The use of royal jelly as a nutritional supplement and medicinal remedy dates back to ancient Egypt and Aristotle’s Greece. When eaten or applied to the skin, royal jelly supplementation may boost the immune system, reduce premenstrual symptoms, help with diabetes, and treat the side effects of chemotherapy. Read on to find out more.
What is Royal Jelly?
Royal jelly is a milky substance secreted by honey bees and fed to developing offspring. Nurse bees feed royal jelly to all larvae, which serves as the primary signal for a larva to mature into a queen. Like honey, royal jelly can be harvested by beekeepers from honey bee colonies grown in unique queen-making beehives.
The ancient Greeks were the first to describe royal jelly as part of the nectar of the gods, and Aristotle thought it important enough to set as the daily breakfast for his students. Royal jelly was traditionally used throughout other cultures too— believed to be one of Cleopatra’s beauty secrets, food of pharaohs, and a key to longevity and medicine by ancient dynasties [R, R].
Royal jelly remains a commercial beauty and diet product in many countries today
Royal Jelly is an acidic jelly substance composed of [R]:
- Water (60%–70%)
- Sugars (7.5%–23%)
- Lipids (3%–8%)
- Proteins (9%–18%)
- Low levels of vitamins, salts, and minerals
The exact composition of royal jelly varies with geographic location, season, and types of flowers in the region. Small amounts of pollen grains from nearby plants end up trapped in royal jelly, introducing trace plant proteins as well [R, R].
The most studied active compound is the aptly named royalisin, a fatty acid, which has potent antibacterial properties. Jelleines, peptides also found in royal jelly, have unique antibacterial properties [R, R].
Royal jelly contains 185 biologically active ingredients. Hormones, such as testosterone, progesterone, prolactin, and estradiol have been reported. Royal jelly can also contain flavonoids (chemicals specifically from plants), which provide some of its health benefits [R].
Mechanism of Action
- Fighting microbes and reducing inflammation, mostly via royalisin (10H2DA)
- Fighting bacteria through jelleines
- Boosting antioxidant defense, via flavonoids [R]
Health Benefits of Royal Jelly
1) Royal Jelly Boosts Reproductive Health
In a study on humans (RCT), daily 3 g royal jelly supplements increased testosterone levels in 31 volunteers. Those that took royal jelly also had better blood sugar levels, increase red blood cell count, and overall improved mental health [R].
Royal jelly can benefit women’s reproductive health too. Royal jelly was effective at reducing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms in 55 women who took 1 g supplements of royal jelly per day for two months (triple blind RCT) [R, R].
In another study of 90 postmenopausal women, the use of a 15% royal jelly vaginal cream improved quality of life, sexual function, and urinary functions after 3 months [R].
In one animal study (RCT), male hamsters that ate a diet including royal jelly over had higher levels of testosterone and produced more sperm. Similarly, a study on male rabbits with infertility, eating royal jelly increased testosterone and sperm production, health, and movement (motility) [R, [R].
Royal jelly also increased the quality of ovaries in aged female rats. It increased levels —this rebalancing of hormones resulted in improved ovary cell quality and number [R].
2) Royal Jelly May Help with Diabetes
In one study (cross-sectional), royal jelly lowered glucose levels in 22 volunteers who underwent oral glucose tolerance tests — these involve drinking a solution with 75 g of sugar [R].
Royal jelly supplementation can also help people with diabetes manage their weight. In one study (RCT), a daily 1 g supplement of royal jelly helped 25 females with type 2 diabetes reduce their average weight by over 1 lbs in two months. Royal jelly supplements also reduced daily calorie and carbohydrate intake for those in the study [R].
Royal jelly supplementation could also lower blood sugar in mice. Mice fed royal jelly had a lower risk of high blood sugar [R].
3) Royal Jelly Reduces Chemotherapy Side Effects
Chemotherapy patients can develop painful sores and ulcers in their mouths (called oral mucositis) as a side effect of cancer treatment and reduced immune response. In a study of 103 cancer patients, royal jelly supplements (1 g daily) improved mouth sores and shortened the healing time. Royal jelly was first swished in the mouth and then swallowed R].
4) Royal Jelly May Improve Mental Health
In one study, 31 volunteers ate 3 g of royal jelly daily for six months (DB-RCT). Those that had the royal jelly supplement scored higher on mental health assessments at the end of the study [R].
5) Royal Jelly May Increase Red Blood Cells
Royal jelly may increase red blood cells and reduce anemia. In a study over six months, 31 volunteers who ate a royal jelly supplement (3g) daily had higher red blood cell counts. Royal jelly may increase testosterone levels, which could subsequently increase red cell blood production [R].
6) Royal Jelly Reduces Cholesterol
Royal jelly supplements can boost fat metabolism. In one study (RCT), 7 volunteers ate 6 g of royal jelly each day. After 4 weeks, those that took royal jelly had lower LDL cholesterol and less total cholesterol in their blood [R].
7) Royal Jelly Reduces Allergies and Th1 Dominance
In one study on mice, active compounds in royal jelly (MRJP3) reduced allergic responses and sensitivities [R].
Royal jelly can affect the immune system by balancing levels and improving responses of specific immune cells [Th1/Th2]. In a study on mice, royal jelly supplementation shifted the immune response to an allergen from Th2 to Th1 dominance, reduced allergen levels in the blood, and improved skin allergy response [R, R].
Royal jelly could help with food allergies. In a study on mice, a royal jelly supplement reduced allergic reactions (blood and gut symptoms) and risk of anaphylactic shock in a model of cow’s milk allergy [R].
Royalisin is thought to be the compound within the royal jelly responsible for these immune benefits [R].
8) Royal Jelly Assists Wound Healing
Royal jelly has been shown to help wounds heal. In a cell study, royal jelly protected skin from ultraviolet light damage. Increased collagen, as a result of the royal jelly, also protects from damage and aids repair [R, R].
Fibroblasts are immune cells critical to the healing process. In a cell study on human skin wounds, royal jelly enhanced fibroblast movement and helped wounds heal better [R].
However, the healing effect of royal jelly may be limited. In a randomized controlled study, patients with diabetic foot ulcers (6 females and 19 males) saw no improvement in ulcer healing when applying a royal jelly (5% topical) [R].
9) Royal Jelly Boosts Immunity and Fights Infections
Similar to honey, royal jelly may have beneficial effects on the immune system. In a study with mice, those given a royal jelly supplement had higher antibody levels and faster immune system cell growth [R].
Royal jelly has been traditionally used to combat infections. In one bacterial lab study, royalisin from royal jelly could kill more than 18 different types of bacteria. In another lab study, royalisin was also effective against some types of fungi [R, R, R].
In another lab study, jelleines could also kill some bacteria and yeast. Both royalisin and jelleines could be used to combat infections, or even as natural food additives, especially in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria [R].
10) Royal Jelly Protects the Brain
Royal jelly may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease. In rats with Alzheimer’s disease, royal jelly supplements improved spatial memory, learning, and brain function. Rats fed royal jelly were better able to navigate mazes and remember paths –despite brain impairment– better than those without royal jelly [R].
11) Royal Jelly Boosts Collagen for Skin and Hair Health
Royal jelly contains unsaturated fatty acids that can boost collagen. Collagen, the most abundant structural protein in animal tissues, is essential for healthy hair growth, skin quality, and joints. The unsaturated fatty acids in royal jelly can increase collagen production and decrease collagen breakdown. In one study, rats fed a diet supplemented with 1% royal jelly produced more collagen [R, R, R].
12) Royal Jelly May Boost Longevity
In bees, royal jelly is responsible for changing a larva’s future from a short life as a worker to a long-lived queen. In one animal study, royal jelly extended the lifespan in roundworms (C. elegans). This means royal jelly may be able to boost the longevity in humans [R, R]
13) Royal Jelly Protects Joints
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, especially the lining of joints. In a cell study, royalisin from royal jelly reduced inflammation and damage in unhealthy, rheumatoid joint tissue [R].
14) Royal Jelly May Protect the Liver
Royal jelly helped with and protected against liver damage in rats. Royal jelly supplements counteracted low iron in the blood (anemia), restored white blood cell count, increased platelet count, and reduced liver enzyme levels [R].
15) Royal Jelly May Fight Tumors
Royal jelly blocked a common environmental estrogen, BPA (bisphenol-A) in a breast cancer cell study. BPA, found in some plastics, can increase the chance of breast cancer in humans. Since royal jelly can block carcinogens, like BPA, it has cancer-fighting potential [R].
Side Effects and Risks
Royal jelly supplementation may cause an allergic response, skin irritation in some people and complications in those with asthma. The biggest threat is an allergic reaction to royal jelly — allergic shock, numbing and tingling, vertigo, hives, and other allergic reactions — have all been reported [R, R].
As it is a honey product, anyone with a bee-related allergy should avoid using royal jelly. Relatedly, people with asthma have an overactive immune system, putting them at greater risk of difficulty breathing and allergic reactions from royal jelly [R, R].
Royal Jelly in Pregnancy and Children
Royal jelly is generally not recommended during pregnancy or in children due to the lack of research into its effects on unborn babies, breast milk, or young children.
Limitations and Caveats
Royal jelly may interact with warfarin, a blood thinner. An 87-year-old man who took a pure royal jelly supplement while on warfarin went to the hospital with blood in his urine. Royal jelly possibly dangerously raised warfarin levels, causing internal bleeding [R].
Royal Jelly vs. Honey
Honey and royal jelly are both products of honeybees and have some similar effects on health. The flavonoids in both royal jelly and honey carry antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and wound healing benefits [R, R].
Honey, however, has much higher sugar content than royal jelly itself. It also contains a variety of organic acids and other antioxidants not found in royal jelly. However, the most studied compounds from royal jelly are not found in honey and it may have a much broader scope of action [R].
Natural Sources and Supplementation
Royal jelly is used as a natural skincare product. It can be applied raw or mixed with honey, nutrients, or herbs. Royal jelly as a skincare product can purchase as a cream, ointment, serum, or applied raw.
You can also get royal jelly as a supplement. It’s available mixed with honey, other honey products, and ginseng.
You can also find pure royal jelly as:
- Liquid extract
Royal Jelly Dosage
Royal Jelly In Combination with Other Supplements
Ginseng Royal Jelly
Ginseng royal jelly is a mixture of ginseng and royal jelly. Ginseng is a nootropic and boosts stamina. Combining royal jelly and ginseng is boosts and compliments their benefits. A study of 66 people (human study) showed those that a 750 mg of royal jelly and 150 mg per day ginseng supplement may protect against mental decline from aging and Alzheimer’s disease [R, R, R].
Royal Jelly and Bee Pollen
Bee pollen is another honey bee product that can be combined with honey and royal jelly. Bee pollen reduces allergies and may help to reduce Th1 dominance. It reduces allergic response and inflammation in mice. Since royal jelly also has similar allergy-reducing effects, the two could be combined to achieve a stronger and wider effect [R].
Royal Jelly and Propolis
Propolis, or “bee glue,” is a sticky substance that bees use as wax in building their hives. Like royal jelly, propolis is used to boost immunity. Propolis contains wax, pollen, resin, essential oils, minerals, and B vitamins. It has diverse health benefits — from fighting cancer, microbes, and boosting immunity to improving oral health [R].
Propolis is often mixed with royal jelly in pill form. This combination may be especially beneficial for fighting off infections.
Royal Jelly in Lady 4
Lady 4 is a natural mixture containing royal jelly, evening primrose oil, damiana, and ginseng, used as a traditional remedy for menopausal symptoms. In one study (human), 120 women took two capsules of Lady 4 daily, which improved their quality of life and reduced menopausal symptoms [R].
What Does Royal Jelly Taste Like?
Royal jelly is described as yellowish-white, creamy, and with a strong odor and taste. It’s often described as spicy, acidic, and a bit bitter-sweet. Taken alone, it tastes nothing like honey, but rather has a “medicinal” flavor to it. Most people need to acquire the taste for it, if they want to eat it straight up, as opposed to capsules or mixed in honey.
Users reported strengthened immune response, including a reduced number of colds and help with sinus issues. One woman described her improved blood panel results during chemotherapy after using royal jelly. Other women take royal jelly to help balance fertility and their cycles.
People who have taken royal jelly orally report it has a strong, distinctive aroma and taste. This particular flavor could be due to trace fragrances picked up by the honeybees and passed along when making royal jelly.