Royal jelly, as it is commonly known, received its name for good reason. The substance is a secretion that comes from certain glands in honey bees. This secretion is gelatinous, and used to feed both the queen bee and young larvae. In fact, the only difference in development between a queen bee and a typical worker bee is the length of time they are exposed to royal jelly as larvae. Queens are fed it continuously, while worker bees are cut off after three days.
As strange as its origin story is, there are some compelling reasons to believe that this clearly nutritious substance is beneficial when supplemented in a human diet. Its contents, which include primarily water, protein, and simple sugar, are laced with many vitamins and minerals that are generally accepted to benefit human health. Currently, royal jelly is a common constituent in health supplements, though generally in small amounts because of relative difficulty in the extraction process.
Royal jelly has long been used as a sort of “brain enhancer” in certain cultures. Recently, evidence supporting this has been discovered. In tests performed on rats, the animals’ cognitive abilities were first artificially weakened using experimental means. When given doses of royal jelly, however, a marked reduction in that cognitive impairment was observed. The reason behind royal jelly’s cognitive benefits in these tests is suspected to be the stimulation of cell producing mechanisms in the brain. Research suggests that the ingestion of royal jelly makes the brain produce protective chemicals at a faster rate. Though these effects have not yet been tested in humans, mammal test subjects (mostly mice and rats) seem to respond similarly to royal jelly consumption.
Because people have long suspected that royal jelly delivers a potent immune system boost, many experiments have been performed on the subject. In several different tests performed on mice, royal jelly was shown to help out the immune system against a variety of invaders and other diseases. One of the most significant discoveries was that, in mice, royal jelly might help to prevent autoimmunity. This condition, where the immune system doesn’t recognize cells from its own body and destroys them, is a part of autoimmune diseases such as AIDS, cancer, and even Lou Gherig’s Disease.
In the tests, mice with a certain type of lupus were shown to have a slowing of auto-immune conditions, better survival rates, and an overall slowdown in the progression of the illness. While royal jelly won’t cure autoimmune disorders on its own, evidence certainly suggests that it may help in the fight against them.
Royal jelly has one specific protein called royalisin that has been shown to fight bacteria in so-called “in vitro” studies. From a naturalist perspective, this antibacterial condition makes perfect sense. Because royal jelly is used to provide nutrition to bee larvae, the most important of which is the future queen, it should have some protective power. There is one caveat to royal jelly’s anti-bacterial properties, however.
In tests, it was shown only to be effective on gram positive bacteria. Gram negative bacteria were unaffected by royal jelly’s presence. This means that coccus and bacillus bacteria such as streptococcus and staphylococcus are inhibited by royal jelly, while bacteria such as E. Coli simply do not respond. Regardless, assistance in the prevention of common illnesses caused by gram positive bacteria is a significant health benefit of royal jelly.
Similar in vitro tests also reveal that royal jelly’s antioxidant content may help to prevent diseases that aren’t caused by pathogens as well. The multitude of trace vitamins and minerals present in royal jelly work to prevent the oxidation reaction from occurring in cells. This, in turn, stops the formation of so called “free radicals” that lead to cell damage and mutation. Even if a tumor is present, these tests show that royal jelly is potent enough to actually slow the growth of human cancer cells in mice. No testing on actual human cancers has been performed, but the results of experiments thus far seem promising.
Since royal jelly is used by its creators to develop a typical bee larvae into a reproductive powerhouse, one might naturally assume that it might increase fertility in other organisms as well. Unfortunately, research conducted to determine the accuracy of this assumption is relatively limited. One particular study, which focused on ewe fertility rates, showed that supplementation of royal jelly had a positive effect on the rate of lambing. The ewes also experienced a positive effect on conception rates.
A major catch holding back royal jelly from widespread use is its chemical sensitivity. Because it is so delicate, many in the medical community believe that the health benefits of royal jelly could be diminished because of our digestive system’s chemical break down process. Though this supposition has not been yet been proven true, concern about the delivery method of royal jelly into the body lingers. To date, the most common solution has been to include royal jelly in capsules or pills, which may lessen the digestive system’s destructive effect on its chemical makeup.
Because the substance is created by bees, it is important to point out that those with a bee or honey allergy are advised to steer clear of royal jelly. Cases of serious allergic reactions – including asthma triggering and anaphylaxis – have been reported. That said, it is necessary to consult a doctor before trying royal jelly for yourself.
Royal jelly’s unique origin and purpose make it one of the more interesting health supplements out there. From feeding bee larvae to preventing human ailments, this sticky substance’s reputation as an all around natural wonder has been largely supported in medical studies thus far. And while much is yet to be seen regarding the royal jelly’s usefulness in helping humans fight disease and other ailments, the amount of information scientists discover about the substance is continually rising with time.
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