Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bee Pollen Benefits

Ever heard the word "palynology?" It's the study of bee pollen. Truly. Bee Pollen has been valued for centuries for it's amazing nutritional and medicinal value. I'm not sure how or why I stumbled upon it. I know I'd been told that some received allergy relief by eating local honey. I tried that for awhile -- perhaps not long enough. Then I heard about bee pollen and thought that would make even more sense to ingest the very pollen of the air that gave me problems. There's much more to bee pollen than just scraping the pollen off the windshield of my car (I did consider that). Bees do their own magic to the pollen by adding their secretions to create this amazing food that has so many benefits for our bodies. Here's a little description of the process from this webpage:

Honeybees collect the pollen and during the collection process it is combined with secretions from the bee, as it is worked from the stamen of the plant. The bee uses it’s tongue and mandibles to collect the pollen, it then brushes the pollen from around it’s mouth area using it's forelegs and moves the now sticky substance towards it's second pair of legs. The worker bee assembles a mass of pollen, all of which has been mixed with the bee secretion and moved to storage on the bees body and legs. When the bee has collected sufficient pollen it returns to the beehive to deposit the load.
Some vegans or raw foodists consider bee pollen an animal product, so they won't eat it. But I heard Brigitte Mars (nationally known herbalist and author) speak at a raw food expo about the wonders of bee pollen and honey and in her mind, felt like she was helping the bees by partaking of it (can't remember the details there, but it was convincing as well as wonderful to hear how it ranked amidst the helpful herbs of the land).

David Wolfe, who is a raw foodist and author of "Eating for Beauty" (which is a vain sounding title, I'll admit and isn't why I bought it -- Beauty is just an indicator of excellent health in my opinion and probably in his too, but was a catchy title for a raw food book) rates bee pollen on his "Best Protein Foods" list as the best of all high-protein foods. That's a pretty high ranking! He also calls it "the most complete food found in nature" which is amazing if you see how thoroughly he's studied so many foods.

The bottom line for me, though is, how bee pollen helps me in allergy season. Yes, eating raw all the time helps too, but for those times that I'm not eating 100% (which is about half the time), I do need some outside help and bee pollen does the trick. I need to find a way to sneak it into something for my youngest son because he could use the help (and
the nutrients) as well.

There was one summer (probably not last, but the one before) where I was doing well, allergy and asthma-wise and I was headed off on a family camping trip. I packed up my bee pollen in the cooler and should have used an airtight container. Instead I used the little bag it comes in with the twisty tie. By the last day, the melted ice had gotten into my bee pollen bag and had ruined it all. So I went about a day without taking it. I was fine at the campground, as its climate was much hotter and dryer and their allergy season was over. But as soon as I got home, my eyes itched and my breathing became tight. I was up most of the night coughing with my asthma. I can't remember if I took some bee pollen before I went to bed and in the morning or just in the morning, but by mid-morning, my asthma was gone. My eyes no longer burned either. I was glad to have my fresh stash of bee pollen nearby again.

I have read that if you have a bee sting allergy, you should not take bee pollen. That's
important to state. I don't have a bee sting allergy (but think of "My Girl" with poor Thomas J and cutie pie Vada Sultenfuss -- I love that movie!), but did read before taking bee pollen that you need to ease into it gradually. Bee pollen comes in tiny little pellets. The very first time, I only ate one or two pellets. 12 hours later, I took 4 or 5. I continued to double them every 12 hours until I reached a Tablespoon a day. I found that it was far easier to eat a few pellets at a time. They taste sweet and are easy to chew. When I got up to a Tablespoon a day, it tasted extremely chalky to me and I'd get a little nauseated for the first hour or so. My husband told me maybe I should spread it out more. So now I take a heaping teaspoon in the morning and another at night. From what I've read, you should take it an hour before eating. I'm not sure why. I tend to chew it and it gets stuck in my molars, then I get grossed out because it is in my mouth for too long and feels too chalky. A friend of mine started taking bee pollen for her asthma and said she had no problems chewing it, even without water. I like to wash mine down with water (think ocean wave whisking the sand from the shore :)) and think I'm going to stop feeling like I have to chew it. It dissolves with saliva and digestive juices. So perhaps if I do that, I'll enjoy taking it more.

Apparently, bee pollen can go rancid quickly. It must be refrigerated to keep fresh. You can test it's freshness by putting a few pellets in a glass of water. If the pellets sink, they are fresh. If they float, they're old. I kept some leftover from the end of one spring until the next winter and it had started floating. So it may not keep for more than a few months, even in the fridge.

Where do you buy bee pollen? There are many online sources, but it makes the most sense to me to buy it locally so you can get the pollen from your area. If you go to your local health food store, they should have little plastic bags or jars with bee pollen in a refrigerator. In one of the stores here, they have a special refrigerator in the herb section, but in the others, it's just on the bottom shelf of the wall of refrigerators/freezers. On mine, there's a date of how new it is and a description. They sell two here -- one that states our County name to let us know it's local. The other says "High Desert" -- I'm not sure why someone would want that instead, unless they were going to travel to the high desert soon? I just did a Google Search and there's a brand called High Desert, but I doubt that's the case with the hand-packed variety sold in our stores.

Here are some web pages I've found with further information on bee pollen (or as they say on Reading Rainbow, "don't take my word for it":





Happy reading!

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