The golden grains collected by honeybees contain the male reproductive cells of flowering plants. To this material, each bee contributes its own digestive enzymes to help the pollen adhere to the tiny collection “baskets” on their rear legs as they forage. This activity is not only vital to ensure the propagation of a variety of plants, but provides the sole food source for honeybees that is engineered to safeguard the health of the hive.
Bee pollen is a unique and chemically diverse substance with no two samples being exactly alike, even when taken from the same hive. On average, however, all bee pollen is abundantly rich in protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. As such, it is also known as “bee bread,” “ambrosia” and, to the ancient Romans and Greeks, as “life-giving dust.” With a nutritional profile that includes every nutrient necessary to maintain life and good health for humans as well as honeybees, it’s no wonder bee pollen is touted as a “super food.” Indeed, it is food fit for a queen!
A chemical analysis of bee pollen is impressive. This amazing substance contains all 22 essential amino acids and all 28 minerals required by the human body. Bee pollen also contains up to 35% protein, most of which is in the form of free amino acids. It is also rich in fatty acids, nearly a dozen enzymes and coenzymes and vitamins A, B, C, D, E, H (biotin) and K.
Bee pollen should not be confused with wind-blown pollen that triggers seasonal allergies. The latter type of pollen is lighter in weight and contains anemophile pollen grains, which honeybees pass over in favor of entomophile pollen grains because of their superior nutritional value. This is a remarkable feat considering they have to choose the preferred pollen from millions of grains present in any particular flower.
Speaking of allergy… it is highly unlikely that you will experience an allergic reaction from consuming bee products just because you are allergic to bee venom. In addition, the presence of quercetin in bee pollen, which inhibits the release of histamine, may offer a protective effect. However, caution may be warranted if you are allergic to the pollen of plants in the ragweed family, for example, or other flowering plants that honeybees frequently visit. Note that plant diversity, and therefore pollen content, is governed by the region in which each hive resides.