Category Archives: Focus on Food

Get the Buzz on Bee Pollen

Get the Buzz on Bee Pollen

Afraid of getting stung by an allergic response if you eat bee pollen? You might have reason to be afraid. Then again, you may find bee pollen to be one of the best foods you can add to your daily diet. Let’s find out.

Bee pollen is a mixture of flower pollen, nectar, enzymes, honey, wax and bee secretions, not to be confused with bee venom, honey or royal jelly.

Foraging honey bees collect pollen from plants and transport it to the beehive, where it’s stored and used as food for the colony. And, as research is beginning to reveal, bee pollen is not only a nourishing food for bees; it’s a great food for humans as well.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS

Bee pollen boasts an impressive nutritional profile. It contains over 250 biologically active substances, including proteins, carbs, lipids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants. Its granules consist of approximately:

  • Carbs: 40%
  • Protein: 35%
  • Water: 4–10%
  • Fats: 5%
  • Other substances, including vitamins, minerals, antibiotics and antioxidants: 5–15%

The pollen’s nutritional content, however, depends on the plant source and season collected. For instance, studies have shown that bee pollen collected from pine plants has approximately 7% protein, while pollen collected from date palm packs closer to 35% protein.

In addition, bee pollen harvested during springtime has a significantly different amino acid composition than pollen collected during the summer. By aligning with the seasonal harvests, as Ayurveda prescribes, consumers receive the protein building blocks and enzymes they need for each season of the year.

OVERALL HEALTH BENEFITS

Bee pollen delivers innumerable health benefits. Animal and test tube studies have validated some of them. While more testing on humans is required, if even half of the benefits attributed to this sweet supplement are proven scientifically, bee pollen is a worthwhile addition to every adult human’s diet. Here’s a quick review of potential benefits (see the Resource List at the end of this article for details).

  • Bee pollen contains a wide variety of antioxidants, which may protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals that are linked to chronic diseases, including cancer and type 2 diabetes.
  • Bee pollen may help lower heart disease risk factors such as “bad” LDL cholesterol and lipid oxidation.
  • Bee pollen may boost liver function and protect the liver from harmful substances.
  • Bee pollen antioxidants may have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce the severity and onset of allergies, promoting wound healing, reducing prostate inflammation and pain, and killing several harmful bacteria. Its antimicrobial properties may also prevent wound infections.
  • Bee pollen, particularly from local farmers, can actually help desensitize allergy sufferers to pollen when taken on a regular basis before allergy season begins. Note that it does not help with other non-pollen allergies. Ask your doctor before beginning treatment.
  • Bee pollen, administered alongside antidepressants, enables the lowering of doses and improves overall patient condition in a short period of time. Due to this fact, there are fewer cases of drug addictions or occurrences of side effects. Owing to its nutritional and tonic properties, as well as improvement of blood supply to nervous tissue, pollen boosts mental capacity and strengthens the nervous system weakened by stress or overworking.
  • Bee pollen may enhance the absorption and utilization of nutrients like iron, calcium and phosphorus. Proper nutrient absorption and balance helps regulate the body’s metabolism and supports longevity.

RISKS

Bee pollen supplements are generally safe to consume. However, people with pollen or bee sting allergies, pregnant or lactating women and people taking blood thinners, such as warfarin, should avoid it.

Bee pollen can cause a serious allergic reaction. Symptoms can include itching, swelling, shortness of breath, light-headedness, and severe whole-body reactions (anaphylaxis).

RECOMMENDED USAGE

If you are trying bee pollen for the first time or are unsure of whether you might be allergic to bees or pollen, I recommend starting small with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of ground granules with warm water or added to your breakfast oatmeal. Adults can slowly increase the dosage up to 1 or 2 tablespoons per day as your body (and constitution) allow. I always recommend taking nutrients as a food whenever possible for more effective absorption in your body, so I recommend granules over tablets.

The National Institute of Health recommends soaking bee pollen in warm water for 2-3 hours or grinding the granules before adding to warm water or meals. Cracking the granule shells increases bio-availability of the pollen by 60-80%. It is best to take bee pollen before meals.

Personally, I have been taking 2 tablespoons of ground bee pollen granules every morning for the past six weeks. It’s been a great source of protein and other nutrients that makes me feel stronger and more grounded. This response is no doubt a result of its sweet taste; in Ayurveda, the sweet taste adds earth and water to the diet, helping to balance the air, ether and fire of Vatas and Pittas or those with Vata and/or Pitta imbalances. I’ve also received several compliments about my now glowing skin! 

In summary, unless you have a pollen allergy or meet any of the other risk factors mentioned above, bee pollen is an easy (and tasty!) way to bump up your daily vitamin/mineral bouquet. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, bee pollen gives you an easy protein boost, plus added B and C Vitamins and iron. Best of all, when you eat bee pollen, you’re using a food provided by one of nature’s most reliable sources, the hard-working, life-giving honey bee. 

RESOURCES

Bioactive Compounds From Bee Pollen: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0731708517314528

Beeswax Benefits:  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bee-pollen

Bee Pollen Side Effects:  https://www.webmd.com/balance/bee-pollen-benefits-and-side-effects

What is Bee Pollen: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-78/bee-pollen

Science Behind Bee Pollen: https://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-bee-pollen

What an MD Wants You to Know About Taking Bee Pollen for Allergies: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/bee-pollen-for-allergies/

Bee Pollen – Chemical Composition & Therapeutic Application: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377380/

DISCLAIMER

The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at info@positivelyayurvedic.

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