Bee Pollen

Bee PollenBee Pollen Bees are busy creatures aren’t they?  Moving from flower to flower to gather nectar to make honey, they were considered the symbol of industry by the early settlers of Utah, who adopted the beehive as a state symbol.

In their business (in other words, busy-ness), bees collect more than nectar when they’re visiting those flowers.  They’re also collecting pollen. Pollen is part of the reproductive system of flowers. It’s the “male” part of the reproductive system of flowering plants, meaning pollen is for plants what sperm is for animals.  Pollen fertilizes the ovaries of flowers so they develop fruits and seeds.

There are two types of pollen, anemophile or wind-loving pollen, and entomophile or insect-loving pollen.  Anemophile pollen comes from plants like conifers and grasses.  This is the allergy causing pollen that so many hay fever sufferers hate.  It is spread by blowing wind and is not collected by bees.  Entomophile pollen is heavier, stickier and more nutritious than anemophile pollen.  In fact, it is heavy enough that bees and other insects must carry it from plant to plant.

Bees are pollenaters, meaning they help plants to spread pollen around so that the plants can reproduce.  In the process, however, they bring some of this pollen back to the hive. Bees use pollen for food and some of it gets mixed with the honey, too, giving the honey added nutritional value.

Nutritional Value of Bee Pollen

Pollen has been considered the perfect food by some health writers, who claim that it contains trace amounts of every nutrient the body needs. Bee Pollen contains at least 22 amino acids, 18 vitamins, 25 minerals, 59 trace elements, 11 enzymes or co-enzymes, 14 fatty acids and 11 carbohydrates. It is about 25% protein, containing all the essential amino acids.  It is high in B-complex vitamins and carotenoids, the precursers to vitamin A.  In fact, the only thing pollen doesn’t have when it comes to nutrition is a lot of calories; the calories are in the honey. 

All this goodness was not wasted on the ancients.  In India, Egypt and Peru there are buildings from past cultures that are carved with tributes to the honey bee and its products.  Religious and secular texts from all over the world attest to the importance of bees.  In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), honey is known asFeng Mi. It is known to nourish yin energy and strengthen the ability of the body to digest and process nutrition, which is the Chinese “spleen” energy.

The greatest benefits from honey are derivied from raw honey that contains some of the pollen and propolis.  Propolis is a resin which bees gather from trees and use as a disinfectant. It’s a great immune-boosting remedy for people who are fighting infections, too.  Unprocessed, raw honey is very different than refined sugar because of the vitamins and minerals and the pollen and propolis it contains.  I love Really Raw honey, which still contains some of these wonderful health-giving substances.

Benefits of Bee Pollen

Returning to our main topic, bee pollen has been used as a tonic for athletes, to increase energy and stamina. It also improves breathing and aids muscle tone.  In 1957, Dr. Remy Chauvin found that bee pollen regulated the action of the intestines and reduced levels of diarrhea and constipation, produced a rapid increase in blood hemoglobin in anemic children, encouraged increased weight and energy in convalescence and had a tranquilizing effect with no side effects.  Though there is no definite scientific reason, most researchers believe that the benefits associated with use of bee pollen come from its high nutritional value.

Plant foods high in amino acids, like bee pollen, spirulina and blue-green algae, have all been used to balance blood sugar, improve energy and increase mental activity. So bee pollen or raw honey containing bee pollen can be used as a quick pick-me-up to bring up low blood sugar and energy levels.

One of the interesting uses for bee pollen is to help desensitize the body to allergies to pollen.  It is semi-homeopathic in this use, meaning that injesting a small amount actuall helps desensitize the body so the immune system doesn’t over-react to the pollen.  This effect works best, however, when the pollen is collected by local bees, so it contains the pollen granules from your local area.  Unfiltered local honey will also help.  The key is to start with a very small amount and gradually increase the dose.

Bee pollen is also reported to increase the immune system’s awareness and allows the body to quickly identify harmful substances and microorganisms that may otherwise cause damage to the body.  It may help the body detoxify from common chemical pollutants like lead, mercury, DDT, cadmium, nitrates and components of smog such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Bee Pollen is an ingredient in ENERG-V, a formula for enhancing energy and staminia.  It’s also present in Target Endurance, a formula that increases energy production inside the cells. It’s also found in MetaboMax, GreenZone and NutriCalm. 

As a supplement, people generaly take one or two capsules of bee pollen with meals two times daily, usually at breakfast and lunch. Pollen tastes pretty good, so you can also sprinkle pollen onto other foods to add a sweet, nutty flavor.  If taking pollen for allergies, open the capsules and start by taking one or two grains of pollen each day and gradually increase the dose.

Selected References

“Bee Pollen” by Nancy Baird in The Herbalist (August, 1977).
Fighting Radiation with Foods, Herbs, & Vitamins
 by Steven Schechter and Tom Monte 
“Not Just From Bees Anymore” by Robert Kay in Healthy and Natural Journal(Vol. 2, No. 3).
“Royal Food from the Honeybee” by Susan Smith Jones in The Herbalist(November, 1979). 
“Welcome to the Pollen Nation” by Steven R. Schecter in Healthy and Natural Journal (Vol. 2, No. 3).

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