So, what is royal jelly?
Royal jelly, sometimes referred to as the bee milk is a product of the bee and not the flower. It is secreted by the hypopharyngeal glands of young worker bees and fed to the queen and young larvae three days and below.
Under normal circumstances in the hive, this product is fed directly to the queen throughout her life, it is also given for a limited period (three days) to the young larvae of workers and drones. Royal jelly is produced on demand and is not necessarily stored in the hive.
It is only under the circumstance of queen rearing that excess amounts of royal jelly are stored in queen cells to feed the growing queen larvae. This is the process beekeepers are able to exploit to harvest this rare product.
To give you a bit of background understanding of the effect of royal jelly on bees. Queen bees and worker bees are genetically similar, however, they bear significant morphological, developmental, reproductive and behavioral differences. They also have a significant difference in their lifespans and all this can be traced to their diet.
The worker bee larvae are fed on royal jelly only for three days of their lives while the queen larvae are fed on royal jelly throughout their lives. As a result, worker bees have a lifespan of about 60 days while the queen has a lifespan of up to five years.
This discovery elicited human interest in royal jelly with curiosity to find out if this product would have the same effect on humans. This led to the innovations of systems and procedures for production and unlimited trials and diversity in usage.
As a result, chewable royal jelly tablets are in the market for health-conscious individuals who would want to experience the benefits of this rear product.
In the next few paragraphs, I will explore some salient concepts about the royal including its harvesting, composition and health benefits
Royal jelly Harvesting
In order to harvest royal jelly from a bee colony, it is necessary that a queen rearing stimulus is triggered in the colony.
In a queenright colony (a colony with an active queen), grafted royal jelly caps are placed in the honey super. Worker bees will quickly fill the caps with royal jelly to feed the grafted larvae. After three days the caps are retrieved and royal jelly harvested.
The larvae are removed from the caps and royal jelly either scooped out of the caps or aspirated into a holding container.
Composition of royal jelly
Interest in royal jelly has seen many chemical analyses to try to demystify this unusual product.
From the documented literature, royal jelly contains water, protein, sugars, lipids and mineral salts. These may occur within some level of variation but generally, the composition of royal jelly appears stable across regions and bee races.
In freshly harvested royal jelly, water makes up about two-thirds of the composition of royal jelly, however, when considered on dry matter basis, proteins and sugars form the largest proportion.
Some of the major proteins in royal jelly include glycoproteins, free amino acids, and peptides of nitrogenous substances.
All the 29 essential amino acids and their derivatives have been identified in royal jelly, the most important being aspartic acid and glutamic acids.
Free amino acids identified include proline and lysine
A number of enzymes are also present in royal jelly including glucose oxidase, phosphatase, and cholinesterase
Sugars in royal jelly majorly consist of glucose and fructose as in the case of honey, other sugars available in trace quantities may include maltose, trehalose, melibiose, ribose, and erlose
The lipid content of royal jelly is unique, it consists of a large percentage (up to 90%) of unusual fatty acids that do not conform to the carbon chain length of fatty acids from plant or animal origin.
The fatty acids in royal jelly have unusually short carbon chain – 8 to 10 carbon atoms (hydroxy fatty acids or dicarboxylic acids) in contrast to the usual 14 to 20 carbon atoms. These fatty acids are responsible in the main to the major documented biological properties of royal jelly
Royal jelly also contains minerals with some mineral salts are, in descending order: K, Ca, Na, Zn, Fe, Cu, and Mn, with a strong prevalence of potassium (Benfenati et al., 1986).
Several vitamins have also been identified in royal jelly some of which are: thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, niacin, folic acid, inositol, and biotin.
The above highlight gives us the main constituents of royal jelly, several other compounds have been documented which are not covered here, there are other aspects of royal jelly that remain unknown to the analytical science.
Health benefits of royal jelly
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect
Royal jelly has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. phenolic compounds, some specific amino acids, and fatty acids are believed to be responsible for this property. Royal jelly reduces the release of proinflammation chemicals from immune cells
Boosts brain function and improves memory
The antioxidant properties of royal jelly provide a protective effect on the brain and nervous tissue. It also lowers the levels of stress hormones and enhances the central nervous system function. thereby alleviating symptoms of depression.
Royal jelly slows the process of aging. It promotes increased collagen production and protects the skin from UV light exposure-related damage.
inclusion of royal jelly in skincare products for topical application promotes healthy younger-looking skin.
Royal jelly is also believed to increase lifespan and improve cognitive function.
Alleviates side effects of cancer treatment
Some cancer treatment procedures like chemotherapy are known to have severe side effects. Royal jelly has been shown for example to reduce chemotherapy-induced heart damage.
It is also effective in preventing mucositis
Lowers blood pressure
Certain specific proteins in royal jelly have been shown to relax the smooth muscles of cells of the blood vessels thereby lowering blood pressure.
When used in combination with other bee products, a significant reduction of blood pressure can be achieved.
Reduces the risk of heart disease
Royal jelly has been proved to have a positive impact on cholesterol thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
Scientific studies have shown that oral intake of three (3) grams of royal jelly daily reduces bad (LDL) cholesterol by up to 11%.
For more health benefits of royal jelly click on this link.
Royal jelly as a primary bee product has immense medicinal properties that could heal so many of the diseases we suffer today.
Science and technology have availed capacity and means to accurately determine the composition of the product and to mix and manufacture high-quality by-products. This is a great opportunity, therefore, to take full advantage of the solutions nature provides to us and to explore new ways of alternative healthcare.
I invite you to post comments or questions below and don’t fail to contact me should you require any further help with the content of this post or any issue concerning beekeeping.