What’s the Buzz?
The human race will die within four years if the bee population dies—fact or fiction? Considering bees are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of growing things, this statement seems to lean toward fact. And since bee pollen is this month’s superfood, we’d better be sure bees stick around!
Origin of bee pollen
Let’s break down what bee pollen is. Pollen—dubbed by the Greeks and Romans as “lifegiving dust”—comes from the male seeds of flowers, fruits, and crops, and is required for fertilization.
When a honeybee gets into a flower, it scrapes off the loose pollen with its jaws and front legs. While this happens, the bee moistens the pollen with honey brought along from the hive. The claw segment on the bee’s leg contains bristles known as pollen combs. A bee will use this to brush the powder from its coat and legs during the flight back to the hive. It will then use its auricle (hind leg) to push pollen into pollen baskets, surrounded by long hairs.
Once the bee is back at the hive, the pollen is passed off to a worker bee that will pack it with its head in a cell within the hive. The pollen is then mixed with nectar, enzymes, and bacteria that turn it into bee pollen, now higher in nutrition than the untreated pollen. The hive will use this as its primary source of protein.
The most puzzling thing about bee pollen is that it cannot be recreated in a lab. In fact, when researchers attempted to feed bees manmade pollen, the bees died. Researchers say there is an extra ingredient added to the pollen, which could also be the reason it is such a good ingredient to fight diverse health conditions.
Nutritious and delicious
Beekeepers native to the Caucasus Mountains (near the Black Sea and Caspian Sea) have been living on a honey-rich diet with bee pollen for years. These people have been studied and have shown to be in fine health, often living to be 100 or older. Pharaohs must have recognized the powers of it too, because they were entombed with the pollen. Even Native American and Chinese populations have used it for an assortment of ailments.
These days, we use it for the healing and rejuvenation properties it gives the body. Bee pollen contains a higher concentration of rejuvenating elements than brewer’s yeast and wheat germ, and is said to correct deficient and unbalanced nutrition. But these are not the reasons it’s labeled a superfood.
Bee pollen is considered one of nature’s most complete nourishing foods and contains nearly all the nutrients needed for the human body, according to the USDA. In Chinese medicine it is considered an energy and a nutritive tonic. Other cultures have seen the effect bee pollen has on the body:
• Improves endurance and vitality
• Extends longevity
• Aids in recovery from chronic illness
• Adds weight during convalescence
• Reduces cravings and addictions
• Regulates intestines
• Builds new blood
• Helps prevent infectious diseases like the cold and flu
• Helps overcome development problems
This list could go on. Though most of these health claims cannot be fully confirmed by studies, many cultures believe all this magic lies within the pollen.
What we do know is that it is rich in proteins, free amino acids, vitamins, lipids, folic acid, and is the only plant source that contains vitamin B12. It is also a richer source of protein than any animal source and contains more amino acids by weight than beef, eggs, or cheese. Bee pollen has been said to help the body prevent cancer and arthritis because of the hundreds of enzymes it contains. Even skincare companies are looking for ways to use pollen in their products because it’s been known to heal wounds and acne.
How to use bee pollen
First and foremost you need to find high quality, fresh pollen. It should be soft and fragrant without being pasteurized or heated. Heating causes it to lose nutrient value and destroys active enzymes. Typical pollen colors are yellow, orange, or brown.
Pollen also has different tastes. This depends on the source the pollen is from. Some nectar will be sweet with a nut-like flavor while others are a bit bitter.
Keep in mind that honey, honeycomb, bee venom, and royal jelly do not contain bee pollen. Bee pollen can be found in granule form, but also capsules and tablets. These items can be found at most health food stores.
There are many ways to use pollen once your body is accustomed to it. Try powdering one or two ounces of bee pollen and add it to cinnamon. Stir the mixture in with vegetable juices or water sweetened with raw honey. It’s a great ingredient to add to salad dressings. Pollen could also be used in a fruit smoothie; sprinkled on pancakes, toasted waffles, or peanut butter toast; or added to granola.
Though there is plenty to recommend about bee pollen, allergies can be an issue for some. This is why it is highly recommended to have a test period and slowly work bee pollen granules into your everyday life. In order to test for allergic reactions, start slowly. Ingest one pellet at a time and gradually build up over the course of a week or two.
Another way to test your sensitivity to pollen is a tolerance test. First, place one raw bee pollen granule under your tongue and let it dissolve completely—this allows it to absorb through your mucous membrane and directly into your bloodstream. Then, if you have no reaction, place two granules under your tongue. Continue to increase the number of granules until you feel confident that there is no allergic reaction. If you react in any way, stop ingesting the pollen and seek medical help if the reaction is severe.
Not sure you have an allergy? Here are some of the regular symptoms: sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy throat, and cough. Pollen allergies can also trigger or worsen asthma and lead to sinus infections or ear infections. If any of these symptoms appear, immediately discontinue use of bee pollen.
Albert Einstein once wrote, “No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” Bees and the pollen they collect are vitally important—not only for our bodies, but for the world.