Nurse bees, baby bees that feed the newly-laid larva, produce a rich, milky substance called royal jelly. They produce this substance and give it to the larvae for their first three days after their creation. After that, the only larvae that get royal jelly are the ones designated to become queen bees.

It’s high-quality nutritional components enable the queen to grow bigger and more fertile than the other bees. Due to its effect on the queen’s endocrine, hormonal and metabolic systems, her royal jelly diet also grants her long life; the queen lives up to six years, in contrast to a worker bee’s typical 4-6 week lifespan.

RJ is a nutritional dynamo. The food of the bee goddess contains B-complex vitamins, including pantothenic acid and pyridoxine. And, while the substance contains more than 65 percent water, it also contains 12.5 percent protein, including several amino acids. The jelly is also relatively high in beneficial fatty acids, including hydroxyl acids, which are essential to a healthy immune system. To sweeten the pot, royal jelly also contains minerals, enzymes, antibacterial and antibiotic components, and trace amounts of vitamin C. But the arguably miraculous component that turns the ordinary bee into the supreme ruler appears to be a single protein called royalactin.

According to the science journal, Nature, royalactin appears to activate several proteins in bees that cause an increase in overall body size and ovary development. However,  Ryszard Maleszka from the Australian National University in Canberra warns, “There are dozens of potentially important components in royal jelly and giving a special rank to one of them is misleading.” The queen’s size could also simply appear larger when contrasted with worker bees whose growth hormones were deactivated.

The nearly-supernatural effects of this substance from the beehive reach beyond the hive. Research has uncovered a honeycomb of royal jelly’s benefits in humans, ranging from reduced anxiety to an improvement in varicose veins. Numerous studies, including several published by the National Institutes of Health, found that components of (RJ) are especially beneficial to the immune system. In a study conducted in Belgrade, Serbia in 2007, researchers discovered the complexity of its biological activity and found some forms were able to improve or regulate immune function.

Another study, conducted in 2011 at the Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology in Tokyo, found that the product extended the life of C. elegans, a multi-cellular roundworm. The researchers concluded that it may contain longevity-promoting factors that could affect humans as well.  The increase in lifespan may be due to its unique ability to modulate insulin, promote immune function and neutralize free radicals.

Research conducted at the Giresun University in Giresun, Turkey, found that mice who were exposed to toxic heavy metals exhibited a significant amount of chromosomal damage while mice who were given royal jelly showed far less damage after the same amount of exposure. The scientists theorized that royal jelly may help prevent damage from oxidative stress, a key factor in the aging process.

For humans, this research translates to the possibility that it may indeed help prolong life by increasing immune function, decreasing undesirable factors such as high cholesterol and free radicals, and improving the quality of life in people with certain diseases and conditions. People with decreased immunity, such as cancer patients and those with AIDS, may benefit from daily doses of the nutritional elixir. Others who just want more energy and better overall mental, emotional and physical health may find that royal jelly helps with anxiety, depression, fatigue and sexual dysfunction.

Because royal jelly is a naturally-occurring substance, it has few negative side effects. Some people may experience an allergic reaction when coming into contact with bee products. Because bees collect and use pollen from flowering plants, people with hay fever, asthma and other allergies may experience itching, swelling, hives or a more severe allergic reaction. In very rare cases, the reaction can be life-threatening.

Because the substance is relatively rare and difficult to obtain, it is expensive, which could cause some manufacturers to dilute the product. The quality measurement for royal jelly is it’s percentage of 10-HDA. Lower grade royal jelly, measured at 1% or 2% 10-HDA is suitable for use in skin care and cosmetic products but often finds its way into imported supplement products. For supplement use, 4% to 6% 10-HDA is optimal.

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