This gold of nature has been treasured for thousands of years. It was praised in the Bible (where bee’s nectar is mentioned 68 times), the Torah, the Koran, Chinese and Egyptian scrolls and the writings of ancient Greece and Rome. The Sanskrit Hindu book Rig-Veda, over 2,000 years old, speaks of bees with reverence; Vishnu, the powerful protector of the Hindu trinity of gods often symbolised as a blue bee on a lotus flower. Wise to the virtues of bee products, the forefathers of medicine such as Hippocrates, Pliny and Pythagoras prescribed them for their healing properties.

The astonishing nutritional value of bee pollen has led to claims that it is a ‘complete food’. These tiny particles – the male seed of flowers and the food of young bees – contain virtually all nutrients required by the human body. Pollen is around 40 per cent protein, of a highly digestible form that can be readily assimilated. It also contains at least 16 vitamins and 28 minerals, a host of enzymes, hormone precursors (that stimulate hormone production and help deter ageing), lecithin, efficacious fatty acids, nucleic acids and antioxidant phytonutrients as well as yet identified components.

Justin O. Schmidt, on completing an extensive study at the USDA Agricultural Research Centre on the nutrition of bee pollen concludes that, ‘pollen is a food source par excellence that is probably not exceeded by any other food.’ He further remarks that pollen is ‘an excellent food supplement which can enhance the health and well-being of individuals, especially those who otherwise might have an unbalanced diet.’

Support for pollen as a complete food has come from research by Robert Delperee of the Royal Society of Naturalists of Belgium and France who discovered that rats could live for several generations on pollen alone, remaining healthy and fertile and showing no signs of distress.

Pollen has been reputed for a wide range of uses. These include boosting immunity, increasing energy and stamina, regulating digestion, lowering cholesterol, healing the skin, suppressing the appetite, reducing cravings and addictions, improving fertility, preventing anaemia, relieving prostate disorders, deterring infectious diseases, enhancing longevity, boosting libido, protecting against radiation and chemotherapy, aiding the immune system and supporting the treatment of cancer.

Collecting pollen is an intricate process for honeybees. The pollen is scraped from the flower using front legs and jaws, moistened with honey. The thick bristles on their legs, called pollen combs, collect and brush this powder from the bees coat and legs whilst in mid-flight and with a artful movement press it into baskets on the outside of their tibias, one full basket providing a single pollen granule – magic!

Pollen is still somewhat of a mystery to science and cannot be successfully synthesised. When manmade pollen is fed to bees they die. There are likely unidentified compounds that contribute to the power of this substance, and the process of collection and formulation of pollen may effect the properties and effects of this food.

Fighting Infections

Pollen is known for its antibiotic activity and has been shown to inhibit the growth of numerous bacteria and appears to offer effective resistance against colds and flu. Swedish doctor Stephen Mark-Vendel reported that of the 300 families that normally suffered chronic colds over the winter, 75-80 per cent showed no illness when treated with pollen. Another Swedish physician Dr. Klapsche, conducted a trial on 510 people that were administered pollen against a flu epidemic where 98 per cent remained free from flu symptoms.

Cholesterol-lowering

Regular consumption of bee pollen has been shown to reduce bad HDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise healthy LDL cholesterol. As such bee pollen can protect against arteriosclerosis and stroke.

Anti-Cancer Properties

It appears beekeepers don’t get cancer. In an international search for cancer among beekeepers by Dr. B. Beck, who used Bee Venom Therapy from 1935 to 1942, only one case was found. More recently, in a two year investigation by Dr. Jarvis together with beekeeper Charles Mraz not a single case of cancer amongst beekeepers was discovered, nor did they learn of anyone who had died from the disease. They did find one man who had had Hodgkin’s disease before becoming a beekeeper yet was cured of the disease after beginning his occupation. Whether it is the therapeutic influence of bee venom, bee pollen or a combination is curious.

There is little clinical research on the effects of pollen against cancer, though an early study by William Robinson of the Agricultural Research Administration (USDA), published in 1948 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, observed anti-tumour effects. Mice that had been bred to develop fatal tumours (with a 100 per cent incidence and average appearance at around 33 weeks), had a significant delay in the onset of tumours by an average of  9.8 weeks when fed pollen, with several mice still alive at 56 weeks and over when the tests were terminated.

Protects Against Radiation and Chemotherapy

At the University Women’s Clinic in Vienna, Professors Weghaupt and Gitsch led a study on 25 patients receiving radiation therapy. Extensive blood enzyme tests revealed that of the 15 supplemented with pollen there was a decrease in the side effects of radiation as compared with the 10 that had received no pollen. Their concluding comments were: ‘We see the marked effectiveness of a pollen diet shown both subjectively and in laboratory findings.’

A study by Dr. Hernuss et al. at the University of Vienna on women receiving chemotherapy for inoperable uterine cancer, found that pollen supported the treatment and significantly reduced the negative side effects of the drug. Those given pollen had a greater number of antibodies and cancer-fighting immune cells, as well as higher levels of oxygen carrying red bloods cells than controls. They also experienced less nausea and hair loss as well as improved sleep.

Blood strengthening and Immune Boosting

Bee pollen has been found to increase white blood cell count, the lymphocytes that serve to clear harmful substances and dysfunctional cells from our systems. Pollen also increases gamma globuins – blood proteins which assist our resistance to disease.

It is perhaps not surprising then that in 1992, Dr. R. Chandra from the John Hopkins University found that elderly people who were supplemented with moderate amounts of bee pollen had an increase in immunity and decrease in risk of infections. He also demonstrated a direct link between a strong immune system and levels of iron, zinc, B6 and beta-carotene, all common components in pollen.

As well as white blood cells, pollen can increase haemoglobin count and iron levels, and as such can be restorative for anaemic conditions.

Anti-Allergenic

Bee pollen may also protect against the allergies caused by wind-borne pollen that can trigger hay fever and even asthma. Dr. Ullrich Wahn, at Heidelberg University Children’s Clinic in Germany, conducted a study on 70 children with hay fever and allergy-related asthma. He found that a daily solution of bee pollen and honey during the hay fever period and for three days weekly during the winter resulted in fewer symptoms for most of the children.

Other studies have observed positive anti-allergic effects. For beneficial results it is best to take the pollen 6 weeks or so before the hay fever season, as the pollen works by a process of desensitisation, small repeated doses triggering the immune system to produce antibodies that serve against the wind-borne allergen. In Dr. Mercola’s article The Use of Bee Pollen as a Superfood, he quotes Dr. Conway from Colorado who treated his patients with pollen and concluded, ‘All patients who had taken the antigen [pollen] for three years remained free from all allergy symptoms, no matter where they lived and regardless of diet.’ Dr. Conway further reported, ‘Relief of hay fever, pollen-induced asthma, with ever increasing control of bronchitis, ulcers of the digestive tract, colitis, migraine headaches, and urinary disorders were all totally successful.’

Physical Stamina

Athletes often use bee pollen for enhanced strength, stamina, and mental acuity.  The British Sports Council confirmed such effectiveness with those regularly taking pollen demonstrating increases in strength of up to 40 – 50 per cent.

Dr. Kurt Donsbach, author of Bee Pollen, reports that Muhammad Ali took pollen while defending his title and was helped to ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’. Olympic athletes and professional boxers attribute improved energy and endurance to a regular intake of bee pollen, described by the renowned naturalist Francis Huber as, ‘the greatest body builder on Earth.’

A 1976 study in Bukarest on a group of Romanian athletes taking a daily dose of pollen and honey aside their standard 3,500 calorie diet, showed an improvement in general condition after just 4 days with an increased enthusiasm for training. After 10 days their body weight had increased between 0.4 and 1.7 kg, without an increase in fat tissue. Positive effects on heart function and recovery pulse were also observed as well as improved oxygen uptake. Increased strength and metabolic tests revealed a more efficient use of energy.

Weight Control  

Pollen has been noted to aid weight management. It stimulates the metabolism, speeding up the burning of calories and its high content of lecithin can help to flush fat from the body. Bee pollen also functions as an appetite suppressant. Dr. Chen and Chu of Aerospace Medicine and Life Sciences observed that, ‘the average daily food consumption in the Bee Pollen fed group was generally 15-20 % less.’

Being so nutrient dense bee pollen satiates the appetite, eliminating cravings. It also contains the amino acid phenylalanine that is known to effect the area of the brain that deals with feelings of hunger and fullness, diminishing the appetite if you are overweight, or the opposite if underweight. Unlike the chemical manmade derivative of phenylalanin called phenylpropanolamine, used in commercial weight-loss products, phenylalanin is not addictive and has no negative side effects.

S. Blauer of the Hippocrates Health Institute writes, ‘Bee pollen minimises, reduces or eliminates the normal person’s craving for heavy concentrated protein…[bee pollen] aids in the digestion of other food.’

Bee pollen contains thousands of enzymes that can promote a balanced chemical metabolism and serve the digestive and immune systems. Optimizing metabolism and the body’s processing of food groups is another way bee pollen can aid in weight regulation.

Young, Beautiful Skin

Bee pollen has been observed to be remarkably healing and beneficial for the skin. Swedish dermatologist, Dr. Lars-Erik Essen, uses bee pollen to successfully treat acne and other skin conditions and observes it’s beautifying and anti-aging effects. Dr. Essen accounts, ‘Taken internally or used externally, bee pollen exercises a suppressive effect on facial acne. It is also an important skin rejuvenator, primarily because it contains a high concentration of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA as well as a natural antibiotic factor.’ He also reports that it ‘seems to prevent premature aging of the cells and stimulates growth of new skin tissue. It offers effective protection against dehydration and injects new life into dry cells. It smoothes away wrinkles and stimulates a life-giving blood supply to all skin cells.’

Longevity

Natural medicine marvel Hippocrates believed that bee pollen contributed to long life.  Investigations by Russian researcher Dr. Nicolai Vasilievich Tsitsin, chief biologist and experimental botanist at the Longevity Institute in Vladivostak, appear to support this hypothesis. Dr. Tsitsin set out to discover why so many natives of Georgia, formerly the Soviet Union, had extraordinary life spans, reportedly living upwards of 125 years old. Living in healthy mountainous areas and continuing to work daily late on in life no doubt contributed to their longevity, however, Dr. Tsitsin discovered what he believed to be the key factor for the longevity – these people were beekeepers and regularly ate the pollen and honey residue at the bottom of the hives. As Dr. Tsitsin reported, ‘All of the 200 or more people past 125 years of age in Georgia, without exception, state that their principal food is pollen and honey – mostly pollen.’ Dr. Tsitsin concluded, ‘Taken regularly and in sufficient amounts, bee pollen will prolong the life span of man for many years.’. The nucleic acids in pollen may well contribute to its anti-ageing effects. Nucleic acids are integral to cellular growth and repair as well as detoxification and their production in the body decreases progressively as we age.

Boosting libido

Pollen has been reputed for centuries for its aphrodisiac qualities. As a biological stimulant bee pollen is reported to enhance energy and arousal. Dr. Carlson Wade in his book About Pollen writes, ‘Bee pollen contains a gonadotrophic hormone similar to the pituitary hormone, gonadotrophin, which functions as a sex gland stimulant.’

Rutin

Rutin is a flavonoid that has significant antioxidant properties and may also act as an anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic agent. Its most renowned benefits are an ability to maintain rigid blood vessels and hence aid people who bleed or bruise easily. Rutin also helps the body maintain collagen and utilise vitamin C. Collagen keeps our skin supple and plump and the antioxidant ablities of vitamin C prevent against the cell damage of free radicals, which combined can help prevent the wrinkles and lines associated with aging.

According to researchers at the Institute of Apiculture, Taranov, Russia, ‘Honeybee pollen is the richest source of vitamins found in Nature in a single food. Even if bee pollen had none of its other vital ingredients, its content of rutin alone would justify taking at least a teaspoon daily, if for no other reason than strengthening the capillaries. Pollen is extremely rich in rutin and may have the highest content of any source, plus it provides a high content of the nucleics RNA [ribonucleic acid] and DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid].’

Quality

It is important to get quality bee pollen that has not been heated or processed. Pollen is heated or dehydrated to increase shelf life, yet unfortunately the heat destroys the bio-active nutrients and enzymes. Fresh bee pollen which is semi-moist is the most potent and should be kept refrigerated. Sun-dried bee pollen that has not been heated or otherwise altered would be your next best alternative.

How to Use Bee Pollen

Bee pollen can be taken on its own, typically starting at around 1 to 2 teaspoons a day, and can be increased to a tablespoon. It can also be added to juices, salad dressings or sprinkled direct onto sweet and savory meals. Remember not to heat it, however, as this will destroy the enzymes and delicate constituents.

As a note, one teaspoon of pollen takes one bee working eight hours a day for one month to collect, with each granule containing over two million flower pollen grains and one teaspoonful over 2.5 billion grains of pollen!!

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