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7 Things You Didn’t Know About...Bee Pollen

June 30, 2014

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We all know that honey can have some serious benefits, but that’s not the only health-boosting product busy bees are turning out. Bee pollen may not sound as appetizing as its sweet counterpart, but many herbalists recommend it as a highly nutritious food source to support overall health. 

Most commonly seen as small yellow pellets, bee pollen can be found at many health food stores and farmers markets. Don’t let the size fool you—those little guys have quite an interesting background as well as a unique nutritional profile. To get you acquainted with bee pollen,  here are 7 things I bet you didn’t know about bee pollen. 

1. Busy bees: Each bee pollen pellet contains over two million highly compacted flower pollen grains, and one teaspoon of bee pollen contains over 2.5 billion pollen grains.  It would take one bee working eight hours a day for one month to gather enough for just one teaspoon of bee pollen. 

2.  The fountain of youth? Some believe that bee pollen is the basis for ambrosia in Greek mythology, which was the food of the gods believed to impart immortality. Turns out there might be something behind the myth: Researcher Dr. Nikolai V. Tsitsin investigated the lives of centenarians (those living past 100) in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, and found that many were beekeepers who ate the sticky residue at the bottom of their hives, which was made up mostly of bee pollen. 

3. Skin soother: Like honey, bee pollen is used in some topical products to treat inflammatory skin problems, like psoriasis, eczema, or even diaper rash. 

4. A holistic addiction remedy: Bee pollen may help silence cravings for alcohol or certain drugs, so it’s sometimes used as a holistic remedy to aid in getting over addictions. Most reports of its efficacy in this area are anecdotal though, and more research needs to be done to determine a scientific basis. 

5. Worker bee food: In a honeybee colony, there are tens of thousands of worker bees, and just one larger queen bee who exists to lay eggs. All of the worker bees are fed bee pollen, while the queen bee is fed a diet of royal jelly. 

Interestingly, it is the bee pollen itself that keeps worker bees as worker bees, and the royal jelly diet that makes the queen, the queen. When the present queen is weak or dying, worker bees decide to create a new queen by feeding a larvae only royal jelly throughout its development, rather than bee pollen. The royal jelly diet changes the physiology of that bee, so that she has a body meant solely to reproduce.  You really are what you eat! 

6. An energy enhancer…or not? Bee pollen is often touted as an energy booster, but there is really no scientific evidence to back it up. It’s even a popular supplement taken by athletes who hope it will improve their athletic performance, but again any claims surrounding this are purely anecdotal. But no reason not to give it a try and see how it affects your next workout! 

7. A fertile food: Some people take bee pollen in hopes of improving their fertility, as some small studies suggest it may be helpful. Animal research in New Zealand found that adding bee pollen to the diet increased semen quality and fertility in male bucks, and a similar study with female rabbits found that bee pollen helped improve conception rate, milk yield, and litter size. Do you take bee pollen? If so why, and has it helped? Leave a comment below to share your experience with us.