Pollen is a product collected from many species of plants by honeybee (Apis millifera
) colonies. Collected bee pollen is among the oldest known dietary supplements, being used as a rejuvenating medicinal agent dating to the early Egyptians and ancient Chinese. It has been called many things, from a "fountain of youth" to "ambrosia of the gods." Hippocrates, used it as a healing substance some 2,500 years ago. Bee pollen is rich in vitamins, especially the B vitamins, and contains trace amounts of minerals, elements, amino acids, and enzymes. Again, the location and source of the pollen may cause variability in the vitamin/mineral content of bee pollen.
Bee pollen is composed of approximately 55% carbohydrates, 35% protein, 3% minerals and vitamins, 2% fatty acids, and 5% other substances. It contains antioxidants including flavonoids, beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, lycopene and selenium. Bee pollen does not have a wealth of scientific studies to support its use as a dietary supplement, yet anecdotal and traditional uses are favorable. Bee pollen has a wide range of health claims including enhancement of the immune system, allergy relief, increasing strength and sexual function, enhancing vitality and stamina, slowing the aging process, and prolonging life.
How Bee Pollen Can Help You
Although many plant pollens can cause or exacerbate allergies and hay fever, bee pollen may actually help in the reduction of symptoms. Local bee pollen therapy is recommended to start before the allergy season begins and it may take a few weeks for the pollen to work. General plant pollen or plant pollen products not specifically from bees have been shown to have several beneficial applications for human use. Pollen supplements have been successfully used homeopathically and for treatment of some cases of benign prostatitis and for oral desensitization of children who have pollen allergy.
Bee pollen consists of many nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, fatty acids (including caprylic, linoleic, linolenic and eicosanoic fatty acid depending on plant source), enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Some vitamins and minerals found in bee pollen include:
• Vitamins, such as carotenoids, all B vitamins, folic acid, choline, inositol, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and rutin.
• Minerals, such as Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, silicon, molybedenum, boron, and titanium.
Results suggested that bee pollen could improve maternal nutrition without affecting normal fetal development. It is a practical and effective nutrient during pregnancy. One laboratory study reported that mice survived well for over a year on a diet containing only bee pollen. In general, compared to many standard human foods, pollen is rich in protein, low in fat and possesses a wealth of minerals and vitamins.
Antioxidant constituents in bee pollen (including flavonoids and polyphenols) have been reported to increase glutathione content in the liver of laboratory animals. Phytic acid is also in bee pollen in high quantities and is a natural plant antioxidant constituting 1-5% of most cereals, nuts, legumes, oil seeds, pollen and spores. By virtue of forming a unique iron chelate, phytic acid suppresses iron-catalyzed oxidative reactions and may serve a potent antioxidant function in the preservation of seeds. By the same mechanism dietary phytic acid may lower the incidence of colonic cancer and protect against other inflammatory bowel diseases. Its addition to foods inhibits lipid peroxidation and concomitant oxidative spoilage, such as discoloration, putrefaction, and syneresis.
Improves Resistance To Disease, Immune Function
Bee pollen traditionally has been reported to protect the body from various diseases and to improve immunity.
Absorption: Bee pollen is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
Allergy Note: Due to the nature of pollen being collected from many different plants, there is a potential for the development of an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. Use with caution in these individuals, or individuals with prior sensitivity to bees and/or bee products. Those using bee pollen to reduce hay fever should be sure to consume local bee pollen to obtain the best results.