We know honey bees for the sweet honey they provide. However another nutritious fluid is collected from the bee hive – Royal Jelly. As the name suggests, it has some royal connection. We all know that bees are classified in various categories based on their work – worker bees, fighter bees and queen bees. What is royal jelly? Royal jelly similar to honey is secretion of honey bees to feed queen larvae. Royal jelly is used for development of queen bees. Royal jelly is also known by some other names such as bee saliva, bee spit or bee milk. Royal jelly contains special amino acid – royalactin which causes larvae to develop queen morphology. These larvae grow larger and develop ovaries. Queen bees are known to live longer than normal bees and can live upto 5 years; all these are attributed to the special nutrients fed to queen larvae through royal jelly.
Harvesting Royal Jelly: Commercially sold natural Royal Jelly is harvested by stimulating the bee hive to produce queen bees, also called queen rearing. When queen larvae are 4 days old, they are separated from the hive to collect the royal jelly. This results in worker bees feeding other larvae for their queen. Though royal jelly is fed to all larvae, however it is commercially possible to extract royal jelly from the queen cells. It is possible to produce around 500 gm of royal jelly from a well maintained beehive during season which lasts for half a year.
However, royal jelly is perishable in nature and needs proper storage. Bee wax is added to royal jelly for preservation. Royal jelly can be processed into other product forms like royal jelly powder, royal jelly capsules, royal jelly cream, royal jelly shampoo, etc.
Chemical and Nutrient composition of Royal Jelly
As found by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Royal Jelly, for bees is nutritional powerhouse. Royal jelly is composed of 60-70% percent water, 12-15% protein, 10-16 % sugars, and 3-6% fats, with vitamins, salts, and free amino acids making up the rest. Sugars fo
und in royal jelly are similar to sugars found in Honey. Royal jelly also has various bioactive compounds like unsaturated fatty acids of 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic (10H2DA), 3,10-dihydroxydecanoic, and sebacic acids. 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid is often called queen bee acid.
Vitamin and mineral content of Royal Jelly
Fresh Royal jelly is rich in vitamin B complex, Vitamin C and other enzymes. Vitamins in per gram of Royal Jelly include – Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)-1.5-7.4 mcg, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)- 5.3-10mcg, Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 2.2-10.2 mcg, Niacin (Nicotinic acid) 91.0-149.0 mcg, Pantothenic Acid-65-200 mcg, Biotin 0.9-3.7 mcg, Inositol 78-150 mcg, Folic Acid 0.16-0.5 mcg and trace quantities of Vitamin C. Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Vitamin K are absent in royal jelly. The major mineral salts in Royal Jelly are, in descending order: Potassium, Calcium, Sodium, Zinc, Iron, Copper and Manganese.
Health Benefits of Royal Jelly
Considering what royal jelly does for queen bee, it is equivalent to mother’s milk and much more. It can offer various benefits to mankind. Today Royal jelly is royally considered as one of the most effective functional food and commercially exploited in nutrition industry and cosmetics. Some of the benefits of bee royal jelly are discussed below:
Fertility and Royal Jelly
Only job of the Queen bee is to increase population of the hive. It lays around 1000-2000 eggs per day and over million eggs in her lifetime. Somehow royal jelly is believed to be responsible for the increased fertility of the queen bee. This may be attributed to the female hormone – estrogen like compounds in royal jelly. Hence it is a popular belief that royal jelly will increase fertility. And quite true it increase human fertility and is helpful for reproductive health. It not only improves women fertility but increases sperm health and mobility in men. Some studies attribute antioxidant potential of royal jelly for improving fertility in men. In an animal study, royal jelly administration was found to control fertility loss due to summer heat in male rabbits popularly termed “summer infertility”. However another study point out to adverse impact on reproductive system due to high dose of royal jelly. Exact mechanism in which royal jelly alters fertility still requires scientific investigation.
Royal Jelly an energy booster
Royal jelly is considered to be body tonic which stimulates endocrine system and enhances metabolism. It is helpful in treating chronic fatigue and make you feel more energetic. Fresh Royal jelly is better than preserved royal jelly when it comes to relieving fatigue. In our daily lives, excess work and stress results in fatigue; that’s where royal jelly may come to rescue. It has bioactive compounds which rejuvenates your body. Preliminary animal studies have confirmed this anti-fatigue property of royal jelly.
Royal jelly to fight depression
Royal jelly has stimulating and reliving effect on nervous system and helps in handling stress, depression and shock. It helps to regulate body response to trauma, disease or surgery. Including royal jelly to our diet may be considered healthy practice to fight stress in our lifestyle.
Antioxidant properties of royal jelly
Royal jelly is found to exhibit antioxidant property and aids in removal of harmful free radicals from body. It is also found that antioxidant property reduces with time hence fresh royal jelly exhibits highest antioxidant property. It is because of this property it is useful for skin and body organs.
Anti-inflammatory property of royal jelly
It is found that royal jelly exhibits properties to reduce body inflammation. Research further shows that topical application of royal jelly to skin helps relive pain and reduce inflammation. It is believed that royal jelly is helpful in preventing osteoporosis. It further enhances calcium absorption in body to prevent osteoporosis. Another study suggests that anti-inflammatory property of royal jelly can benefit in treatment and prevention of various tooth and gum diseases.
Royal jelly benefits to heart
When it comes to healthy heart the key function parameters to check are blood pressure and cholesterol. Royal jelly helps to regulate blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol levels in body. Thus it is very helpful for your heart. Animal studies confirm antihypertensive effect of royal jelly protein. Its use as functional food for people with hypertension is thus effective. Further royal jelly is powerhouse of vitamins and minerals which help in warding off heart disorders and help in proper functioning of heart. Further clinical tests show that royal jelly reduces blood cholesterol levels. Royal jelly consumption is helpful in reducing risk of blockage of blood vessels and heart attack.
Royal jelly skin benefits
Royal Jelly is full with nutrients which support skin growth and development. It offers skin with vitamins B, minerals like zinc, bioactive flavonoid, fatty acids and amino acids, which are essential for skin health. Royal jelly is found to contribute to production of collagen and useful in healing of wound. It is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in nature which protects skin from free radicals and reduces inflammation of skin. It protects skin from aging and exposure to sunlight. Today it is used in various cosmetic formulations and skin creams. Royal jelly has been successfully used in treatment of warts.
Benefits of royal jelly for women
Royal jelly has been long used to treat menstrual problems in women. It alleviates symptoms of menopause. It decreases premenstrual symptoms like bloating, anxiety and others. Royal jelly acts as medicinal agent with estrogen like effects. Bioactive fatty acids including 10H2DA are considered to be responsible for such properties. They interact with estrogen receptors to exhibit estrogenic activity.
Cancer cure and Royal Jelly
Royal jelly contains various bioactive compounds which are antioxidant in nature and protects body cells from mutation due to free radicals. A lab study found that royal jelly was effective in preventing proliferation of breast cancer cells. Similarly other lab studies have found anti cancer and anti-tumor activity of 10-hydroxydecenoic acid extracted from royal jelly. This inhibiting effects suggests its potential use in preventing and curing cancer.
Royal jelly and weight loss
Royal jelly increases metabolic activity in body and thus aids in burning fat. It can be used as supplement in reducing weight. It reduces cholesterol in body, aids liver function and promotes digestion thus contribute to absorption of nutrients and weight loss. It provides body with necessary amnio acids required for development of muscles and bones. Study has established its impact on energy metabolism, pancreatic fat metabolism and its ability to reduce weight.
Royal jelly as sports medicine
Royal jelly is considered to acts as stimulant and tonic. International Journal on Research in sports medicine has studied use of Royal Jelly as a sports medicine. While providing with various nutrients – amino acids, vitamins and minerals it aids in improving stamina and reducing fatigue.
Anti-microbial action of royal jelly
Royal jelly in its basic nature to feed the larvae has ability to protect larvae from impact of various microbes, bacteria, virus and fungi. This makes royal jelly good for use as an antiseptic agent and healing of wounds.
Royal jelly for memory and brain functions
Royal jelly exhibits antioxidant property and protects damage of brain cells from free radicals. Animal studies showed that Royal jelly protected memory of rats induced with drugs. Royal jelly thus has potential to protect brain cells and enhance memory. This property is useful in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Royal jelly boosts immunity
Main function of Royal Jelly had been to protect queen larvae and promotes its development. It has bioactive compounds which helps enhance immunity. Animal studies show that Royal jelly protected mice from disorder of immune system. It is good as general health tonic and boosting immune system.
Royal jelly and diabetes
Royal jelly with its antioxidant property protects body from oxidative stress resulting in diabetes. Animal studies show that royal jelly has been effective in controlling diabetes in rats. Foot ulcers are common concerns in diabetic patients. Royal jelly offer excellent remedy for treating diabetic foot ulcer. It has ability to improve insulin resistance and an be used as supplement in diabetes.
Though research have linked Royal Jelly intake with health benefits and healing potential, however more studies are required to establish health benefits of royal jelly.
Some concerns about Royal Jelly
Royal jelly has been associated with asthma and anaphylaxis. (Clinical & Experimental Allergy, March 1997). Royal jelly and bee pollens in them may result in allergies in some person. Beware of contamination and adulteration in royal jelly.
Royal jelly is complex mixture of various bioactive compounds which gets spoiled when store improperly. Royal jelly has to be stored at 4-8 degree Celsius to guarantee its quality. Heating destroys its beneficial enzymatic action. Consider buying organic royal jelly for more benefits. Royal jelly is available in freeze dried powder or granule forms. It is found in liquid form or chewable tablet or capsule.
Go lookout for some fresh royal jelly to enjoy its benefits to body.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Waugsberg, Flickr - Thien Gretchen