Royal Jelly

Royal Jelly

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Many of us are aware of the beneficial properties of bee pollen. Containing more than twenty vitamins as well as proteins in the form of amino acids, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids, trace elements, and other nutrients necessary for life, bee pollen is a “superfood” that can benefit most any diet, when taken regularly as a food supplement. Bees, however, produce other by-products in the course of their routines in the hive that can be beneficial as food supplements for humans.
Royal jelly is one such by-product. Royal jelly is secreted from glands in the hypopharynx of worker bees as food for bee larvae. All larvae are fed royal jelly for a few days. However, if the bee colony’s queen has fallen ill or has died and a new queen is needed, the workers will select several female larvae, move them to specially constructed “queen cells” within the hive, and feed these larvae copious amounts of royal jelly over a longer period of time. This enhanced diet triggers the development of a different morphology in these potential queens-to-be: namely, the growth of fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs. Because a queen bee is the only bee within the hive capable of laying eggs, the queen is necessary for the colony’s survival.
Beekeepers collect royal jelly from these queen cells when the queen larvae are about four days old. These cells are the only places in the hive where royal jelly is available in generous amounts; in fact, more royal jelly is fed to these queen larvae than they can ever consume, so, through careful management, beekeepers can harvest royal jelly without disturbing the life of the hive. Some beekeepers can harvest up to 500 grams of royal jelly from a single hive in one five-six month season; the natural jelly must be kept cool, as it is perishable.
Royal Jelly

Royal Jelly

How is royal jelly beneficial as a food supplement for humans? The overall composition of royal jelly is about 65 percent water, 12 percent proteins (largely in the form of amino acids), 11 percent simple sugars (monosaccharides), and 5 percent fatty acids. Royal jelly also contains quantities of B-complex vitamins (such as pantothenic acid and pyridoxine), vitamin C, trace minerals, enzymes, and antibiotic components. Royal jelly does not contain the wide array of nutrients found in bee pollen — the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are entirely absent, for instance — but still contains a rich assortment of nutrients necessary for life.
Various studies have suggested that consuming royal jelly as a food supplement may help lower cholesterol, and heal wounds as an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic substance. Other studies have shown that royal jelly stimulates the growth of glial cells and neural stem cells in the brain, and may also inhibit the vascularization of tumors. Much of this research is preliminary only; further testing must be done to draw more conclusive results. (And no studies have shown that royal jelly can trigger the same result in humans that it does in female bee larvae: enhanced fertility!)
Because royal jelly is a natural product, there are no side effects, but some people may experience allergic reactions; if you are allergic to bee stings, for instance, royal jelly may trigger the same reaction. If you are asthmatic, pregnant, or breast feeding, do not take royal jelly, and do not feed it to small children. If in doubt, consult with a health care practitioner.

Usually, royal jelly is sold in health food stores in capsule form. Sometimes it is freeze-dried, which removes the water content but leaves all the nutrients intact. Freeze-dried royal jelly has a longer shelf-life than natural royal jelly, and does not require refrigeration.