Bee pollen, also referred to as bee bread, is a product created through the combined efforts of plants and bees. But where does bee pollen come from? It is collected from beehives and consumed as a nutritionally rich health supplement. It is used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions.
Where Does Bee Pollen Come From?
When asking the question where does bee pollen come from, it's important to note that bee pollen is not the same as plant pollen-the substance you are probably more familiar with from biology class and from your allergy nightmares.
Plant pollen is the male seed of flowers and is created by plants to spread and propagate their species. They are tiny particles formed in the heart of the flower blossom. Every variety of flower and many orchard fruits and agricultural food crops create dustings of pollen.
Forager bees from several bee species land on these plants to collect the pollen. As they travel from plant to plant, bees sprinkle pollen particles on other plants, pollinating them. Bees also keep pollen to bring back to their hives and use as their primary energy source.
When foraging bees bring the pollen back to the hive, they pass it off to other worker bees, who pack it into cells. The pollen is mixed with nectar and bee salivary secretions, creating what we know as bee pollen, or bee bread. This final substance becomes the primary source of protein for the hive.
What Are The Nutritional Components Of Bee Pollen?
Like honey, the exact chemical composition of bee pollen depends on what type of plants the worker bees are using as their pollen source. The bee pollen can also vary depending on time and geographic area of collection. Although there is no specific chemical composition, the average composition is usually 40-60% simple sugars (fructose and glucose), 20-60% proteins, 3% minerals and vitamins, 1-32% fatty acids, and 5% diverse other components. Bee pollen, much like honey, contains consistently low microbial biomass.
Nutrients commonly found in bee pollen include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B Complex
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Free amino acids
- Folic acid
- A variety of micronutrients
One of the most interesting facts about bee pollen is that it cannot be synthesized in a laboratory. Many chemical analyses of bee pollen have been made but there are still some elements in bee pollen that science cannot identify. The bees add some mysterious “extra” of their own. These unidentifiable compounds that scientists are still trying to identify could be the key to unlocking the many health benefits of bee pollen consumption.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Bee Pollen For Humans?
Now that we've answered the question, “where does bee pollen come from”, why do we collect bee pollen? And what does it do for us? Bee pollen has been employed by a variety of cultures in their traditional medicine. It is considered one of nature's most nourishing foods and contains a broad spectrum of the nutrients required by humans. About half of bee pollen protein is in the form of free amino acids ready for direct use by the body.
It is important to recognize that one teaspoon of bee pollen takes one bee working eight hours a day for one month to gather. Each bee pollen pellet contains over two million flower pollen grains and one teaspoonful contains over 2.5 billion grains of flower pollen. A tremendous amount of work has gone into the bee pollen by the time humans consume it, by both the pollinating plant, and the bees that transformed the pollen into its final form. This makes for a dense and potent potential nutritional supplement.
Correcting Nutritional Deficiencies
Some of the strongest connections researchers have been able to make between bee pollen and positive health benefits in humans are in reversing nutritional deficiencies. Bee pollen is effective at lessening gaps and shortcomings in the human diet.
Because of the bee pollen's completeness as a nutritious food, it can make up for much of the nutritional deficiencies and other diet-derived maladies growing increasingly common in the modern world. These benefits can be especially important in nursing mothers, growing children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.
The specific protein in bee pollen is useful for humans. Such highly assimilable protein can contribute significantly to a person's protein needs. Bee pollen contains more amino acids by volume than beef, eggs or cheese.
Longevity And Anti-Aging Benefits
Extensive research has been conducted on bee pollen and its potential benefits in geriatric medicine. It has shown the ability to slow down many harmful effects of the aging process when used regularly. In some cases, it is believed to have reversed problems often associated with aging.
Some benefits of bee pollen include cognitive improvements in areas like memory and concentration. Other benefits may include improved metabolism and cardiovascular function, two body processes that often degrade with age.
Bee pollen has also been used to decrease or reverse superficial signs of aging through its anti-oxidative properties. These improvements include the reduction of wrinkles and dark spots on the skin and a general improvement in the vitality and youthfulness of the skin's appearance.
When applied externally, bee pollen can revitalize and rejuvenate the complexion and may even help to reduce acne. Its antimicrobial qualities and its high concentration of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA can help to increase blood flow and rejuvenate damaged skin.
Antibacterial and Antibiotic Properties
Bee pollen exists in a preservative environment, meaning its composition hinders the growth of fungi and bacteria. The same conditions that allow you to keep a bottle of honey in your cupboard for months without it spoiling, allow bee pollen to remain safe for consumption for long periods of time.
The interaction of bee pollen with bacteria and other harmful organisms may go beyond not creating an environment conducive to their growth. Some elements present in bee pollen appear to exhibit antibacterial properties and might help prevent infectious diseases like the common cold or flu.
Some of these same qualities of bee pollen also make it effective in aiding recuperation from illness. Its use has shown to have a wide variety of positive impacts on the human immune system. Bee pollen supplementation has been shown to increase the efficacy and lessen the side effects associated with chemotherapy for cancer. Patients given bee pollen experienced less nausea, had higher antibody production and slept better during their treatments than a control group of chemotherapy patients.
Cardiovascular And Blood Function Improvements
Bee pollen has increased hemoglobin levels in patients suffering from anemia. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen to the body's organs and tissues and transports carbon dioxide from the organs and tissues back to the lungs. An increase in both white and red blood cells has been observed in patients while taking bee pollen.
It has also been shown to normalize blood serum cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol when taken regularly. Pollen products have been used in many cultures, including as a traditional Chinese tonic, to grow new blood cells and improve capillary strength.
Bee pollen is 15 percent lecithin by volume. Lecithin helps dissolve and flush fat from the body. This process helps lower low-density lipoproteins (LDL) while helping to increase the helpful high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the blood. Maintaining desirable ratios of LDL and HDL levels helps to protect against high cholesterol and heart disease.
Energy, Athletic Performance And Weight
Supplementing with bee pollen improves energy levels and metabolic function. Increases in strength and endurance in elite athletes have been associated with pollen supplementation. Renowned German naturalist Francis Huber called bee pollen “the greatest bodybuilder on Earth.”
Bee pollen is high in phenylalanine, a natural amino acid that the body requires and can act as an appetite suppressant. It acts on your appestat, the control center in the body that signals fullness and hunger. Phenylalanine is a similar substance to the man-made chemical present in many over-the-counter weight loss supplements.
Supplementing with bee pollen can reduce pollen allergies. In a process known as desensitization, small amounts of the allergen are administered to stimulate the patient's own immune system to produce antibodies that will eliminate the allergic reaction. It is a process similar to being vaccinated against infectious diseases.
The process of desensitization should be undertaken gradually and with supervision from a medical professional but studies show it can have lasting and significant positive effects on pollen allergy sufferers.
Is Bee Pollen Safe?
You should consult with your doctor or a medical professional before consuming any supplement. Unadulterated bee pollen is a natural substance that is generally assumed to be safe. People with severe pollen allergies should use caution when consuming bee pollen as large doses can cause anaphylactic shock and other allergic responses.
As with any other supplement, side effects can occur due to adulterations or harmful additives to the product. Make sure that your bee pollen is from a reputable source and is the genuine bee-gathered product.
The positive health benefits of bee pollen supplementation are wide ranging and still being explored by scientists and health professionals. This potent food and supplement, created through the hard work of plants and honey bees, has the potential to create positive change for humankind. Now you know how to answer the question “where does bee pollen come from” next time it's asked!