published in the September 2010 issue of the “European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.” Thus, it may be used as a food supplement for cancer patients, the authors of the study say. Another study, published in the November 2007 issue of the journal “Phytotherapy Research,” found that steroids extracted from the bee pollen of the Brassica campestris plant promote apoptosis, or programmed cell death, of human prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. Several phenolic compounds isolated from the Cystus incanus plant can help stabilize free radicals and prevent them from damaging the DNA and proteins of healthy cells, and thereby lowering the risk of cancer, says a study in the March 2009 issue of the journal “Food and Chemical Toxicology.” However, the benefits of bee pollen have been proven in laboratory animals only.

Side Effects

Bee pollen supplements are generally safe to use, although allergic reactions characterized by headache, swelling, sneezing and upset stomach may occur. Scientific experiments have not identified the drug interactions and toxicity of the supplements. However, individuals with allergies to bee stings and ragweed and intolerance to honey should avoid bee pollen, says the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.


You do not need a prescription to buy bee pollen supplements, but talk to a doctor before using them. The Food and Drug Administration does not monitor bee pollen supplements sold in the United States, so make sure that the product has been tested for safety by an independent testing agency such as the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.

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