Honey has long been described as one of nature’s most perfect foods. One reason for this is that it is easily assimilated into the human body. Meanwhile, that other bee byproduct, pollen, mostly makes us think of sneezing. However, high quality bee pollen has an amino acid profile that would put many other foods to shame.
About Bee Pollen
The honeybee collects pollen from flowers and stores it on its legs for transport back to the hive. It might look like the pollen just sticks to their spindly appendages by magic or adhesion, and to be fair, they do get some help from static electricity. Still, they actually have little baskets on their legs called corbiculae.
They collect this pollen for food. It can be mixed with their own secretions and their colony’s honey to make a substance called bee bread. Unlike nectar or honey, which is high in carbohydrates, bee bread made from the pollen is a good source of protein. This is especially important to young bees.
So how does “bee pollen” differ from regular old plant pollen?
The truth is, there isn’t always a huge difference. The pollen bees collect may be mixed with their saliva, other secretions, or some nectar to help adhere the pollen grains together.
Or, bee pollen can actually refer to bee bread, where the honeybees have fully processed the pollen and packed into the honeycomb cell. To humans, this would be considered a higher-quality bee pollen product with numerous medicinal benefits.
On the other end of the quality spectrum, products called bee pollen get the title simply by virtue of the bee selecting and transporting that pollen grain. The pollen will be harvested from the bee’s legs as it enters the hive. This means that the chances of it being combined with bee enzymes are much lower.
Therefore, we can deduce that to get the benefits you’ve heard about, knowing the source of your bee pollen, as well as ensuring it is of good and sustainable quality, is very important.
Bee Pollen Benefits
Scientific evidence on the reported benefits of bee pollen is a little spare, although the nutritional profile can’t be denied. Bee pollen has been considered medicine by many populations for centuries, as it’s densely packed with protein, flavonoids, fatty acids, and some minerals.
1. Treating Seasonal Allergies
Local honey is often recommended to help reduce the severity of your seasonal allergies. The honey is effective for so many because it contains traces of pollen. Some report getting much better results from concentrated pollen as compared to the honey. Naturopaths often recommend pollen for all kinds of respiratory conditions.
2. Supporting the Immune System
Scientists have found something pretty interesting when examining bee pollen. In addition to featuring a good amount of antioxidants, pollen is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Some even suggest that it’s a natural antibiotic, and that it can be used to clear up conditions like Candida.
3. Reducing Inflammation
One of the biggest reasons we stock up on superfoods and supplements is to reduce inflammation, which is a major risk factor for numerous diseases. A few different animal studies show that bee pollen can work as well as OTC anti-inflammatory drugs, warranting further study on humans.
4. Soothing the Symptoms of Menopause
Mood swings, hot flashes, lack of libido – reducing the symptoms that come with major hormonal changes requires a lot of trial and error. One natural remedy to add to your to-try list is bee pollen. A German study finds that the majority of subjects with hormonal complaints found relief with few side effects.
5. Boosting the Metabolism
A lot of people report increased levels of energy while taking bee pollen. It’s very popular among athletes and gym devotees who want stamina and increased muscle mass. The hormone-balancing effects of pollen could be one reason why some people get leaner and more toned with it, although increased energy and amino acids likely also play a role.
6. Encouraging Liver Health
Animal studies suggest that bee pollen can help protect the liver from damage. It does so without the side effects found in pharmaceuticals designed to do the same. Since bee products such as pollen have been used for healing throughout history, it’s also been suggested that it can even help repair liver damage and facilitate natural detox.
Is Bee Pollen Right for You?
Bee pollen is not appropriate for use by pregnant women, or anyone with a bee allergy. Any pollen you buy shouldn’t be mixed with other suspect ingredients. In the past, supplements containing weight loss drugs have been mixed and marketed as bee pollen products.
There has also been discussion of pesticides, mercury, and heavy metals in bee pollen. This is another reason why it’s ideal that you research the source of any bee pollen you buy. How it’s processed after its collected also matters. Heat-treated pollen may not be as nutritionally dense, so others recommend you look for fresh or freeze-dried pollen grains.