The honeybee’s gifts: pollen and propolis
The Honeybee’s Gifts: Pollen and Propolis
Nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory and all natural, pollen and propolis win new converts.
Honey is not the only good thing to come out of the beehive. Bee pollen and propolis are two nutrient-rich products offered by the honeybee that are turning heads among health foods afficianados.
Pollen, the yellow, powderlike male sex cells on the stamens of a flower, is, of course, basic to all plant life. Bees gather pollen and fly it back to the hive, leaving some of it on other flowers to effect fertilization. Bees will collect only the most healthy pollens by instinct and will pass by those of inferior quality. Bees shape the pollen into tiny granules and enclose them in a form that shields the granules. Adult bees feed protein-rich pollen to larva to boost the larva’s growth rate.
Bee-gathered pollen contains vitamins A, C, E, B1, B3 and B12. Calcium, phosphorus, potassium and iron also are found in bee pollen. Pollen is 35 percent protein and a high source of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It is used by some health conscious individuals to increase strength and energy and to improve digestion. Pollen has also been reported to cure allergies, asthma and hay fever.
Pollen should be stored in a dry place and not refrigerated. Cooking is not advised because of the enzyme destruction caused by heat. Pollen should be eaten in its pure form but can be mixed with honey or incorporated into butter and jam.
The bee hive is also a source of propolis. Propolis is a sticky, antibacterial, antiviral substance gathered by bees from buds and bark and used to disinfect the hive. Propolis is also used as a cement to fix the honeycombs to the hive, and repair cracks and crevices. It is one of the most important agents against infection in the hive, and one reason that honey resists spoiling. The amount of propolis in refined honey has diminished due to modern beekeeping and processing methods. Propolis is obtained by chipping it away from the hive.
Bees line the entrance of their hive with propolis as their first line of defense, and propolis also protects individual bees from infection while inside the hive. Inflammation of the throat and mouth, halitosis, tonsillitis, stomach ulcers, acne and slow-healing wounds have all been reportedly relieved with the use of propolis.
Propolis is rich in fats, amino acids, organic acids and trace elements such as iron, copper, manganese and zinc. The antibiotic properties of propolis are believed to come from the flavonoids it contains, particularly galangin, a plant root related to ginger which has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes. Most of the propolis for human use comes from poplars.
Just as bee pollen and propolis provide bees with energy and protect the hive against infection, these remedies from the bee hive may also prove to be a line of defense for humans. Bee pollen and propolis are available in many health food stores.
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