The function of a flower is to produce seed and a grain of pollen is the male germ of the flower or plant. As plants flower, this germ (or sperm) is transferred by wind or insect from the anther of a stamen to the stigma of a pistel (style). When the pollen grain reaches the ovary, it fertilizes an oville and this union culminates in the generation of a seed of that plant. This simplified explanation does not do justice to portray the amazing potential power encased in the tiny speck that is a grain of pollen. When one visualizes the massive tree which results from the germinated seed of an oak or a redwood, then one can better appreciate the power latent within a single pollen grain - a speck measuring only .002" and that takes 2.5 billion grains to fill one tablespoon.
In the scheme of things, bees fill a vital roll for they are the primary means by which many plants and trees are pollinated and hence reproduce. In fact, because bees are so thorough and diligent of their search for nectar and pollen for the hive, they are the most efficient and only dependable pollinators. The bee's hairy legs are perfectly adapted for the job of pollination and for the job of carrying back to the hive the little 'pellets of pollen they use for food. As the bee travels from flower to flower, she gathers from each some pollen which is mixed with nectar and certain stomach juices to hold the grains together. Eventually a small pellet is formed composed of pollen weighing about 10 mg and containing around 2,000,000 grains of pollen which was collected from perhaps 200 500 flowers in a half hour period. One thousand two hundred of these pellets will fill a tablespoon, weigh approximately 12 gms. and will contain the 2.5 billion grains of pollen mentioned above.
A bee will carry two of the pellets at a time back to the hive. In the course of a year, bees collecting pollen for a hive will gather and store up to 60 or 80 pounds of pollen. Other bees will gather nectar in a sack in their stomach which will be converted to honey in the comb. Pollen will be converted to bees bread by lactic fermentation in the comb cells. Royal jelly, food for the queen, is also primarily pollen.
Some hives collect pollen in excess of its needs for food and if the apiarist wishes, he can install a pollen trap at the entry of the hive which will knock the pellet of pollen off the bees legs as she passes through it.
The pellets drop into a screen covered tray. Periodically this tray will be removed from the hive and emptied.
This then is the source of our present day bee pollen. It is estimated
that the annual world production of bee pollen could be in excess of
300,000 tons. At present, world use by man is probably not over 1,600
tons per annum.
II. Pollen Through The Ages
THE ANCIENTS. There are innumerable references to pollen and
honey by the ancients. It seems that plant pollen as collected by the
bees or blown by the wind and often in conjunction with honey, has been
referred to in the ancient texts and mythologies of almost all civilizations.
A very brief outline of these follows.
The Egyptians seemed to hold bees, pollen and honey in great esteem
as many temples and obelisks carried inscriptions extolling their virtues.
Ancient Indian, Greek, Roman, Chinese and the middle Eastern Civiliza
tions all recognized the medicinal virtues and food value of pollen and
honey. Early European peoples used pollen and honey together to make
an alcoholic beverage somewhat similar to today's mead wine. Worldwide
use of pollen and honey has continued up to the present, however, in the
last 100 years the emphasis has been on honey.
A MODERN REDISCOVERING OF THE VIRTUES OF POLLEN.
A revival of interest in pollen has been slowly developing since the early
1940's when U.S. biochemists began analyzing the contents of pollen to
discover the causative agent of pollen allergies in people. To their surprise.
they learned that pollen was extremely nutritious and contained amazingly
high percentages of protein, vitamins and minerals when compared to all
other plant and animal sources.
Also around this time (1945) a report from Russian biologist Nicholas
Tsitin was published stating that of the 150 Russian centigenarians who
replied to a questionnaire inquiring about their age, occupation, and
principal foods, all replied that honey was their principal food. Further
investigation by the Longevity Institute of the USSR revealed that it
wasn't only honey that was eaten. In fact, it was the waste matter found
in the bottom of bee hives. This waste matter was largely bee pollen
mixed with some honey droppings.
In 1952 a Swedish railway clerk, Gosta CarIsson, produced the first
pollen collection machine and started collecting pollen on a large scale.
During the 1960's word of the virtues of pollen was carried through
out Europe. In Sweden alone some 4,000 physicians were prescribing
pollen and pollen extracts to their patients.
In the last 5 years or so, the U.S. health food industry has been promoting the virtues of bee pollen and a strong surge of interest and research has resulted. From all appearances, pollen is again on its way to experiencing the universal acclaim that the ancients once accorded it.
III. Composition of Pollen
Today's resurgance of interest in bee pollen is a resultant of hundreds of studies made by scientists on the composition and effects on animal life of pollen. These studies have demonstrated that bee pollen is an unequalled storehouse of nutrients.
Pollens range from 10% - 35% protein with average around 18%. The protein is composed of various amino acids. A breakdown of the 8 essential amino acids (the human body produces all the amino acids it needs except these 8) of a 19% protein pollen is below compared with other food sources of protein. Figures are in percent/grams.
Isoleusine Leusine Lysine Methionine
Meat (beef) 0.93 1.28 1.45 0.42
Eggs 0.85 1.17 0.93 0.39
Cheese 1.74 2.63 2.34 0.80
Pollen 4.5 6.7 5.7 1.82
Phenylalamine Threonine Triptophane Valine
Meat (beef) 0.66 0.81 0.20 0.91
Eggs 0.69 0.67 0.20 0.90
Cheese  1.43 1.38 0.34 2.05
Pollen 3.9 4.0 1.3 5.7
It is evident that pollen is indeed a high quality source of protein. Its only peer in this category are some strains of nutritional yeast.
As in protein content, pollens from plant to plant vary in their vitamin content, but all seem to contain significant amounts of water soluable vitamins.
The B Vitamin content in one gram of raw pollen according to Vivino and Palmer, 1944, is as follows:
B1 Thiamine 9.2 mg.
B2 Riboflavin 18.50 mg.
B6 Pyridoxine 5. m g.
Nicotinic acid 200. mg.
Pantothenic acid 30-50 mg.
(1 gram has 1,000 milligrams)
Later research shows that additional vitamins as C, inositol rutin, Vitamin E, biotin, folic acid, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin K are also found in pollen.
Up to 50 minerals are found in pollen. When ignited and ashed, the pollen will vary from 2 0/0 - 10 0/0 ash by weight. In one example, a pollen yielding 2.67o/0 ash showed 20.71/0 potassium, 13.6% phosphorus, 10.5.0/0 calcium, 6.7% magnesium, .07% iron and traces of copper. Manganese, zinc, cobalt, silica, sodium, sulfur and titanium are also normally found in pollen.
D. Enzymes and Coenzymes
As the pollen grain is the initiator of the complex activities of plant reproduction, the enzyme variety is very considerable. Amalase, dehydragenase, catalase, diastase, cozymase, pectase, sucrase, phosphatase and diaphorase are found. Lactic acid is also a constituent - a factor important in the lactic fermentation of pollen to make bee bread. A fact of particular interest to the student of alchemy is that K. Okonuki found that the alcoholic fermentation brought about by pollen was identical with that of yeast.
E. Sugar, Fats
Bee pollen contains a large percentage of sugars. The main ones are sucrose, fructose, pentose and glucose. Fats, gums, oils and sterols are also present. One analysis of chamomile pollen showed fats and gums 8 %, and sugar 69 %
F. Miscellaneous Compounds
Other components of interest in pollen are hormones, fiber, pigments, nucleoproteins, RNA and DNA. A final component that should be looked at is the inextractable portion of the pollen grain. This is the extremely resistent exterior membrane known as Pollenine. This shell of the pollen grain is extremely durable and will often resist decay and weather for thousands, and even millions of years. This resistance to decay is useful to paleontologists and geologists, as many deposits are dated primarily by microscopic analysis of pollen grains found in them. This protective membrane is also of interest to those who would use bee pollen as a nutritional supplement or those who would attempt to make extractions from bee pollen - especially its sulfur.
IV. Medicinal Attributes of Pollen
Bee pollen as a medicine has been researched quite thoroughly in the past 20 30 years and several hundred articles and books have been published regarding these findings. Very briefly, the major areas of research and now applications are as follows:
1. Success in treating prostrate problems is quite well established.
2. Cancer cell growth is retarded according to a number of studies.
3. Certain bacteria are killed by particular compounds in bee pollen.
4. Allergies are cured by bee pollen. One physician, a Dr. Conway, reports 60,000 persons helped at his clinic alone. Wind blown pollen does not seem to be a help in allergy cases. The pollen gathered by the bees must be used according to the practioners.
5. Longevity increased substantially and senility and other factors encountered in the old are ameliorated.
6. Improved digestion and assimulation of nutrients.
7. Rejuvenation of skin - removes blemishes and wrinkles in skin in many people.
8. Athletes in many nations report great increases in endurance or strength. World class runners in Finland and USSR are reportedly helped greatly by bee pollen. Before bee pollen was added to the Finnish teams regime, they had one runner in the Top 100 worldwide. After 4 years of pollen in diet, the number rose to 23. This in a country of 4 million.
V. Sources of Pollen and Pollen Products
A. Sources. Pollen in the U.S. comes from many sources. The largest supplier is at present Spain, which provides about 50 1/0 to the total. England, Australia, Canada and of course, the U.S. itself, provide the bulk of the rest. Health food stores, rarely drug stores, and many mail order natural foods and vitamin companies are the normal source of supply.
B. Quality - a most important factor. Bee pollen should be kept clean and dry to avoid bacteria and spoilage. Spanish pollen in many cases should be avoided. It often is not clean, insect larvae can often times be found in it, sometimes is 2-3 years old, etc. The best import quality seems to be from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain. For best results the interested buyer should get to know his source whenever possible.
C. Price. The price of bee pollen, like most agricultural comodities, varies from year to year according to supply and demand. At present 1 lb. containers cost from $5.00 - $10.00. The price is not bad when one considers that the pound will contain roughly 100 billion grains of pollen, each containing the power to germinate a seed of a plant or tree.
D. Dosage. The recommended dosage varies from expert to expert, but most agree that 1 teaspoon a day is fine for a start, and that you can work up to 1-3 tablespoons a day in 3 months according to your constitution and needs.
E. Whole pollen vs. extractions or tablets. A matter best left up to the individual. Cernelle of Sweden (remember Gosta CarIsson?) has a vast amount of literature on their products - all extractions. They also use pollen direct from the plant and not bee collected as they did 20 years ago. The health food stores will often have tracts on their bee pollen pellets or compressed pollen tablets.
VI. Some Comments on Areas of Interest to Students of Alchemy.
Bee pollen in quantity as we have it today has been available only since 1952 when apiarists began using pollen traps. Thus we can now investigate and do research on the virtues of bee pollen without having to resort to the arduous and perhaps painful collection procedures required in ages gone by.
It doesn't take much imagination to see the possibilities.
Spirit - Bee pollen or bee pollen and honey can be easily fermented to produce alcohol.
Sulfur - Bee pollen extractions with water, alcohol, acetone and ether as solvents is recorded in detail in the scientific literature. There is perhaps more detailed information available here that an interested student can glean on what compounds (oils, fats, waxes) can be extracted by which solvent than in just about any other plant substance.
Salt - Bee pollen when ignited will yield a 2 % - 10 % by weight in organic ash much of which will be water soluble.
That bee pollen is a unique blend of the animal and plant kingdom would seem to be significant. The bee, while collecting the pollen, periodically adds nectar and disgorges on the pollen a drop of her saliva to make the pollen grains sticky and adhere to their pollen baskets, thus adding to them enzymes. This factor was recognized in a research article authored by two French scientists. Chauvin and Lenormand, who noted that pollen gathered by hand from plants had only a fraction of the amount of a growth stimulant that bee gathered pollen had. Further changes occur to the pollen chemistry when it is further modified to become bee bread or royal jelly.
Thus, as tartar is a product representing the plant and mineral kingdoms, bee pollen is a product representing the plant and animal kingdoms. What benefits that might accrue if handled properly in the laboratory, can only be surmised and is not at present known.
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