The Use of Bee Pollen as a Superfood
By Dr. Joseph Mercola
What Is Pollen?
Pollen is the male seed of flowers. It is required for the fertilization of the plant. The tiny particles consist of 50/1,000-millimeter corpuscles, formed at the free end of the stamen in the heart of the blossom. Every variety of flower in the universe puts forth a dusting of pollen. Many orchard fruits and agricultural food crops do, too.
Bee pollen is the food of the young bee and it is approximately 40% protein. It is considered one of nature's most completely nourishing foods. It contains nearly all nutrients required by humans. About half of its protein is in the form of free amino acids that are ready to be sued directly by the body. Such highly assimilable protein can contribute significantly to one's protein needs.
Gathering pollen is not as easy as it sounds. Once a honeybee arrives at a flower, she settles herself in and nimbly scrapes off the powdery loose pollen from the stamen with her jaws and front legs, moistening it with a dab of the honey she brought with her from the hive. The enlarged and broadened tarsal segments of her legs have a thick trimming of bristles, called pollen combs. The bee uses these combs to brush the gold powder from her coat and legs in mid-flight. With a skillful pressing movement of her auricle, which is used as a hammer, she pushes the gathered gold into her baskets. Her pollen baskets, surrounded by a fringe of long hairs, are simply concave areas located on the outside of her tibias. When the bee's baskets are fully loaded, the microscopic golden dust has been tamped down into a single golden grain, or granule.
One of the most interesting facts about bee pollen is that it cannot be synthesized in a laboratory. When researchers take away a bee's pollen-filled comb and feed her manmade pollen, the bee dies even though all the known nutrients are present in the lab-produced synthesized food. Many thousands of chemical analyses of bee pollen have been made with the very latest diagnostic equipment, but there are still some elements present in bee pollen that science cannot identify. The bees add some mysterious "extra" of their own. These unidentifiable elements may very well be the reason bee pollen works so spectacularly against so many diverse conditions of ill health.
Honeybees do double duty. They are programmed to gather pollen and carry it back to the hive as food for the colony. However, even more important as far as humans are concerned, they are also responsible for the pollination of more than 80 percent of green growing things. As bees buzz from blossom to blossom, microscopic pollen particles coat their stubby little bodies so densely that they sometimes look like little yellow fuzz balls. When they arrive at the next flower, a portion of the live golden dust is transferred to that blossom and pollination is accomplished.
It is important to recognize that a one teaspoon dose of pollen takes one bee working eight hours a day for one month to gather. Each bee pollen pellet, contains over two million flower pollen grains and one teaspoonful contains over 2.5 billion grains of flower pollen.
Bee pollen contains all the essential components of life. The percentage of rejuvenating elements in bee pollen remarkably exceeds those present in brewer's yeast and wheat germ. Bee pollen corrects the deficient or unbalanced nutrition, common in the customs of our present-day civilization of consuming incomplete foods, often with added chemical ingredients, which expose us to physiological problems as various as they are numerous.
Pollen is considered an energy and nutritive tonic in Chinese medicine. Cultures throughout the world use it in a surprising number of applications: for improving endurance and vitality, extending longevity, aiding recovery from chronic illness, adding weight during convalescence, reducing cravings and addictions, regulating the intestines, building new blood, preventing infectious diseases such as the cold and flue (it has antibiotic type properties), and helping overcome retardation and other developmental problems in children. It is thought to protect against radiation and to have anti-cancer qualities.
Nutrient deficiencies and all the health problems they cause are recognized worldwide as a growing problem. Because bee pollen contains all the nutrients needed to sustain life, it is being used on an ever larger scale for human nourishment and health. Science teaches that bee pollen contains many substances that combine to make it a healthy, nutritious, complete food. There are numerous reports from medical experience that conclusively show the benefits of bee pollen exceed that of a simple food item. And the bees do most of the work.
Bee-gathered pollens are rich in proteins, free amino acids, vitamins, including B-complex, and folic acid.
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]."
Bee pollen is a complete food and contains many elements that products of animal origin do not possess. Bee pollen is more rich in proteins than any animal source. It contains more amino acids than beef, eggs, or cheese of equal weight. Bee pollen is particularly concentrated in all elements necessary for life.
Researchers have demonstrated that there is a substance in bee pollen that inhibits the development of numerous harmful bacteria. Experiments have shown bee pollen contains an antibiotic factor effective against salmonella and some strains of bacteria. On the clinical level, studies have shown that a regulatory effect on intestinal function can be attributed to bee pollen. The presence of a high proportion of cellulose and fiber in pollen, as well as the existence of antibiotic factors, all contribute to an explanation for this efficacious effect.
Working with lab animals has demonstrated that the ingestion of bee pollen has a good effect on the composition of blood. A considerable and simultaneous increase of both white and red blood cells is observed. When bee pollen is given to anemic patients, their levels of hemoglobin [oxygen-carrying red blood cells] increase considerably.
It is reported that bee pollen in the diet acts to normalize cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood: Upon the regular ingestion of bee pollen, a reduction of cholesterol and triglycerides was observed. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) increased, while low-density lipoproteins (LDL) decreased. A normalization of blood serum cholesterol levels is also seen.
One of the most important articles ever published on bee pollen comes from our own United States Department of Agriculture. This article, entitled "Delay in the Appearance of Palpable Mammary Tumors in C3H Mice Following the Ingestion of PolIenized Food," is the work of William Robinson of the Bureau of Entomology, Agriculture Research Administration. It was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute way back in October 1948, five decades ago. According to the article, Dr. Robinson started with mice that had been specially bred to develop and subsequently die from tumors. He explains, "The age at which mice of this strain developed tumors ranged from 18 to 57 weeks, with an average appearance at 33 weeks. Tumor incidence was 100 percent."
The pollen used in this study was supplied by the Division of Bee Culture and, according to the report, "was the bee-gathered type." One group of mice was fed mice chow only; another group was fed mice chow with the addition of bee pollen at a ratio of 1 part bee pollen to 10,000 parts food. Dr. Robinson's article states, "Particular attention was given to the weight of the treated animals, since underweight can in itself bring about a delay in tumor development. No decrease in weight occurred in the animals receiving the pollenized food. Instead, a slight but fairly uniform increase was noted, possibly due to a nutritional factor in pollen."
In his summary, Dr. Robinson reveals the dramatic results: "In the untreated mice [the mice not given bee pollen], mammary tumors appeared as expected at an average of 31.3 weeks. Tumor incidence was 100 percent. In the postponement series, [the mice given bee pollen], the average [onset of tumors] was 41.1 weeks, a delay of 9.8 weeks being obtained. Seven mice in this series were still tumor-free at 56 to 62 weeks of age, when the tests were terminated. I would like to emphasize that these mice were especially bred to die from cancerous tumors. Without the protection of bee pollen in their food, the mice developed tumors and died right on schedule.
Given the fact that cancer is the number-two killer in the United States (heart disease is number one), we can all certainly agree that this is an electrifying article. What happened from it? Nothing. Even the National Cancer Institute, which published it, failed to follow up on this very promising line of research. It was dropped with no explanation.
More good news comes from the University of Vienna, where Dr. Peter Hernuss and colleagues conducted a study of twenty-five women suffering from inoperable uterine cancer. Because surgery was impossible, the women were treated with chemotherapy. The lucky women given bee pollen with their food quickly exhibited a higher concentration of cancer-fighting immune-system cells, increased antibody production, and a markedly improved level of infection-fighting and oxygen carrying red blood cells (hemoglobin). These women suffered less from the awful side effects of chemotherapy as well. Bee pollen lessened the terrible nausea that commonly accompanies the treatment and helped keep hair loss to a minimum. The women also slept better at night. The control group receiving a placebo did not experience comparable relief.
A report from the Agronomic Institute, Faculty of Zootechnics, Romania, showed the immune-strengthening effects of bee pollen. According to the report, "Comparative Studies Concerning Biochemical Characteristics of Beebread as Related to the Pollen Preserved in Honey" by Drs. E. Palos, Z. Voiculescu, and C. Andrei, "An increase has been recorded in the level of blood lymphocytes, gamma globulins, and proteins in those subjects given pollen in comparison with control groups. The most significant difference occurred in lymphocytes. These results thus signify a strengthening in the resistance of the organic system."
Lymphocytes are the white blood cells that are the "soldiers" of the immune system. They are responsible for ridding the body of injurious and harmful substances, including infected or diseased cells, mutant and cancerous cells, viruses, metabolic trash, and so on. Gamma globulin is a protein formed in the blood, and our ability to resist infection is closely related to this protein's activity.