Royal Jelly vs. Honey — How Well Do We Know Them?
One of the biggest differences between them is that honey is easier to collect and, therefore, is produced in larger quantities. If taken out of the beehive carefully, it still leaves the bees’ natural environment well-balanced.
Collecting royal jelly is more complicated, as it’s stored differently and in smaller quantities. It demands a bigger spatial intervention within the beehive and is, therefore, more expensive to buy. This opens up the ethical question: should we be exhausting the bees’ natural environments just to satisfy consumer needs?
Royal jelly is known mostly for being the so-called superfood for the queen bee in the hive. So, can royal jelly be as beneficial for humans as it is for the queen bee?
What Is Royal Jelly Made Of?
Just as how honey is made, royal jelly is a secretion from worker bees’ glands. It consists mostly of water (up to 60 percent), proteins (18 percent), carbohydrates (15 percent), lipids (up to 6 percent), minerals (1.5 percent) and vitamins. The analysis shows royal jelly has a lot of proactive compounds, such as fatty acids, proteins and hormones.
The same study shows royal jelly has to have the following benefits:
- Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect
- Antitumor effect
- Speeds up skin damage healing
- Improves mental health
- Stimulates physical functions for the elderly
- Helps to soothe the premenstrual syndrome
- Supports postmenopausal treatment of urinary and other issues
However, most of the studies of royal jelly have been done on animals. Research focusing on humans only used small sample sizes. Moreover, the US Food and Drug Administration has taken legal actions against companies, which promote royal jelly products as beneficial for health.
Royal Jelly in the Beehive
Royal Jelly is produced in the beehive to feed all bee larvae shortly after hatching from their eggs. For the first three days, it doesn’t matter whether the larvae will develop into drones (male worker bees), workers (sterile female worker bees) or queens (fertile female bees). Afterward, only the queen larvae are still being fed royal jelly.
Once the queen bee emerges, she’s the only one to keep consuming royal jelly throughout her life cycle. Her life span is much longer compared to other bees. Research indicates this is because of one main, proactive compound in royal jelly — royalactin.
It used to be believed that consuming royal jelly only makes her fertile, but epigenetics is revealing something different.
Other female bees in the hive consume pollen and honey. Their food contains natural chemicals, which seem to affect their development. However, the queen bee, eating only royal jelly, avoids consuming those chemicals and develops her ovaries normally. Therefore, it’s more about what she doesn’t eat than what she does consume that makes her fertile.
Nevertheless, royal jelly has several benefits for the queen bee as well as for humans. We use it as a dietary supplement and to control some health conditions and processes, such as lipid metabolism and postmenopausal stage for women.
What Is Honey Made Of?
Honey is composed mainly of sugars (80 percent) and water (up to 20 percent). Its other components are protein, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Sometimes, traces of pollen, wax and bee gland secretions are found in the mixture.
Honey is used all over the world due to its high nutritive and healing properties. Its main benefits include:
- Anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal properties
- Treats wounds, bites, burns and skin disorders
- Fights oral diseases and prevents dental plaque and gingivitis
- Soothe a sore throat and has an antibacterial effect
- Supports healthy digestive processes
- Reduces the development of cancer cells
Honey in the Beehive
Honey is derived from floral nectar. Special enzymes in bees’ glands decompose complex sugars and transform other nectar substances until honey is created. It’s then stored inside the hive in special wax structures called honeycombs. Worker bees consume it until it’s collected by beekeepers.
Afterward, you can find honey in the market in a raw, crystallized form, liquid form (after pasteurization and filtration) or creamy form. Raw honey may change its color and texture in time, but its nutritive value and healing properties stay intact.
Royal Jelly vs. Honey — Which Is Healthier?
Royal jelly and honey don’t differ much in their composition nor in their beneficial properties. Moreover, honey has been used as a natural sweetener and a home remedy for ages. It helps with a variety of issues, from different skin conditions to sore throat and digestive problems.
Royal jelly became popular more recently. It’s known as the superfood in the hive. The question remains as to whether royal jelly is a superfood for humans as well. If so, to what extent is it healthy to remove royal jelly from the hive at the expense of the bees?
Most of the research so far has been done on animals. Royal jelly benefits have been proven; however, they don’t differ so much from the benefits of honey consumption. Further research is necessary to confirm royal jelly’s full beneficial effect.