What’s all the Buzz About? Bee Pollen.

Oh for the love of bees! Are you as obsessed as I am? Probably not, but I am a little special that way. My passion for bees knows no limits, as the amazing things they produce are infinitely mind-blowing! If you’ve been back in the archives, you’ll know I am a huge raw honey fan, and don’t even get me started on beeswax, but that is only scratching the surface when it comes to the bee products that fill my home, my tummy, and my life.
Let me introduce you to bee pollen. I have wanted to write a post about this for quite some time now because it is one of my absolute favorite superfoods. Not only is it delicious, versatile, and astonishingly inexpensive, but also is oh-so-good-for-you, like times infinity. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

What is bee pollen?

First, let’s distinguish between bee pollen form airborne pollen, the latter being the pollen that causes hay fever and other related allergies.

Bee pollen on the other hand is actually the collected pollen that the bees take back from the flowers and store in the hive for food. The bees obtain it by going from flower, scraping the powdery loose pollen from the stamen with their jaws and front legs. They moisten the pollen with a sticky substance secreted from their stomachs so it will adhere to their rear legs. The jagged bristles of their rear legs are used to comb the powder from their coats and front legs. The outsides of their tibias form concave areas used as pollen baskets, into which they press their golden deposits. When each of these baskets is fully loaded, the microscopic dust has been tamped down into a single golden granule – and that is the bee pollen that you can eat!

Why the heck would I want to eat plant sperm collected by bugs?
Because I said so.
But if that doesn’t convince you, how about some concrete reasons?
First off, bee pollen is a super high-energy whole food that supplies us with nearly every single nutrient the human body needs to survive. Wow. Surprisingly, it is very high in protein, containing between 20-35%, including all 22 amino acids.

Bee pollen is loaded with enzymes, something quite lacking in many modern diets. Enzymes are the little compounds that help us break down and digest food, one reason that eating raw foods is so important. Supplementing the diet with bee pollen is excellent all the time, but especially when we’ve been indulging in, ahem, falafels at 2 a.m. on Friday night. I also find it a great travel companion, as I know that I can give my body all the nutrients it needs if I can’t find the all-u-can-eat organic vegetarian buffet at the airport, for example.

And to top it all off, bee pollen is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, and phytonutrients – I’m telling you, everything! If you were stranded on a dessert island, theoretically, you could survive off the stuff (although I have yet to meet someone who has tested this out).

Allergy Relief
As illogical as it may sound, many people actually experience relief from seasonal allergies by introducing small amounts of fresh, local pollen in to their diet. This could be due to the high levels of quercitin it contains, which is known for its ability to minimize or neutralize the histamine response (I discussed quercitin here). According to the Journal of Allergy, one study of allergy sufferers showed a majority of people with hay fever enjoyed a dramatic improvement after eating bee pollen, while some of the study’s participants reported showing a 100% improvement in their condition with supplemental intake of bee pollen.

Okay great, but how does it taste?
The flavour of bee pollen is quite special – I guess I would refer to the taste as floral (go figure). Of course the taste of your bee pollen will depend on where your pollen comes from and the flowers that the bees were dippin’ into.
If you eat bee pollen on its own (which I would encourage at least the first time around), let it dissolve on your tongue to absorb and revel in its amazing complexities of flavour and texture. Mind blowing! And consider the unbelievable concentration of energy that it contains; literally the fertile male element of plant life! Holy cow.

Buying Bee Pollen
Because of its highly concentrated nature, and the fact that it is harvested from flowers, sourcing bee pollen gathered in a pesticide-free environment is important. And it’s also advisable to buy local bee pollen, as it will help to tune your body into your surrounding environment – kind of in line with my “zany” ideas about eating warm food in the winter and cool food in the summer.
Most health food and natural food shops now carry bee pollen. Sometimes it can be found sitting on the shelf right next to the honey, but the best quality bee pollen may be found in the fridge of freezer section of the shop.

Bee pollen comes as small granules in various shades (see photo). One bag from a single source can have a remarkable colour range, which comes from the various flowers the bees collected the pollen from. The granules should be relatively soft (never crunchy!) and dissolve easily on the tongue.
Do not buy bee pollen that comes in tablet form – heating the pollen during compression will destroy its enzymes and vitamin C content. It is a raw food and should be enjoyed as such!

Once purchased, store opened containers of bee pollen in the fridge, and unopened containers in the freezer for the longest shelf life.

The Price is Right

Totally wanting to take supplements, but don’t have the cash? Well, you’ve struck gold with bee pollen, as it’s loaded with the good stuff without the outrageous price tag. Score!

Taking Bee Pollen
Considering it is such very powerful food, it’s best to introduce bee pollen to the body in a responsible manner, (i.e. slowly). Sometimes with supplement and superfoods, we can react in unexpected ways, so it’s best to start off with small amounts and work your way up just to make sure your body is cool with what you’re putting in your mouth.
Adults:
Start with 1 teaspoon, and then increase your intake every day by a few grains until reaching 2 teaspoons a day (10 ml). Daily intake should be a maximum of 1 tablespoon (15 ml).
Children: Start from 3 grains, increasing by 2 grains every few days until reaching 1/2 tsp. a day.

***Note: A small percentage of the population is severely allergic to bee pollen (particularly if you are allergic to bees or other bee products). Please use caution and common sense before introducing this food to your diet.

If you are interested in reading more about the production, medical uses, nutritional values, or are just curious about the life and anatomy of bees, an outstanding source is R. Krell’s paper on Value Added Products From Beekeeping published in 1996 – the pollen section is specifically relevant to this post.

I thought I’d start with a simple smoothie recipe to get ya’ll in the mood for pollen, but there are many ways of incorporating these amazing golden granules into your daily diet. Sprinkle it on your morning cereal or lunch-time salad, top your desserts, add to salad dressing, or fold it into your raw food snacks (like The Raw Brownie perhaps?).

Bee Pollen Smoothie
serves 2
1 cup nut milk (or other milk)
1 cup blueberries (frozen are fine)
1 frozen banana, in 3 or 4 chunks
1 Medjool date, pitted (optional)
1 hunk of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. bee pollen (to start, work up to 1 Tbsp.)

Directions:
1. Put everything in a blender and whir it up! Drink immediately.

You can make your smoothie out of anything you have on hand and/or what is in season – this is simply what I had today!

And yes, that is a glass straw. After all the thought and care I put into buying organic foods, and preparing them in a healthiest way possible, I could not consider slurping my beautiful smoothies through a plastic straw that is potentially leaching harmful toxins. Absolutely not, I say!
Also, glass straws are a far better alternative for the environment, as they are reusable. Those plastic straws, however small, still add up in the landfill.

I bought my glass straw from an artist in Mendocino county (of course) last fall and I am really in love with it. One of those things I constantly told myself I could live without is now something I use almost everyday and get so much pleasure from. You buy them online from many different vendors (just Google glass straws). They aren’t that expensive, and surprisingly durable. Thumbs up!

Am I finished yet? Yes, I am.

source: Haas, Elson M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkley, CA: Wiley, 2006.
            Jubb, Annie & David. Life Food: Living on Life Force. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2003.
           Value-added Products from Bee-keeping: http://www.fao.org/docrep/w0076e/w0076e00.htm#con

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com

58 comments

  1. buy bee pollen pills

    People take bee pollen for nutrition; as an appetite stimulant; to improve stamina and athletic performance; and for premature aging, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), hay fever (allergic rhinitis), mouth sores, joint pain (rheumatism), painful urination, prostate conditions, and radiation sickness.

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  3. Dafne Schvetz

    Hi Sarah! I have a question, someone once told me that bee pole should be taken after beeing about 7 days in a jar with honey, since their enzymes can’t be assimilated if you take bee polen by it’s own. The source that told my friend was an apiculture, in Germany, so I guess it’s a good source. What do you think? Do you have any info on that? Thank you so much!!

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  6. Maj

    Hmmmm. (Very) quick Googling suggests that bee pollen’s benefits aren’t outweighed by the risks (e.g., severe allergic reactions) and that there has been little conclusive empirical evidence that bee pollen does us any good in terms of allergy relief, help with weight loss, athletic performance, etc. For instance: http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/ask-diet-doctor-buzz-bee-pollen

    Given that these kinds of hits were the first I got when searching online, I thought I’d ask what your response is to those who claim that eating bee pollen just isn’t worth the risk.

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  8. octavia

    i was looking on your blog and i found this recipe. I found out about how healthy bee pollen was so i got some and tried making it i made a bit of changes to the recipe because i did not have all the ingredients instead of just blueberries i did wild blueberries , pomegranate seeds , and frozen cherries. Thank you for this recipe. It was delicious.

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  10. Kathy-Lee

    Oops hit the enter button to early

    I just wanted to say that on this day of christmas I was the happiest adult growing youth

    But there is still a question to be asked

    You said something about their good price
    My mother purchased one glass of about I guess capacity of 1 1/2 to 2 cups and they cost 5 euros
    I’m not quite sure if that is a deal?
    Maybe they’re better purchased online? By local standarts of course

  11. Kathy-Lee

    Sweet Jesus!

    First Idiscovered your post about bee pollen and asked my mother if she knew something about it and it’s benefits (she’s a doctor and grew up parts city parts in nature on a farm)
    I suggested using it as a supplement for my slowly towards vegetarism heading diet and she assured the safety.
    Yet somehow I haven’t stumbled across any and it left my mind
    Until
    On dec 24 my mother brought me a jar from a local stord

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  18. Rolex

    Bee pollen usage for diet and weight loss is trending and getting popular each day. More and more people are taking bee pollen supplement for weight loss.

  19. Raul Sasso

    Hi there, simply changed into alert to your weblog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I am gonna be careful for brussels. I’ll be grateful if you happen to continue this in future. Many folks can be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

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  21. Jana

    Dear Sarah, I have recently bought bee pollen(grains) at a local organic grocery shop, however was informed that human digestion is not able to fully break down pollen grains and get those superfood nutrients from them, as the bees would. I have seen it sold also in a liquid form on the farmer’s market, so just wonder if you have also heard about this issue.

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  23. nahidworld

    Pollen is a powdery substance which consist of Pollen grains and is produced by anthers of plants containing seeds. While the substance is necessary in the reproduction of seed plants, it can cause hay fever for those who are susceptible to allergies. Allergies are strongest in the spring, summer and fall. This is because plants are beginning to bloom. The wind and rain during the spring causes the Pollen to flow through the air causing allergies to act up.

    Coming From….
    Pollen Information

  24. Anonymous

    I’ve heard bee pollen is harvested by placing traps at the entrance of hives that pulls the pollen from their legs, often their legs come with it. No thanks! The bees can keeep their pollen and I’ll take some of the excess honey they make from it.

  25. Joanne

    I just made this sans the bee pollen and ginger (sorry, sorry, I know it’s all about the pollen but it was simply too expensive at my local health food store; $20! So I’m going to keep looking :)

    Regardless though, it is still delicious but don’t do what I did-never having had Medjool dates before I didn’t realise they come UN-pitted, not like other dates so….I kinda blended the pit a bit, freaking out about the noise from my blender, then took it out to see what it was and now have….crunchy smoothie. LOL :) Still delicious but!

  26. Sarah B

    Anonymous – you just have to look for organically-sourced pollen. Of course the producers cannot be 100% certain of the purity, but it is at least better than the ‘regular’ type.
    Good luck!

    Best, Sarah B

  27. Kelly

    I love to sprinkle it on top as opposed to blending it into the smoothie.. its got a crunchy little texture that is nice to munch.. like, an organic toffee bit.

  28. Grace

    Sarah, I love these posts filled with so much information. Thank you for sharing your research and knowledge. I wish I had read this yesterday before I went to Whole Foods in London. Will try to track down some bee pollen at my local Holland & Barrett. Smoooooothie season is here! -Grace

  29. the mootiful one...

    And this week I will be mostly eating bee pollen…if only I could get my mitts on a stash.

    I like your advice about introducing nutritional supplements slowly too. I learned the hard way with coconut oil.

    That smoothie sounds yummy by the way. Much better than my kale one. Thank you as always for another of your incredibly informative posts. I’ve signed up for updates and can’t wait to receive my first.

    Stay mootiful, Gemma
    & hearts

  30. Sarah B

    Hey k. darter!

    Super great to know about BYBI :D I will definitely look them up, as I am all about the urban bee farms. Awesome. Thanks for the link!

    Best, Sarah B

  31. k. darter

    YUM.

    bees are just wonderful. a good friend of mine is the director of “Bybi” in copenhagen (http://www.bybi.dk) their website will tell you more about this project, but basically Bybi is “designed to exploit the environmental, social and economic benefits of sustainable beekeeping and honey production in Copenhagen.”

    you can also find them on facebook! perhaps they can give you the hookup on bee pollen! :)

  32. Nikita

    I just found your blog! What an interesting article on bee pollen. I think I’m sold, I’m going to try to track some of this stuff down!

  33. shelley

    I have never left a comment before, but I have been coming to your site for a while. I think your photos are really beautiful. Thank you for sharing them, as well as all the great recipes.

  34. Elenore (E)

    I find so many times proof for that “great minds work alike”:) I´ve been working on an article about Bee pollen myself and taking loads of pictures. (totally addicted to the small golden “seeds” by the way).
    It is so interesting to see that things and topics tend to explode at the same time! I love it!

  35. diana

    This post made me smile because just a few nights ago I ventured into one of the Health Food Stores here in Barbados and saw Bee Pollen… for the first time.

    I nearly bought it, because it was random and looked lovely but I decided it will be better to know what it can be used for and its overall benefits. So many thanks for this post. :)

  36. Anonymous

    I really like your blog, but one of the labels you put on this post was “vegan.” Bee pollen is not vegan.

  37. future + SPACE

    I discovered your blog recentlly and am totallly obsessed. I have been really getting in to organic raw, vegan eating and esp superfoods. Bee Pollen is so amazing, I have it every day but didnt actually know how it came from the bees to the bag in my fridge. Thank you. If you have any info on Camu Camu and Maca, it would be great to share.

  38. Maria

    After reading “pollen that the bees take back from the flowers and store in the hive for food” I kept waiting for reassurance that bees will still have enough food for themselves. Is this done in such way? I know nothing about the process so maybe my concern is unfounded; right now I’d feel like I’m depriving them after their hard work!

  39. Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul

    Bee Pollen has been on my mind a lot lately. Especially since going raw and reading so much about it. You’ve officially sold me! I’m currently experiencing some strange allergic reaction (possibly just seasonal allergies) this may help. I swear, I feel like going to buy some right now and making this smoothie or the brownies (!), too bad it’s 11pm in NYC. I hope I can find some local pollen!
    Thanks for sharing. Your photos are beautiful :)

  40. Bridget

    YES, i love this post! i have bee pollen in my fridge that i sprinkle in smoothies from time to time… that and the really raw honey with the propolis on top and we are good to go!!!!

  41. SavedthruLove

    I just started using RAW HONEY and heard that allergy systems disappear if you use local raw honey verses one manufactured in a place that you don’t even live. So I found it funny that your blog post was on none other than the benefits of organic locally made bee pollen. HOW PRECIOUS. God is speaking. ha ha Thank you for the share. I always love learning new holistic health news..

    ♥cheche

  42. Anonymous

    Sounds interesting! Problem with eating enzymes: Doesn’t the stomach just denature them all anyway with its powerful acid?

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