Background: Bee pollen, a honeybee product, is the feed for honeybees prepared themselves by pollens collecting from plants and has been consumed as a perfect food in Europe, because it is nutritionally well balanced. In this study, we aimed to investigate the anti-inflammatory effect of bee pollen from Cistus sp. of Spanish origin by a method of carrageenan-induced paw edema in rats, and to investigate the mechanism of anti-inflammatory action and also to elucidate components involved in bee pollen extracted with ethanol.
Methods: The bee pollen bulk, its water extract and its ethanol extract were administered orally to rats. One hour later, paw edema was produced by injecting of 1% solution of carrageenan, and paw volume was measured before and after carrageenan injection up to 5 h. The ethanol extract and water extract were measured COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitory activities using COX inhibitor screening assay kit, and were compared for the inhibition of NO production in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 cells. The constituents of bee pollen were purified from the ethanol extract subjected to silica gel or LH-20 column chromatography. Each column chromatography fractions were further purified by repeated ODS or silica gel column chromatography.
Results: The bee pollen bulk mildly suppressed the carrageenan-induced paw edema and the water extract showed almost no inhibitory activity, but the ethanol extract showed relatively strong inhibition of paw edema. The ethanol extract inhibited the NO production and COX-2 but not COX-1 activity, but the water extract did not affect the NO production or COX activities. Flavonoids were isolated and purified from the ethanol extract of bee pollen, and identified at least five flavonoids and their glycosides.
Conclusions: It is suggested that the ethanol extract of bee pollen show a potent anti-inflammatory activity and its effect acts via the inhibition of NO production, besides the inhibitory activity of COX-2. Some flavonoids included in bee pollen may partly participate in some of the anti-inflammatory action. The bee pollen would be beneficial not only as a dietary supplement but also as a functional food.