Honey bees are amazingly industrious little creatures—busy bees, if you will! They spend all their waking hours gathering materials to build their colonies and produce nutritious honey and other byproducts that are not only bee-neficial for the bees themselves…they’re great for us humans too. Hive five!
Throughout history, bee products including honey, bee pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, and propolis have been utilized to boost energy levels and immunity, kill bacteria, aid wound healing, and so much more. Honey was so valuable to the ancient Romans, taxes could be paid with it instead of gold! And, as far back as 5,000 years ago, bee pollen was known as “Ambrosia” or “Food of the Gods.”
What is Bee Pollen?
Honey, I had never even heard of bee pollen until I started working at LuckyVitamin! One day, a bottle of granules arrived on my desk and, as part of my job, I need to read every square inch of product packaging. This package suggested to start with a few granules a day and work up to a larger dose. I was abuzz with wonder! What could be so potent that a few tiny granules could be so un-bee-lievably effective?
It turns out that bee pollen is a living and nutritionally complex food. It is composed of a nutrient-dense blend of honey, beeswax, live enzymes, flower pollen and nectar. Plus, it may include a little bee saliva (yum-yum)! Young worker bees collect and store it in the honeycomb where it ferments into “bee bread,” the hive’s food source.
Rich in antioxidants, carotenoids, phytosterols, bioflavonoids, plus macro- and micronutrients, bee pollen is actually composed of over 250 substances! It’s loaded with a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, carbs, amino acids, and even protein. In fact, bee pollen contains more amino acids and vitamins than beef, eggs, or cheese by volume (1). Put that bee in your bonnet!
“Bee pollen is a living and nutritionally complex food”
Here’s the real stinger: bee pollen has been used for centuries as an energy and stamina enhancer, rejuvenator, and health tonic. It was even used by Hippocrates and Pythagoras, and more recently by Muhammed Ali during his boxing career. Don’t fall bee-hind on your game, wanna-bee brainiacs and athletes! Bee pollen is the bee’s knees.
Let’s take a closer look at bee pollen benefits and how to use it!
8 Bee Pollen Benefits
Bee pollen is packed with flavonoids and polyphenols that serve as powerful antioxidants with potent free radical scavenging ability (2). Free radicals are atoms in the body that cause oxidative stress (also known as the signs of aging). They cause damage to cells, proteins, and even your DNA. Not good! So, bee pollen is a small yet effective way to decrease cellular damage and combat the underlying pathology of numerous diseases (3).
May Increase Energy & Improve Muscle Mass
More research is needed on humans to prove this definitively, but studies suggest that bee pollen may significantly help increase muscle mass (therefore, improve strength) and mitochondrial activity (4), which regulates energy production. The possibility of bigger muscles offers amazing benefits for athletes. And, we can all use more energy!
In addition to bee-ing effectively antimicrobial against Staphylococcus and Candida (5), add to your spelling bee list: antimutagenic…meaning bee pollen also helps protect your genes from mutating. Who knew that was even a thing? And, bee pollen also displays many other properties, such as analgesic, antifungal, and antiviral—although studies show less than 100 percent effectiveness on those points (6).
“Functional food” is quite the buzzword these days, and it turns out that bee pollen defines it well. With its rich nutritional composition and biological properties, bee pollen provides health benefits that far surpass basic nutrition. In addition to all the benefits listed here, bee pollen provides many nutrients that the body cannot produce on its own, such as essential amino acids. It can be used to improve malnutrition, help protect from heart disease and stroke, and lower toxicity in the liver (7), among many other possibilities that have yet to be scientifically confirmed.
Many human and animal studies have researched bee pollen’s effect on the inflammatory state, including its safety. So, if your chronic inflammation just won’t bee-have, bee pollen has been clinically confirmed to pack an anti-inflammatory punch resulting mainly from the presence of phenolic acids, flavonoids, and phytosterols. It has even proven beneficial for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), effectively decreasing prostate inflammation and improving urine flow (8).
Stimulates the Immune System
Like many of the reported benefits of bee pollen, more studies (specifically on humans) are needed to prove definitive results. However, animal studies have shown positive immune stimulation in relation to the consumption of bee pollen (9) because of its rich presence of polysaccharides (10).
Did you know there is a whole branch of alternative medicine devoted to bees? Apitherapy refers to substances, such as bee pollen, that originate from bees and are used medicinally to treat a variety of illnesses and health conditions. While many of the apitherapeutic benefits of bee products are not proven by science, proponents offer scores of anecdotal endorsements touting the health benefits for conditions such as MS, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal issues, and many more. One preliminary study did suggest that bee pollen, as part of an apitherapy regimen, may actually decrease symptoms of MS (11).
Lowers Blood Lipids & Improves Circulation
Bee pollen has been confirmed in clinical studies to provide hypolipidemic activity, which helps decrease high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood, such as cholesterol. This improves circulation and blood flow in the brain, helping to treat circulation disorders and hypertension (12).
How to Use Bee Pollen
Capsules, Pastes & Chewable Supplements
Bee pollen is easy to take in whatever form you choose. There are capsules and tablets, including chewable, that can be taken as directed daily. And, if you’d like to compound the benefits of bee pollen, try a Royal Jelly paste, which includes propolis as well. Take that by the teaspoon with a small amount of water.
Bee pollen granules are easy to use, too. You can sprinkle them on yogurt, on top of smoothie bowls, salads, and really any food you enjoy. Bee pollen does not have much of a flavor, but does deliver a delightful crunch. Toss a few granules in your morning smoothie for an amazing boost of energy. Work your way up gradually to a heaping teaspoon or more per day.
Choosing a Bee Pollen
Local vs. High Desert
Some people are bee-lievers in local bee products. For example, based on the premise of “like cures like,” local bee pollen is considered beneficial for treating seasonal allergies since it is full of pollen collected from local plants. This works well for many people. However, there are bee-nefits to bee gained from bee products that are blended, which means sourced from a variety of different geographic locales. High desert is one such type of bee pollen. In addition to containing pollen from numerous plants, it also contains a more balanced nutritional profile.
Fresh vs. Heat-Dried
Some low-quality bee pollen products are heat-treated to aid the drying process, but the heat can kill vital enzymes. Fresh bee pollen is not heat-treated and is processed and packaged under careful environmental conditions to reduce moisture. Seek high-quality brands that have a long history of beekeeping, such as YS Organic Bee Farms and CC Pollen. Makers of these products, including the low moisture versions, have taken care to optimize purity, minimize contamination, and preserve the delicate components that make bee pollen so incredible.
Side Effects of Bee Pollen
Please pay attention to the warning labels on bee pollen products. Bee products in general may cause allergic reactions in some people. Anyone who takes prescription medicine or has health conditions, allergies, or food sensitivities should consult with a health care professional before consuming. Do not use bee pollen if you are pregnant unless otherwise directed by your physician.
Hive the Final Say
A number of years ago, I put bee pollen in my morning smoothies and really felt an energetic boost. It was incredible how it made such an impact on my day. But, I never got up to a full teaspoon before I went vegan. It sure was difficult to bequeath that almost full jar of ambrosia to a friend, but I did it. I can’t say I never looked back…
Have you tried bee pollen? How does it affect your day, how do you use it, and how much do you take? Please let us know in the comments below and share your wisdom!