• b@pualanibeefarm

BEE POLLEN: WHAT IS IT AND WHAT CAN WE DO WITH IT?

Updated: Oct 15, 2020



A BRIEF HISTORICAL LOOK AT BEE POLLEN


Bee pollen is a raw material that foraging honeybees collect as the main protein component of the diet of worker bees and larvae. Honeybees gather pollen from plant anthers and mix it with a secretion from their salivary glands or nectar before placing it in "baskets” (corbiculae) located on the shinbone (tibia) of their hind legs. They then transport the collected pollen, called "pollen loads,” back to the hive to produce bee bread, which is a mixture of pollen and nectar or honey.

For thousands of years, bee pollen has been celebrated as an "ambrosia” or food of the gods. Historical records dating as far back as 2735 BC provide evidence that humans have recognized the nutritional and therapeutic value of bee pollen for millennia. Cleopatra herself was reported to use honey and bee pollen as part of her beauty regimen!


The benefits of bee pollen have been noted in various ancient texts, including the Bible, Talmud, Torah, and Koran, as well as having been prescribed to patients by the great fathers of western medicine, including Hippocrates, Pliny the Elder, and Pythagoras. Ancient Asian, Greek, Roman, Aztec, Egyptian, Native American, Russian, and Slavic peoples have passed down their cultural knowledge about the benefits of bee pollen, having used this protein-rich source as a rejuvenating tonic and nutritional supplement to increase energy and stamina.

Today, many advocates of bee pollen consider it to be a "super food” for humans. Numerous narratives posted on the internet (including our own) praise the multi-faceted benefits of bee pollen. However, some argue that there is little scientific evidence to validate such claims. So, I turned to science for clarification on the issue. Although modern scientific research into the benefits of bee pollen in human health is still in its infancy, the data available from a number of studies show promising evidence of the value that this hive product can have in both human nutrition and in therapeutic applications.

AN IMPORTANT STUDY OF THE NUTRITIONAL AND THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS OF BEE POLLEN


The oft-cited 2015 article, "Bee Pollen: Chemical Composition and Therapeutic Applications,” by Katarzyna Komosinska-Vassev, Pawel Olczyk, Justyna Kaźmierczak, Lukasz Mencner, and Krystyna Olczyk, published in PMC (PubMed Central),[1] is an important study of the nutritional and therapeutic benefits of bee pollen. The article pulls together the results of many studies into the nutritional and health aspects of bee pollen, providing a particularly helpful discussion of the science-based evidence of the properties of bee pollen, many of which validate popular uses of bee pollen in human diets and therapies. The article is a must-read in its entirety for those interested in the actual science behind the benefits of bee pollen versus rumored claims—both positive and negative—about bee-based therapies, or apitherapeutics.

As Komosinska-Vassev et al summarize in their article, "Bee Pollen: Chemical Composition and Therapeutic Applications,” "[b]ee pollen is a valuable apitherapeutic product greatly appreciated by the natural medicine because of its potential medical and nutritional applications.” According to the authors, bee pollen is composed of about 250 nutritional substances including proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids and fatty acids, phenolic compounds, enzymes, and coenzymes as well as vitamins and bioelements. The particular values of bee pollen granules to human diet, they add, depends "strongly on the plant source and geographic origin, together with other factors such as climatic conditions, soil type, and bees race and activities”—or as the foodie would say, depending on its "terroir." Moreover, the authors assert that the average composition and chemical percentages in air-dried bee pollen is comprised of "proteins, 32,8%, including essential amino acids, 11,5%, and reducing sugars, 40,7%, including sucrose, 3,7%, lipids, 12,8%, vitamin C, 0,19%, β-carotene, 0,07%, and bioelements, 4,0%.” Bee pollen has the potential to pack quite the nutritional wallop, containing provitamin A and vitamins E, B1, B2, B6, C and D; acids such as pantothenic, nicotinic, folic, biotin, rutin, and inositol; macronutrients including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and potassium; and micronutrients including iron, copper, zinc, manganese, silicon, and selenium.

Depending on how bee pollen is consumed and digested in human diets, the nutritional value can vary greatly. When chewed well before swallowing, fresh bee pollen granules can provide humans with about 10–15% of its intrinsic nutritional potential. However, the digestibility of bee pollen and its nutrients can be exponentially increased when "pollen grains are shredded by grinding or are subjected to warm water. In the water environment, pollen grains become swollen and, after 2-3 hours, crack and, consequently, release their values. Milk, fruit, and vegetable juices are also used for this purpose. (Ground) pollen may be mixed with many products in the ratio from 1 : 1 to 1 : 4 with the use of raw honey, butter, cottage cheese, yoghurt, jams, glucose, and others."[2]


These methods of mechanically shredding (e.g. in a spice or coffee grinder) or naturally releasing nutrients (e.g. dissolved in warm water or other liquid suspension) can increase the accessibility of the value of bee pollen in human nutrition to 60–80%! Although, the amount of bee pollen consumed each day varies according to an individual’s preferences, health conditions, or health provider’s recommendations, as Komosinska-Vassev et al note in "Bee Pollen: Chemical Composition and Therapeutic Applications,” 1 teaspoon of mixed pollen taken 3 times before each meal has shown to demonstrate "a series of actions such as antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, anticancer immunestimulating, and local analgesic. Its radical scavenging potential [3] has also been reported.[4]

Using a compilation of data and evidence from numerous studies, Komosinska-Vassev et al conclude that bee pollen carries not only nutritional benefits for humans but has also has demonstrated positive outcomes in animal, test-tube and human studies in a wide variety of potential therapeutic applications, For example, studies have shown that bee pollen may help lower heart disease risk factors such as “bad” LDL cholesterol and lipid oxidation. Both animal and test-tube studies have shown that the anti-oxidants in bee pollen may have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce chronic inflammation and combat the growth and spread of tumors. Test-tube studies suggest that bee pollen may lower the risk of several cancers, however, more human studies are necessary. Studies also show that bee pollen antioxidants help fight infections, kill several forms of harmful bacteria, reduce the severity and onset of certain forms of allergies, and boost immunity.


While the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of bee pollen may promote healing, the antimicrobial properties may also help prevent wound infections. Human studies have also confirmed that bee pollen may ease several menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and the improvement of cholesterol levels. Animal studies suggest that bee pollen may boost liver function and protect the organ from toxic substances; however, more high-quality human studies are needed. Animal studies further show that bee pollen may improve nutrient absorption, utilization, metabolism and longevity; however, here too, human research is needed to confirm these benefits. Given the complexity of therapeutic studies in the use of bee pollen, I highly recommend reading the article (and perhaps diving even deeper into some of the authors’ cited sources) to develop a science-based opinion about these colorful, nutritious, and aromatic bee collected pollen granules.

EATING AND COOKING WITH BEE POLLEN


For those who decide bee pollen is indeed their "cup of tea” (pun intendedsee Bee Pollen Tea recipe in the ALL THINGS HONEY blog post), a few important notes need a bit of emphasis. In general, bee pollen can be safely consumed by most people, first taking only very small amounts, such as a few granules of bee pollen, and then gradually increasing the amount day by day. Like all hive products, bee pollen should not be given to infants under 1 year of age. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume bee pollen before consulting with a healthcare provider. For people suffering from asthma or allergies (especially to pollen, bees, or bee stings), it is advised to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance on consuming bee pollen. Bee pollen may cause increased bleeding if taken with certain blood thinners like warfarin. Potential interactions with certain medications, over-the-counter medicines, or herbals supplements may be present, so here too consumption of bee pollen should be discussed with a healthcare provider.


Finally, fresh bee pollen should be stored under cool dry conditions in a humidity-controlled environment. Here in the tropics, where humidity is a constant factor, we store our Pualani Fresh Hawaiian Bee Pollen in the freezer to maximize freshness and extend the longevity of the bee pollen's effectiveness. However, consumers can also store bee pollen in the refrigerator.


Since bee pollen comes from various flowers that blossom at different times of the year and are sourced differently each day by each hive—and even by each bee—the color, aroma, and particularly the taste of each bee pollen granule varies, as does the individual mix of a particular batch of bee pollen. In general, bee pollen has a powdery, melt in your mouth texture with a slightly sweet taste and complexly floral aromatic components. At times, it can taste a bit earthy, accented with nutty undertones, or even have a slightly bitter aftertaste; hence, some people might consider bee pollen to be an acquired taste.


The easiest way to use bee pollen is simply sprinkling it into cold, cool, or warm, drinks or over snacks, meals, or desserts, thus adding a subtle sweetness and floral aroma. For example, bee pollen is an especially delicious and healthy garnish when lightly sprinkled into a salad of crunchy, leafy greens or over pancakes, cupcakes, muffins, cheesecake, and, of course, let’s not forget, when drizzled with honey and fresh fruit on top of vanilla ice cream! Consider dropping a teaspoon of bee pollen into the blender when making a smoothie of your choice or mixing it into yogurt, granola (see recipe recipe in the ALL THINGS HONEY blog post), warm porridge, or other healthy breakfast cereal. Like honey, bee pollen can also be consumed by the spoonful directly from the jar!


Given the taste variance in bee pollen from one natch to another, it is recommended that the strength of sweetness of the bee pollen mix be taken into consideration when used in combination with other ingredients. I find using bee pollen in recipes is a bit like cooking with salt and pepper—the "right” is a very personal choice. Hence, I would advocate for adjusting bee pollen recipes by either reducing or increasing the amount of bee pollen used so it neither dominates the combination with other ingredients nor overwhelms one’s personal tastes. Although some recipes with bee pollen (and honey for that matter) include its use in heated processes, keep in mind that high heat levels can damage the effectiveness of some of its nutritional values.

So, with this brief look into the history, composition, and health benefits of bee pollen, I hope this posting clarifies some questions about the veracity of bee pollen claims found on the internet, while also providing some guidance on how to keep, cook, and enjoy Pualani Fresh Hawaiian Bee Pollen.


FURTHER READING ON SCIENTIFIC STUDIES OF BEE POLLEN


Adaškevičiūtė, Vaida et al. “Comparison of Physicochemical Properties of Bee Pollen with Other Bee Products.” Biomolecules vol. 9,12 819. 3 Dec. 2019, doi:10.3390/biom9120819.

Adaškevičiūtė, Vaida et al. “Comparison of Physicochemical Properties of Bee Pollen with Other Bee Products.” Biomolecules vol. 9,12 819. 3 Dec. 2019, doi:10.3390/biom9120819.

Denisow B, Denisow-Pietrzyk M. Biological and therapeutic properties of bee pollen: a review. J Sci Food Agric. 2016 Oct;96(13):4303-9. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.7729. Epub 2016 Apr 19. PMID: 27013064.

Jannesar M, Sharif Shoushtari M, Majd A, Pourpak Z. Bee Pollen Flavonoids as a Therapeutic Agent in Allergic and Immunological Disorders. Iran J Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2017 Jun;16(3):171-182. PMID: 28732430.

Kocot, Joanna et al. “Antioxidant Potential of Propolis, Bee Pollen, and Royal Jelly: Possible Medical Application.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2018 7074209. 2 May. 2018, doi:10.1155/2018/7074209.

Kostić, Aleksandar Ž et al. “The Application of Pollen as a Functional Food and Feed Ingredient-The Present and Perspectives.” Biomolecules vol. 10,1 84. 5 Jan. 2020, doi:10.3390/biom10010084.

Mărgăoan, Rodica et al. “Bee Collected Pollen and Bee Bread: Bioactive Constituents and Health Benefits.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,12 568. 20 Nov. 2019, doi:10.3390/antiox8120568.

Ulbricht C, Conquer J, Giese N, Khalsa KP, Sklar J, Weissner W, Woods J. “An evidence-based systematic review of bee pollen by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration.” J Diet Suppl. 2009;6(3):290-312. doi: 10.1080/19390210903081381. PMID: 22435480.

Zuluaga C.M., Serrato J.C., Quicazan M.C. “Bee-pollen structure modification by physical and biotechnological processing: Influence on the availability of nutrients and bioactive compounds,” Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Chemical & Process Engineering (ICHEAP12); Milano, Italy. 19–22 May 2015; Milano, Italy: Aidic Servizi Srl; 2015. pp. 79–84.

[1] PMC is a free, full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine. [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377380, accessed 10/12/2020. [3] A free radical scavenger is a substance, such as an antioxidant, that helps protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are made during normal cell metabolism (chemical changes that take place in a cell). They can build up in cells and cause damage to other molecules. This damage may increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. (https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/free-radical-scavenger, accessed 10/12/2020). [4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377380, accessed 10/12/2020.

Recent Posts

See All

PUALANI BEE FARM     PO BOX 1055, PAHOA, HI 96778     PUALANIBEEFARM@GMAIL.COM     TEL: (808) 345-9306     

©2020 by Pualani Bee Farm