What comes to mind when you think of the humble honeybee? Probably honey, right? Honey is nature's liquid gold and for good reason. Not only is it a natural sweetener, but it also boosts a range of medicinal benefits. It has been used medicinally since early human civilization to help heal wounds, prevent infections, and treat symptoms of the common cold. Honey is widely recognized by the scientific community for its anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. (Source
The Importance Of The Honeybee
The honeybee's importance to our ecosystem is one of the fundamental reasons industrial agriculture has been able to survive over the years. Bees are responsible for pollinating over 100 of the widely cultivated foods our society relies on -- such as apples, almonds, broccoli, strawberries, and blueberries. Orchardists and farmers actually contract out the work of pollinating their crops. Beekeepers can mobilize their hives and bring them in during the pollinating season. Subsequently, harvesting honey and other bee products enable these beekeepers to draw a livelihood from this work. Even though honey is the most common product we associate with bees, a lesser known (but no less important) product gathered by bees is bee pollen. In fact, we can attribute many of the health benefits of raw, unfiltered honey to bee pollen! The life of a bee starts with a feast on bee pollen. When honey is unheated and unfiltered, many of the sediments, like a honeycomb, propolis, and pollen, remain. These sediments are where the trace-nutrients lie.
How Is Bee Pollen Gathered?
The life of a bee starts with a feast on bee pollen. When honey is unheated and unfiltered, many of the sediments, like a honeycomb, propolis, and pollen, remain. These sediments are where the trace nutrients lie. Bees harvest bee pollen from the anthers of seed plants. When the bees gather the pollen, they mix it with nectar or a small secretion from their salivary glands. Then, they tuck it behind their hind legs into what you might refer to as little saddlebags. Subsequently, they transport their precious bounty back to the hive where it's fragmented into separate honeycomb cells by the flightless worker bees. Each cell is carefully sealed off with a thin layer of honey and wax. This substance which has been created by the worker bees undergoes a process of anaerobic fermentation. Thanks to lactic acid, this "bee bread" is preserved and acts as the main protein source for the bee colony. Bee pollen is one of the main ingredients that form the sustenance of a hive.
How Is Bee Pollen Harvested By Beekeepers?
Beekeepers attach little pollen traps to the entrance points of the hive. As the bee re-enters the hive with their collection, the pollen trap gently scrapes some of the pollen from the bee's legs. Next, the pollen is collected on a separate tray or another catchment below the hive for easy harvest. Harvesting bee pollen in this way mobilizes the bees and encourages the number of flights and foragers. National data
has shown beehives can produce anywhere from 1 kilogram to 7 kilograms of bee pollen each year, averaging around 50 to 250 grams a day.
The Different Kinds of Bee Pollen
The quality and composition of particular bee pollen vary depending on geographical location, plant source, climate conditions, soil type, and the type of bee. Pollen grains vary from plant to plant and range in size, color, shape, and weight. Most noteworthy are the variances in color of bee pollen. Colors can range from bright yellow or orange to even black!
What's So Special About Bee Pollen?
As a building block for a bee colony, bee pollen is abundant in protein -- around 22.7% (source
). These include a variety of essential amino acids -- proteins the body cannot synthesize on its own. Remarkably, bee pollen it consists of over 200 substances, including amino acids, essential fatty acids, a wide spectrum of vitamins, micronutrients, and flavonoids. Research has highlighted some unique healing and nutritional properties of bee pollen as well.
#1 -- Bee Pollen May Help With Detoxification.
suggest bee pollen is an effective tool in detoxing the body from toxic substances. In one example, rats were given organic solvents and administered bee pollen. The bee pollen helped lower the blood serum levels of these substances and protected the liver cells from their harmful effects. These studies acknowledge the potential detoxifying potential of bee pollen and bee bread in heavy metal contamination, occupational diseases, industrial gases and dust, and drugs (source
#2 -- Bee Pollen Shows Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Potential.
A research paper
reviewing the literature on bee pollen states, "Its magnitude is compared to such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] as naproxen, analgin, phenylbutazone, or indomethacin." Clinical studies
have shown a powerful effect of bee pollen for sufferers of non-bacterial prostate inflammation. Patients experienced almost complete pain relief when administered bee pollen. Other studies
suggest it may be a promising treatment for prostate cancer and in strengthening the body's resistance against cytotoxicity. Another study
showed the potential of bee pollen to ameliorate the inflammatory effects of neurotoxic agents.
#3 -- Bee Pollen Can Help With Seasonal Allergies.
Seasonal allergy sufferers may already be aware of this well-known use for bee pollen. It's said to protect cells from releasing histamine which is what instigates allergic reactions (source
). Bee pollen protects mast cells of the organisms from degranulation --
the process that releases histamine which is the instigator of allergic reactions. For this to be effective, however, the bee pollen must be locally sourced and administered several weeks prior to the pollination season. Mixing honey with bee pollen may also increase the healing potential of honey and provide additional support for its traditional medical uses (source
#4 -- Bee Pollen Is A Valuable Source of Nutrients.
suggest bee pollen's potential in restoring nutrient levels in both children and adults who are malnourished or struggle with a loss of appetite during post-surgery recovery. By improving blood supply to nervous tissue, bee pollen can help to improve mental performance and strengthen the nervous system when threatened by tiredness and exhaustion (source
). This can be a valuable tool for sufferers of depression in enabling improved moods and physical strength.
How To Use Bee Pollen
Wilderness Family Naturals stocks two kinds of bee pollen -- Powdered Bee Pollen
and Bee Pollen Granules
. Powdered bee pollen may be added to smoothies
or in baking when you want an extra nutrient boost. A little goes a long way! Bee pollen granules may be sprinkled on yogurt, granola
, chia pudding, or smoothie bowls.
Have you tried bee pollen before? What's your favorite way to consume bee pollen?