“Honey, I Supersized the Queen”, can well be the tagline of the much touted Royal Jelly as it bestows upon the queen bee, the royal avatar. Royal Jelly is a milky white secretion from the glands in the hypopharynx of worker bees. All larvae, irrespective of their class (workers-sterile females, drones-males, queen-fertile female) are fed with this secretion for the first three days. But later, the supply is ceased for the first two classes whereas the queen enjoys the privilege of a life-long supply.
Nurtured exclusively with copious amounts of Royal Jelly, the queen gains an edge over other bees in terms of size, longevity and reproductive capacity. The queen is almost twice the size and more than double the weight of the worker, despite having no genetic advantage. She lives 40 times longer than the worker and once fertilized, she can lay about 2000-3000 eggs a day, during the season. The remarkable development, incredible display of energy and vitality of the queen bee has been attributed to a protein called royalactin in Royal Jelly.
The question that naturally arises in anybody’s mind is that if this super food can do wonders to the queen bee, can it do as much for human beings? Many believe it can. Royal Jelly is marketed as a dietary supplement to promote growth, improve fertility and impede ageing. Its main chemical compound is acetylcholine and it has 12-15% carbohydrates, 12% proteins and 5-6% lipids. It is rich in amino acids and B-vitamins. The aspartic acid in it aids in cellular health and acts as a natural anti-depressant. The gamma globulins boost the immune system. It has antibiotic, antioxidative, anti-tumorigenic and hypocholesterolemic effects. It is used in the treatment of hepatitis, gout, asthma and insomnia. The dietary supplements are available in the natural form, as capsules and as powders.
Besides being used as health food it is used in the manufacture of many cosmetics like face creams, anti-wrinkle creams, hair and nail tonics. Its uniqueness is that its composition cannot be simulated and it remains to be one of nature’s best kept secrets.
With such a wide range of benefits to offer, another compelling question that occurs to anybody is,” why is this bee stuff not used as widely as honey?” Well, the reasons may be as follows:
- Royal Jelly is expensive – a Kg costs almost Rs.8000 in International market;
- it does not taste anything like honey – it is bitter :-(;
- there are not many clinical trials to prove its efficacy;
- side-effects like skin rashes, headache, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea and acute asthma have been reported.
Despite its cost and taste, this miraculous food would have cast its spell on a larger number of people, if not for the side effects reported in a few cases.