It’s been hailed as a superfood and supermodels seem to sprinkle it on everything, but what is bee pollen and how can it help us? We got the lowdown on this unique, chewy yet crunchy, sweet sprinkle from Belinda Gooding, founder of Roots and Wings, which distributes bee pollen.
We’ve all seen bees with their fluffy legs laden with yellow dust – but is that what bee pollen actually is? Well yes! Pollen is the male seed of flowers.
It’s required for the fertilisation of the plant and found on the outside of stamens in the centre of a flower. As well as helping to fertilise plants, bees use pollen as food for young bees.
As such it’s incredibly nourishing – not just to bees but humans too! Pollen is actually around 40% protein and half of that is in a form easily used by humans.
“It is pollen that actually sustains bees’ lives; without this superfood, bees will not have enough energy to produce honey,” says Belinda. “Bee pollen is the pollen that the bees collect on their bodies. It is rich in minerals, vitamins, protein, lipids, and carbohydrates. This pollen could also contain some saliva from the bees. This pollen is not in honey or other bee products.”
Bees purposefully collect the pollen rather than just pick it up by accident as some people think and because of the way in which they collect it when they return to the hive it’s gone from a powder to a tiny grain, glued together with a little honey or saliva.
There is a little bit of magic in bee pollen too as no matter how accurately the nutritional make-up is replicated, scientists can’t make bee pollen in the lab. All attempts, even when they are perfect to the tiniest nutrient, don’t work when they are given to baby bees. It could be that hidden ‘extra’ which makes bee pollen the superfood it seems to be.
When you see how tiny the grains of sand like pollen are it’s hard to work out how they are collected. “Bee pollen is from honeybees,” explains Belinda. “This plant pollen is then transported back to the hives by the bees. In the bee hive, beekeepers set traps at the bottom to catch the pollen as it drops off from the legs of the bees.” The pollen is then gathered in trays and taken away to make bee pollen after cleaning out debris. So rather than being extracted from honey as some people think, the pollen never actually makes it into the hive.
We have heard for years how beneficial honey is for our health – so surely bee pollen is just the same thing? “While they may be similar in many ways, both are used by bees as food for instance, there are also several significant differences between these two,” explains Belinda.
The potency of the bee pollen is key and also the sheer number of different nutrients it contains. “Recent studies show that the amount of nutrients contained in a single spoonful of honey is quite negligible,” says Belinda.
“Before you can get the amount that would make a difference, you would have to consume several jars of honey first. On the other hand, bee pollen is naturally very rich in practically all the vitamins and minerals required by the human body.”
As well as containing decent amount of vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K, bee pollen also has high levels of copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc, plus considerable amounts of folic acid and lecithin. “All in all, there are more than 90 unique nutrients that have been found in bee pollen samples,” adds Belinda.
Bee pollen has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
It’s been found as key early Chinese and Egyptian societies and was used to rejuvenate and heal – it’s even been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs. In the Greek empire bee pollen was called “the life-giving dust”.
Being so rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids and fatty acids, enzymes, carotenoids and bioflavonoids bee pollen has a range of health benefits.
The bee pollen itself is thought to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. “It strengthens the capillaries, reduces inflammation, stimulates the immune system and lowers cholesterol levels naturally,” explains Belinda. “Bee pollen is also wonderful for natural allergy relief and is responsible for the many health benefits of raw honey.”
Bee pollen can help with allergies as an allergy occurs when your body develops an immune response to an allergen by creating antibodies.
These antibodies go on to cause the release of histamine, which is where the typical allergic reactions we are familiar with arise. Bee pollen can help as it reduces histamine levels in the same way tablets and allergy medications do. It can work across a range of symptoms including asthma and sinus issues.
Bee pollen has become known as an ideal natural preventative and beneficial treatment for symptoms of ageing because of the positive effects it is thought to have on almost all systems in the human body. It is believed to support the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, memory functions, ability to concentrate, and metabolism of the body.
“Long lives are attained by bee-pollen users; it is one of the original treasure-houses of nutrition and medicine. Each grain contains every important substance that is necessary to life,” noted Dr. Naum Petrovich, chief scientist at the Soviet Academy in Vladivostok.
A study by Dr. Lars-Erik Essen, from Sweden, states that bee pollen has a huge biological effect on the body and appears to stop the cells from prematurely ageing and helps to stimulate new skin growth.
The pollen appeared to prevent the cells from becoming dehydrated and can also bring dried out cells back to life. At the same time, it can diminish wrinkles and increases blood flow to the cells located in the skin, which is a perfect anti-ageing combination.
Bee pollen should not be cooked if you want to preserve all the nutrients in it. “Add a teaspoon to a smoothie, sprinkle on porridge or yoghurt,” suggest Belinda.
“You should start off by trying a few grains on day one and then a few more on day two. After that you can have up to 2 teaspoons a day.”
But don’t be tempted to eat bowls of it for better results because it doesn’t work that way! Stick to one-two teaspoons for optimum results.