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This is the yellowish dust produced by the anthers of male flowers.
During their search for nectar, bees also bring back pollen from their excursions, as well as transferring it to the ovaries of female flowers resulting in their fertilisation and the development of fruit or seeds. This fine dust is mixed with nectar and enzymes to form granules and is fed to young bees.
It"s an extremely nutritious foodstuff, rich in amino acids (about 30%), carbohydrates (50%), enzymes, essential fatty acids, all vitamins except D and K, minerals and trace elements.
The pollen mixture is also rich in plant flavanoids - which are thought to have therapeutic properties. These are also prolific in honey and propolis.
All honey contains pollen, but the waxy honeycomb is particularly rich in it, and chewing honeycomb during the hay-fever season is a long-established folk remedy.
In her book "Miracle Cures" (published by Thomsons), Jean Carper mentions research by an American doctor, Maurice M. Tinterow at the Bio-Communications Research Institute in Wichita, Kansas. She tested a branded bee pollen product on 195 patients with allergic symptoms including asthma and hay fever. Bee pollen worked in all but four subjects and relief was often extremely fast - in some cases a matter of hours.
Admirers of bee pollen also claim that it prevents colds and flu, helps the immune system to fight virus infections, relieves fatigue, improves appetite, increases sexual potency and fertility, alleviates painful menstruation, reduces the hot flushes of menopause women and alleviates enlarged prostate in men.
To be effective, it should be taken regularly for at least one month - 20mg a day being a normal supplement; 40mg a therapeutic dose.
Bee Pollen is available from Comvita (www.nzfc.co.uk; mail order 01730-813 642
See 'Alternative Medicine'; 'Honey'; ' Propolis'