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 reduce 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 [1, 2].
Royal jelly remains a commercial beauty and diet product in many countries today
Royal jelly is an acidic jelly substance composed of :
- 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 [2, 1].
The most studied active compound is the aptly named royalisin, a fatty acid with potent antibacterial properties. Jelleines, peptides also found in royal jelly, have antibacterial properties as well [3, 4].
Royal jelly contains 185 biologically active ingredients. Hormones, such as testosterone, progesterone, prolactin, and estradiol, have been identified. Royal jelly can also contain flavonoids (antioxidant chemicals found only in plants), which provide some of its potential health benefits .
- Fighting microbes and reducing inflammation, mostly via royalisin (10H2DA)
- Fighting bacteria through jelleines
- Boosting antioxidant defense, via flavonoids 
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 [6, 7].
Honey, however, has a much higher sugar content than royal jelly. 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 .
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. Most people need to acquire the taste for it if they want to eat it straight up, as opposed to capsules or jelly mixed in honey.
In a clinical trial on 22 healthy volunteers, royal jelly lowered glucose levels in glucose tolerance tests – which involve drinking a solution with 75 g of sugar .
Royal jelly supplementation can also help people with diabetes manage their weight. In one study, a 1 g/day supplementation of royal jelly helped 25 women with type 2 diabetes reduce their average weight by over 1 lb in two months. Royal jelly supplements also reduced daily calorie and carbohydrate intake for those in the study .
Mice fed royal jelly had a lower risk of high blood sugar .
All in all, limited evidence suggests that royal jelly may help lower blood sugar levels. You may discuss with your doctor if it may be helpful in your case. Importantly, never take royal jelly in place of the antidiabetic medication prescribed by your doctor.
In a clinical trial on 31 healthy volunteers, 3 g/day royal jelly supplements increased testosterone levels. Those who took royal jelly also had better blood sugar levels, increased red blood cell count, and overall improved mental health .
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 .
An herbal formula with royal jelly, evening primrose oil, damiana, and ginseng improved menopausal symptoms in 87% (as opposed to 57% in the placebo group) of the participants in a clinical trial on 120 postmenopausal women. Similarly, a supplement with pollen and royal jelly (Melbrosia) improved menopausal symptoms, mood, and blood fat levels in an uncontrolled trial on 90 women [18, 19].
In a clinical trial on 99 couples with difficulties to conceive due to reduced sperm motility, the intravaginal application of a mixture of Egyptian bee honey and royal jelly increased the number of successful pregnancies .
In a study in male hamsters, those that ate a diet including royal jelly 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 motility [21, 22].
Royal jelly also increased the quality of the ovaries in aged female rats. It increased levels – this rebalancing of hormones resulted in improved ovary cell quality and number .
Again, promising but limited evidence suggests that royal jelly may help with several reproductive issues, especially with menopausal symptoms. You may try it for these conditions if your doctor determines that it is recommendable in your case.
Royal jelly supplements can boost fat metabolism. In one study, 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 .
In a study on 40 people with high cholesterol levels, oral capsules with 350 mg royal jelly (9x/day) reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol but had no effect on triglycerides and HDL cholesterol .
In another study on 50 diabetic people, 1 g of royal jelly per day increased the abundance of a protein that forms “good cholesterol” (ApoA-I) over one that forms “bad cholesterol” (ApoB). However, some researchers believe that royal jelly is only effective in elderly people [12, 25+].
A supplement with pollen and royal jelly (Melbrosia) reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol and triglycerides in an uncontrolled trial on 90 postmenopausal women .
Although promising, the existing evidence is insufficient to claim that royal jelly lowers blood cholesterol. Larger, more robust clinical trials are needed to confirm these preliminary results.
In one study, 31 volunteers ate 3 g of royal jelly daily for six months. Those who had the royal jelly supplement scored higher on mental health assessments at the end of the study .
A natural formula with 750 mg royal jelly, 150 mg ginseng extract, and 120 mg Ginkgo biloba extract improved performance in a cognitive evaluation test (MMSE) in a clinical trial on 66 people with mild cognitive impairment .
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 .
Two clinical trials and some animal research cannot be considered conclusive evidence that royal jelly supports mental health. Additional research is warranted.
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 .
Although its results are promising, a single clinical trial is insufficient to support the use of royal jelly as an adjuvant to chemotherapy until more clinical trials are conducted.
Royal jelly may increase red blood cells and reduce anemia. In a study over six months, 31 volunteers who ate a royal jelly supplement (3 g) daily had higher red blood cell counts. Royal jelly may increase testosterone levels, which could subsequently increase red cell blood production .
The results of this single trial should be confirmed in more studies on larger populations
Royal jelly increased tear production in a clinical trial on 43 people with dry eye .
Again, only a small clinical trial has observed this potential benefit. Further clinical research is needed.
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 [30, 7].
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 .
However, the healing effect of royal jelly may be limited. In a clinical trial, patients with diabetic foot ulcers (6 women and 19 men) saw no improvement in ulcer healing when applying royal jelly (5% topical) .
No clinical evidence supports the use of royal jelly for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
In one study in mice, active compounds of royal jelly (MRJP3) reduced allergic responses and sensitivities .
Royal jelly can affect the immune system by balancing levels and improving responses of specific immune cells [Th1/Th2]. In another study in 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 [34, 35].
Royal jelly could help with food allergies. In a study in mice, a royal jelly supplement reduced allergic reactions (blood and gut symptoms) and the risk of anaphylactic shock in response to cow’s milk .
Royalisin is thought to be the compound within the royal jelly responsible for these immune benefits .
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 .
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 [39, 40, 41].
In another study, jelleines could kill some bacteria and yeast .
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 [42, 43].
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 study, royal jelly extended the lifespan in roundworms (C. elegans) [44, 7].
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, especially the lining of the joints. In a cell study, royalisin from royal jelly reduced inflammation and damage in unhealthy, rheumatoid joint tissue .
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 .
This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.
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, whose potential symptoms include allergic shock, numbing and tingling, vertigo, hives, and other allergic reactions [47, 48].
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 [47, 48].
Royal jelly is generally not recommended during pregnancy or in children due to the lack of research about its effects on unborn babies, breast milk, or young children.
There is a lack of research on the effects of royal jelly on pregnancy and child development. Many studies involving royal jelly in humans had a small sample size .
Supplement/Herb/Nutrient-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. Always consult your doctor before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.
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 .
Royal jelly is used as a natural skincare product. It can be applied alone or mixed with honey, nutrients, or herbs. Royal jelly as a skincare product can purchase as a cream, ointment, serum, or applied raw.
Royal jelly is also available as an oral supplement. It’s commercialized mixed with honey, other honey products, and ginseng.
You can also find pure royal jelly as:
- Liquid extract
Because royal jelly is not approved by the FDA for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error. Discuss with your doctor if royal jelly may be useful in your case and which dose you should take.
Ginseng royal jelly is a mixture of ginseng and royal jelly. Ginseng is a nootropic and boosts stamina. Combining royal jelly and ginseng may boost and complement their benefits. In a clinical trial on 66 people, this combination protected from mental decline [27, 52, 53].
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 .
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-type vitamins. It has diverse claimed health benefits – from fighting microbes to boosting immunity or improving oral health .
Propolis is often mixed with royal jelly in pill form. This combination may be especially beneficial for fighting off infections.
Lady 4 is a natural mixture containing royal jelly, evening primrose oil, damiana, and ginseng that is used as a traditional remedy for menopausal symptoms. In a clinical trial on 120 women, 2 capsules per day improved quality of life and reduced menopausal symptoms .
The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of royal jelly users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.
Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
Users reported strengthened immune response, including a reduced number of colds and sinus issues. One woman described her improved blood panel results during chemotherapy after using royal jelly. Other women took royal jelly to help balance fertility and their cycles.
Users taking it orally often 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.