What’s So Special about Royal Jelly?
Royal jelly is food fit for a queen. One of the most transformative substances found in nature, royal jelly is a honey bee secretion. It comes from glands in the hypopharynx of worker nurse bees and is fed to all the larvae in a hive, regardless of their sex or caste. However, due to its high levels of nutrition, it is injected in copious amounts in custom made queen cells. By embedding this seemingly magic solution into the cells, the specially-chosen larvae morph into queens instead of regular worker bees, growing even the ovaries they need to lay eggs and continue the honey bee life cycle. In this way, this bee food not only feeds the rest of the honey bee colony but has the miraculous potential to transform ordinary larvae into royalty!
What is royal jelly exactly? As described, royal jelly is produced in the heads of the nurse workers from collected pollen. The workers transform the protein found in the pollen into this milky substance, which is then secreted from glands in their heads and fed to larvae to help them grow. To break it down, royal jelly is 67% water, 12.5% protein, 11% simple sugars (monosaccharides), 5% fatty acids and 2-3% 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid (10-HDA). It also contains trace minerals, antibacterial and antibiotic components, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and trace amounts of vitamin C, but none of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E or K. The royal jelly protein is known specifically as Royalactin.
So, what makes it so special? Royal jelly has not only been used to build up the health of honey bees, is also marketed as a dietary supplement for humans. Falling under the category of Apitherapy – a branch of alternative medicine that uses honey bee products, including honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom – the use of royal jelly has recent roots in the Western world, with a long-standing history in the East. The substance is used in many ways and has been made into various consumable products such as supplement tablets and face creams. Manufacturers and apitherapists claim that the substance can boost the immune system, counter allergic reactions, prevent Alzheimer’s, contain probiotics, assist menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms, improve collagen levels in skin, heal wounds, treat osteoporosis, improve male fertility, treat diabetes and decrease mucositis.
Despite the plethora of perceived benefits, royal jelly has not yet been proven by health professionals to achieve certain results. In fact, European and American food and drug safety boards have discouraged the sale and consumption of the product for humans. This is due to a lack of evidence backing these health benefits, but also as a precautionary measure against allergic and anaphylactic reaction. For this reason, the ingestion and use of royal jelly for human health should be done so with caution, especially in the case on infants and children.
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