Is Bee Pollen Useful For Managing Women’s Health?
Brittney Brito, Chloe Munroe, & Emma Wynn
Bee pollen is a supplement most often used to treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms, allergic rhinitis, prevent premature aging, and improve stamina.  Although the mechanism of action behind symptom relief is largely unknown, it is thought that bee pollen has hypolipidemic effects.  The reduction of lipid and triacylglycerol levels in the plasma affects the concentration of several other hormones, including testosterone and estradiol.  Bee pollen is well tolerated in most patients but should be avoided in those with pollen allergies. The most common allergic reactions include rashes, swelling, and difficulty breathing.  It should also be avoided in pregnant women and patients taking warfarin since bee pollen can increase the risk of bleeding.  This poster aims to summarize the results of studies testing bee pollen’s effectiveness in reducing PMS and menopausal symptoms.
One study aimed to determine if Femal, a supplement containing bee pollen, reduces hot flashes in menopausal women.  This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial included 64 menopausal women. They took either 2 Femal tablets or 2 placebo tablets every morning for 16 weeks. Patients took a survey every 4 weeks that had them rank their symptoms on a menopause rating scale (MRS). Scores showed a statistically significant reduction in hot flash symptoms in the bee pollen group compared to the placebo group.  The trial concluded that daily supplementation of Femal reduces hot flash symptoms in menopausal women compared to placebo. However, it is worth noting that this study had a very small sample size, high attrition rate, and it makes overly summative claims regarding background characteristics.
A second study looked to determine whether bee pollen is efficient in alleviating menopausal symptoms in patients under treatment with tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors/inactivators.  This prospective, randomized crossover trial comparing bee pollen-honey mixture to pure honey included 46 German women with breast cancer. Patients in each arm received 1 tablespoon of each intervention daily for 14 days with a 14-day washout in between use of pure honey or bee pollen-honey mixture. Patients were stratified based on which cancer therapy they were receiving at the time. The primary outcome was the improvement of menopausal symptoms assessed using the Menopausal Rating Scale. In total, 31 patients completed both arms of treatment. Results showed improvements in menopausal symptoms for both bee pollen-honey mixture (70.9%) and pure honey (68.3%).  However, the difference of improvement between the interventions was not statistically significant.  The authors concluded that a bee pollen-honey mixture was shown to help reduce menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients, however, compared to placebo (honey) there was no significant difference.
A third study in Norway and Denmark examined if Femal bee pollen could reduce PMS-related sleep disturbances (PSD) and PMS symptoms.  Women with PMS were recruited to a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. They were divided into two groups and treated with oral placebo for 5 menstrual cycles or oral placebo for one cycle followed by oral Femal for 4 cycles. Investigators assessed the reduction in PMS symptoms using the Steiner scale and in PSD using a visual analog scale. Femal was associated with a significant decrease of PSD compared to placebo, and this effect was even greater in the irritability-dominant subgroup.  Only patients with irritability-dominant symptoms experienced a significant reduction in PMS symptoms compared to placebo.  This study only evaluated one formulation of bee pollen. In addition, the study relied heavily on patient-reported data. The study size was also small, with only 101 participants. Results obtained by this study may only be generalizable to European women. In conclusion, Femal bee pollen was shown to be beneficial in reducing PMS-related sleep disturbances and irritability-dominant PMS symptoms.
Overall, studies indicate that supplements containing bee pollen may be effective at reducing PMS-related irritability and sleep disturbance symptoms as well as hot flashes in menopausal women. [3,5] This benefit does not appear to extend to cancer patients experiencing menopausal symptoms caused by cancer treatment.  However, these studies had several limitations including small sample size, short duration of treatment, and lack of generalizability to all patients. In order to more clearly ascertain if there is a true benefit to bee pollen supplementation, more research would have to be done. Bee pollen has a good safety profile and appears to be well tolerated in most women. Thus, bee pollen is a low-risk, possibly effective alternative for women burdened by specific PMS or menopausal symptoms.
- Natural Medicines Database https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.ezproxy.lib.utah.edu/databases/food,-herbs–supplements/professional.aspx?productid=78#scientificName
- Komosinska-VassevK, Olczyk P, Kaźmierczak J, Mencner L, Olczyk K. Bee pollen: chemical composition and therapeutic application. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:297425. doi:10.1155/2015/297425
- Winther K, Rein E, Hedman C. Femal, aherbal remedy made from pollen extracts, reduces hot flushes and improves quality of life in menopausal women: a randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel study. Climacteric. 2005 Jun;8(2):162-70. doi: 10.1080/13697130500117987. PMID: 16096172
- Münstedt K, Voss B, Kullmer U, Schneider U, Hübner J. Bee pollen and honey for the alleviation of hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients. Mol Clin Oncol. 2015 Jul;3(4):869-874. doi: 10.3892/mco.2015.559. Epub 2015 May 4. PMID: 26171198; PMCID: PMC4486804. CopyDownload .nbib Format
- Gerhardsen G, Hansen AV, Killi M, Fornitz GG, Pedersen F, Roos SB. The efficacy of Femal in women with premenstrual syndrome: a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, multicentre study. Adv Ther. 2008 Jun;25(6):595-607. doi: 10.1007/s12325-008-0072-4. PMID: 18568441.