What is bee pollen?
If you’ve seen it in health food stores, you may well already have wondered what this bee pollen stuff is. Is it a supplement? A food? Just a bunch of small yellow rocks?
Actually, bee pollen is classified as a food, but what a food it is! As its name suggests, bee pollen comes from bees. As the fuzzy little bugs buzz from flower to flower, they collect pollen to bring back to their hive. But carrying a million tiny pollen grains can be tricky. The bee has a clever biological solution: it uses a chemical that it makes in its stomach to stick the pollen to its back legs.
By the time it flies back to the hive, the bee is carrying two large (for a bee) granules of bee pollen. At that point, the bee hands its pollen off to another member of the hive, who pushes it into larvae cells with its head. The larvae feast on bee pollen until they grow up and are ready to join the hive.
When apiarists (that’s beekeepers) harvest bee pollen, they have to be careful only to take a fraction of what the entire hive collects. Otherwise, the bee larvae will have nothing to eat and the hive won’t last long! Special screens allow bees to pass through an opening into their hive, but scrape the precious pollen granules off their legs in the process. These are then collected and sold to humans for consumption. Bee pollen has a chewy consistency and a sweet, chalky, somewhat floral taste.
Image credit: millysmeals.com
How to take bee pollen?
Though bee pollen is rumored to have many medicinal benefits, it’s primarily a food, and like other foods, you can eat it!
Some people chew a grain or two at a time, either allowing them to dissolve on their tongue or cracking them between their teeth and swallowing them. Good bee pollen is chewy rather than crunchy, which is how you know that it’s fresh! If you don’t like the flavor that much, you can also add it to smoothies, shakes, or your morning granola, just like you might do with chia or flax seeds. There are also plenty of recipes available online that incorporate bee pollen.
The prominent bee pollen advocate Dr. Theo Cherbuliez, claims that soaking bee pollen is important for digestion. However, there’s not much evidence to support this. Until nutrition experts come forward with official recommendations, consider soaking strictly optional.
How much bee pollen should I take?
Remember, though it has health benefits, bee pollen is actually a food. As long as you’re not allergic, you can enjoy as much as you want! Some people take it by the spoonful several times a day. Others simplify the process by taking bee pollen capsules. Remember, even though these look like medicine, they’re still just food – they won’t cure your cold or help your sore throat all on their own. However, many people find capsules a convenient way to get their daily bee pollen allotment if they’re eating it mainly for its health benefits.
What are the health benefits of bee pollen?
Research on bee pollen is so far inconclusive about its medicinal properties. However, many fans, including members of the medical community, feel strongly that bee pollen can stimulate appetite, improve athletic performance, and ameliorate PMS (Post Menstrual Syndrome) and gastrointestinal issues. Some doctors also claim to have had success treating asthma and allergies using bee pollen, and it is often used to soothe eczema.
Everyone agrees on one thing: bee pollen is a fantastically nutritious food! It is notoriously energy-rich, by some estimations containing more protein per pound than either eggs or milk. A vitamin powerhouse, bee pollen contains large amounts of B vitamins and folic acid. Remember, this is the substance that bees give their babies. It’s pretty healthy!
Safety factors for bee pollen
If you are allergic to pollen, then bee pollen might be a problem for you. We recommend a consultation with your doctor before taking this natural food supplement. If you decide to test this on your own responsibility, here’s how:
Start with bee pollen by putting just one piece under your tongue. Let it dissolve. Your body will absorb the nutrients through the skin of your mouth, also known as your mucus membrane. Once the bee pollen has dissolved, look for standard symptoms of allergies, like itchiness on your face and swelling. If nothing happens, then take two granules the next day, three the day after that, and so on until you’re sure that you aren’t allergic. By the time you’re taking a full spoonful at a time, you’ll be able to incorporate bee pollen into any part of your diet!
If, on the other hand, you do develop allergic symptoms, then it’s important to stop using bee pollen immediately! Talk to your health care provider to determine if your reaction is connected to the pollen and whether or not you can keep consuming it. Allergic issues are one reason why pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take bee pollen!
As usual, if you’re taking a strong drug, always ask your doctor before taking a new or unusual food. Bee pollen can interact with warfarin and other blood thinners, sometimes causing excessive bleeding. An expert can give you advice on how to proceed.
Finally, always keep granule bee pollen in a refrigerator or freezer! Unlike honey, it is perishable. Encapsulated bee pollen should be safe to store at room temperature.
Bee pollen is an exciting superfood that can enhance your diet, give you energy, and keep you healthy!
Featured image credit: natures-desktop.com