Background: Physicians who practice alternative medicine often prescribe bee pollen as a food supplement and a treatment for various ailments.
Objectives: To determine the qualitative and quantitative composition of bee pollen and to investigate the cutaneous reactivity of atopic patients to bee pollen extracts.
Methods: The absolute number of pollen grains per gram of bee pollen was calculated, and morphologic identification of the botanical family was performed. Five extracts of bee pollen were prepared for skin prick testing, according to standard methods. Two hundred two volunteers participated in the study; 145 were atopic patients with respiratory allergy. The remaining 57 were healthy volunteers or nonatopic patients and served as a control group. All participants underwent skin prick testing with a standard battery of 6 aeroallergens (olive, grasses mix, Parietaria, mugwort, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, and Dermatophagoides farinae) and with all homemade bee pollen extracts.
Results: All samples of bee pollen contained Oleaceae pollen in high concentrations. Small amounts of anemophilous pollen (Compositeae, Chenopodiaceae) were detected in various samples. A strong positive correlation was observed between cutaneous reactivity to bee pollen extracts and olive, grasses, and mugwort.
Conclusions: Bee pollen contains a large amount of pollen, which belongs to various allergenic families of plants. Bee pollen retains its allergenic potential as demonstrated by strong cutaneous responses to bee pollen extracts observed in atopic patients in contrast to nonatopic subjects. Regarding pollen allergic individuals, further studies are needed to evaluate the safety of ingesting large amounts of bee pollen.