Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bee Pollen

Naturopaths and deluded peddlers of pseudoscience claim that bee pollen, also called bee bread, is nature's most perfect and complete food. Many purport that it rejuvenates, invigorates, prolongs life, heals organs, enhances athletic and sexual performance, fights infection, and inoculates against allergic reactions. That's quite an impressive array of medicinal properties packed into such tiny little balls of pollen. But there's a flaw to even the most basic claims about the nutritional profile of this supplement. Because bees don't typically stick to one flower, the composition of the pollen can be very hard to ascertain. Therefore, the proclamations that any container of bee pollen contains all of the essential amino acids along with high values of vitamins and minerals cannot be completely verifiable. And because the pollen sources are not known, those with allergies to any specific type of pollen run the risk of suffering a severe allergic reaction by consuming the stuff.

bee pollen on spoon

Anyway, there's a great article here by an actual doctor debunking the erroneous claims put forth by the promoters of bee pollen (which can be found en masse with a simple google search). So, crap aside, let's get down to the food stuff itself. I'm sure you've seen these little balls of spit and honey dangling from the hind quarters of a bee making daily nectar rounds in the garden. These are brought back to the hive used to manufacture honey, fueling the colony and the future generations of bees... that is if they're not stolen by some malicious supplement salesmen as the poor, unsuspecting bee arrives home from a hard day in the fields.

bee pollen

I was taken back at first upon opening my bottle and smelling the contents and even more surprised by the taste. The pollen balls smelled sweet and, get this, honey-like so, logically, my reaction didn't make much sense. But I could detect no distinct flowery scents nor any other aromas one associates with the pollen storms of spring. Noting the smell, the flavor and texture should have come as no surprise but this dry, chalky honey still caught me off guard. Illogical, yes, but it's hard to divorce honey's sweet and pungent flavor from the syrupy texture, as if some particular quality of the bee spit is responsible for the characteristic taste. But no, here it was in near-raw form. Surprisingly nice but not something that remains pleasant after the first couple teaspoons.

bee pollen

Don't believe the hype. If you're interested in trying some bee pollen, approach it as food and not some miraculous panacea. I could definitely see myself sprinkling it over some ice cream or adding it to the foamy top of a fancy coffee concoction. But one must take great care if they are prone to pollen allergies. There are cases of people dying after having a severe reaction to this food/supplement and there's no guaranteeing the composition of the pollen. Proceed with caution and skepticism.

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