Substances derived from bees include bee pollen, royal jelly and propolis.
Bee pollen can come from a variety of plants and may include pollen to which people are commonly allergic ( e.g., ragweed pollen ).
Royal jelly consists of the secretions of the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands of worker bees. Propolis substrates are collected from poplar resin and conifer buds and are mixed with wax by bees.
These substances are marketed alone or in combination products under various trade names and are indicated for multiple uses, from general health tonics to allergy and asthma treatment.
From Jan. 1, 1998, to Oct. 30, 2004, Health Canada received 14 reports of suspected adverse reactions involving bee products; 10 were considered serious.
Four of the adverse reactions were suspected allergic reactions: acute oral and laryngotracheal edema with respiratory distress; suspected autoimmune hepatitis; edema, rash and hives; and a questioned allergic reaction with chest pain.
Other serious reactions were bleeding, hepatitis and seizures.
Causality could not be assigned specifically to the bee product in many of the cases because of confounding factors such as pre-existing medical conditions, concomitant drug use or other suspect components of the product in question.
Allergic reactions involving products derived from bees have been documented in the literature.
The literature also suggests that there is no direct correlation between sensitivity to bee venom ( stings ) and sensitivity to bee products.
Products containing bee pollen, royal jelly or propolis are readily available to the public; however, they often do not have a label warning of possible adverse reactions.
The public and health care practitioners should be aware of the risk of allergic reactions to products derived from bees. It has been reported that atopic and asthmatic individuals may be at an increased risk of allergic reactions, possibly anaphylaxis, after ingestion of products containing royal jelly.
Individuals with seasonal allergic rhinitis ( e.g., pollen allergies ) may also be at an increased risk for similar serious allergic reactions to bee pollen.
Source: Health Canada, 2005