Royal Jelly is a creamy-white substance secreted in the salivary glands of young nurse worker honey bees. Also known as bee’s milk, it is fed in tiny amounts, to all bee larvae during their first three days of life.
Those destined to become workers are then nourished on a diet of honey, pollen and water. Only the larvae selected to become a future queen continues to receive copious amounts of Royal Jelly. They are literally bathed in Royal Jelly to stimulate and sustain their development.
As a result of the different foods they are fed, and the different genes that are activated as a result, the queen bee grows 50% larger than other, genetically identical female bees (worker bees), and has a lifespan that is nearly 40 times longer.
Royal Jelly benefits
Royal Jelly contains a highly concentrated source of proteins (15%), sugars (10%), fatty acids (7%), free amino acids, vitamins, minerals, sterols and growth factors.
To preserve the active ingredients, Royal Jelly is either blended with honey, or freeze-dried and powdered to add to capsules.
Royal Jelly has beneficial antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-ageing and lipid lowering effects.
Supplements can improve immunity, skin collagen production, wound healing, memory, hormone and cholesterol balance.
In oriental medicine, Royal Jelly is traditionally taken to boost energy levels, mental alertness, and feelings of well-being. Many people taking Royal Jelly notice increased vitality, an improved complexion, stronger nails and glossier hair.
Supplements providing Royal Jelly are particularly popular among women for their oestrogen-like action which can improve symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome and menopause.
Having discovered how much research evidence supports the use of Royal Jelly for well-being in women in their prime of life, I’ve decided to start taking it for 2 months to see if I notice a difference.
NB Do not take Royal Jelly if you are allergic to bee venom. Two of the proteins in Royal Jelly are also found in bee venom and can trigger allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to bee stings.
Royal Jelly ingredients
Royal Jelly is the richest known natural source of vitamin B5, pantothenic acid, which helps to combat stress, fatigue, insomnia and helps maintain healthy skin, hair and digestion. Royal Jelly also contains other B group vitamins plus vitamins A, C, D, and E, 20 amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals such as potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and manganese. It also provides acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter needed to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another – which may explain its memory-boosting benefits.
Royal Jelly also contains a powerful antibacterial protein, called royalisin, which is effective against gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species.
Royal Jelly and well-being
Royal Jelly is widely considered to improve general health and wellbeing. This was tested in 61 healthy men and women, aged between 42 and 83, who were given either 3,000 mg Royal Jelly, or a placebo, in 100ml liquid every day for 6 months.
In those who took the Royal Jelly supplement, significant improvements were found in red blood cell counts, fasting glucose levels, sex hormone balance and mental health assessments compared with those taking the placebo.
Royal Jelly and PMS
Royal Jelly has hormone balancing effects and can raise female levels of oestrogen. The effects of Royal Jelly on premenstrual syndrome (PMS) were investigated in 110 students with PMS who took ether one Royal Jelly capsule per day, or placebo, for two months. Treatment was started on the first day of menstruation and continued for two menstrual cycles.
At the end of the two months, pre-menstrual symptoms were significantly lower in the women taking Royal Jelly compared with placebo – their PMS score halved from an average of 23 to 11, while in those taking placebo, the PMS score only reduced by around one point (from 21 to 20). This study suggests that Royal Jelly can significantly improve pre-menstrual syndrome within 2 months.
Royal Jelly and menopause
Royal Jelly has oestrogen-like effects which are believed to result from the presence of three unique fatty acids. These can interact with human oestrogen receptors to stimulate increased production of new bone in bone cell cultures.
This oestrogen-like activity makes Royal Jelly an ideal supplement to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.
A supplement that combined Royal Jelly with evening primrose oil, damiana and ginseng was studied in 120 women with menopausal symptoms who took either 2 capsules of the combination per day, or a placebo. Improvements were noted within 2 weeks, and after 4 weeks menopausal symptoms were significantly better in those taking the Royal Jelly combination with 86.7% rating themselves much or very much improved compared with 56.7% taking placebo.
Royal Jelly and vaginal atrophy
Thinning (atrophy) of vaginal tissues after menopause can lead to discomfort, soreness and painful sex. Ninety postmenopausal women attending a gynaecology clinic with symptoms of vaginal atrophy were treated with either a Royal Jelly vaginal cream (15% strength), vaginal oestrogen cream or a non-hormonal lubricant, for three months. The results showed the vaginal Royal Jelly cream was significantly more effective than the vaginal oestrogen cream or lubricant in improving quality of life. Improvements in the quality of the vaginal lining cells were also better than in those receiving the prescribed oestrogen cream.
Thinning of vaginal tissues can lead to urinary problems (stress incontinence, painful urination) in postmenopausal women. In these same women, the researchers concluded that treatment with vaginal Royal Jelly cream was significantly more effective than conjugated oestrogen cream or lubricant in improvement of quality of life, sexual and urinary problems in postmenopausal women.
The oestrogen-like action of Royal Jelly does not appear to either stimulate or inhibit breast cancer or endometrial cancer cells in the laboratory. However, do not take Royal Jelly if you have a history of breast cancer, except under medical advice and supervision.
Royal Jelly and skin ageing
The main protein found in Royal Jelly is called ‘major royal jelly protein 1′ or MRJP1. This protein can stimulate the production of collagen in human skin cells (keratinocytes) and stimulate wound healing. Another substance called ‘honey bee Royal Jelly derived collagen production-promoting factor’ (HBRJ-CPF) was also recently found to stimulate the production of growth factors and collagen in fibroblast cells.
These findings may explain why royal jelly is popularly used to help minimise fine lines and wrinkles, and to reduce skin ageing, as well as its wound-healing properties (see below).
Royal Jelly also provides some protection to skin against UVB-induced photoageing – a major cause of premature wrinkles – by enhancing collagen production.
Royal Jelly and diabetes
Royal Jelly has am insulin-like action to improve glucose control. This effect on glucose metabolism was tested in 20 healthy volunteers without diabetes, who underwent an oral glucose tolerance test before and after taking 20g of Royal Jelly. An oral glucose tolerance test involves drinking a solution containing a known amount of sugar (usually 50g glucose) and measuring the rise in blood glucose levels over the following 2 hours. The rise in glucose levels was significantly less after taking the Royal Jelly.
This insulin-like activity is particularly interesting because it is not inactivated by stomach acid and enzymes, like human hormone insulin (which is why insulin must be given by injection). Needless to say, Royal Jelly is receiving intense investigation in the home of developing new diabetes treatments.
In one recent study, 50 people with type 2 diabetes were given either 1000 mg Royal Jelly or placebo, three times a day for 8 weeks. Average glucose concentrations decreased significantly in those taking Royal Jelly compared with those taking placebo (-9.4 mg/dL versus 4 mg/dL. They also showed good improvements in levels of harmful fats (ApoA-I)
Another study involving 50 women with type 2 diabetes compared a daily dose of 1,000 mg royal jelly with placebo for 8 weeks. Those taking the Royal Jelly had significantly improved fasting blood glucose levels and glycosylated haemoglobin levels (a measure of glucose control over the preceding weeks) as well as improving insulin concentration. This suggests that Royal Jelly may prove beneficial in controlling diabetes outcomes.
Royal Jelly and diabetic foot ulcers
Royal Jelly has antibacterial actions and promotes collagen production for wound healing. An ointment containing Royal Jelly and a form of vitamin B5 (panthenol) was used as a last-ditch treatment in people whose diabetic foot infections were likely to need limb amputation.
Sixty patients with skin ulcers, deep tissue infection and suspected bone infection (osteomyelitis) or gangrene had their wounds cleansed before applying the Royal Jelly ointment every day before the wounds were dressed. Almost all (96%) of those with skin ulcers responded well, with complete closure of the ulcer within 9 weeks. All those with gangrene also healed following surgical removal of dead tissue and conservative treatment with the Royal Jelly ointment, which is quite extraordinary.
Needless to say, if you have a diabetic ulcer, only use treatments that are recommended and supervised by your own doctors. They may be interested in reading the research paper, however.
Royal Jelly and cholesterol levels
Royal Jelly can significant lower blood fats (triglycerides) and improve cholesterol balance. Early studies found that quite small doses, ranging from 50mg to 100g Royal Jelly per day, reduced total cholesterol levels by up to 14%, and improve the balance between ‘good HDL-cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol.
More recent studies have found similar results using higher doses of 3g to 6g Royal Jelly per day, but lower doses may be just as effective (and cheaper) for some people.
It’s thought that Royal Jelly decreases the absorption of cholesterol within the intestines, and has a direct beneficial effect on the liver to increase the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids, and the excretion of cholesterol via the bile. This cholesterol lowering activity appears to be even greater than that of plant sterols.
Royal Jelly and memory
Royal Jelly is traditionally taken in later life to boost memory. It is often combined with Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng extracts to improve cognitive impairment in older people.
In one study, 66 people with mild forgetfulness were divided into two groups who were given either a supplement providing 750 mg Royal Jelly plus 120mg Ginkgo biloba plus 150mg Panax ginseng, or a placebo, to take every day before breakfast for 4 weeks.
Those taking the Royal Jelly combination showed significant improvements in memory test scores compared with those taking the placebo.
Royal Jelly and thyroid disease
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition in which abnormal immune reactions involving white blood cells (lymphocytes) attack the thyroid gland. Because Royal Jelly has immune modulating effects, it was tested against lymphocytes isolated from the blood of four healthy volunteers, and six people with newly diagnosed Graves’ disease. Incubation with Royal caused the lymphocytes from people with Graves’ disease to shift the balance of cell chemicals (cytokines) they produced away from those associated with autoimmune attack towards those associated with immune protection. The researchers suggested that Royal Jelly might help to promote the remission of Graves’ disease but trials in real people are awaited.
Royal Jelly and cancer support
The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects of Royal Jelly have been found to improve mouth inflammation (oral mucositis) in people undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In those using Royal Jelly (a typical dose used is 1g, three times a day) in addition to usual treatments (antibacterial mouth washes and antifungal nystatin rinses) the symptoms of oral mucositis healed remarkably more quickly.
Red reishi has also been used to support chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. Complementary treatment such as these should only be used under teh advice and supervision of your own doctors.
Royal Jelly and fertility
Royal Jelly has been used to boost fertility in both men and women. One common cause of reduced male fertility is having underactive sperm. Doctors compared the use of an intravaginal Royal Jelly and honey mixture to boost sperm activity against a standard intrauterine insemination procedure in 99 couples affected by asthenozoospermia. One group applied the vaginal mixture after sex, midcycle when the women were most likely to be fertile, while the other group underwent intrauterine insemination. Each procedure was repeated for 3 cycles or until conception occurred. Then, after a 2 month break, the couples who had not achieved pregnancy were switched to the other treatment. Significantly more women became pregnant when using the Royal Jelly and honey treatment than when undergoing the conventional insemination procedure (8.1% versus 2.6%).
Royal Jelly dose
The traditional dose is one teaspoonful fresh Royal Jelly per day.
Capsules typically provide between 200mg and 600mg Royal Jelly.
Doses of 200mg to 1200mg are taken for general wellbeing.
Higher doses of 3g to 6g per day have been used in clinical trials.
Some Royal Jelly products must be kept refrigerated and taken on an empty stomach. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Royal Jelly safety
Do not take Royal Jelly if you are allergic to bee products.
Royal Jelly has been known to trigger severe asthma attacks in some people with asthma, so do not take if you have asthma or have experienced severe allergies in the past.
Rarely, Royal Jelly can cause anaphylactic reactions due to a true IgE-mediated hypersensitivity reactions.
Do not take Royal Jelly if you are on blood thinning drugs such as warfarin.
Do not take Royal Jelly if you have a history of any cancer, especially one that is hormone sensitive such as prostate or breast cancer, except under medical advice and supervision.