Royal Jelly: Is It Good For You? 4 Potential Benefits

What is royal jelly?

Everyone is buzzing about the benefits of bees.

They give us honey. Give us bee pollen. Make the beeswax that we use in a lot of beauty and household items. And, oh yes, they pollinate the crops that enable humanity to exist.

But bee lovers may not realize there is another gel-like substance that bees make: royal jelly.

Unlike honey, royal jelly is naturally bitter and sour. Worker bees secrete the substance from their glands to feed their larvae and queens.

While that sounds gross, the taste doesn’t stop people from taking royal jelly as a supplement to help a variety of health conditions. Whether it really helps, however, is up for debate.

Here’s what the current research shows, what experts think about royal jelly, and everything else you need to know.

BSIP/Getty Images

How is royal jelly different from honey?

Apart from the fact that both are made by bees, royal jelly and honey have little in common.

For starters, there’s a big difference in how they taste: bitter and sour (royal jelly) versus naturally sweet (honey).

Honey is a liquid made with nectar from flowers through a multi-step process that involves multiple honeybees, explains registered dietitian nutritionist Malina Malkani.

Meanwhile, says Malkani, royal jelly is a milky substance produced by worker bees as food for queens and their young.

Royal jelly is higher in protein and lower in sugars than honey, adds Kris Sollid, RD, senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council.

Bee larvae and queen bees consume royal jelly solely for their higher protein requirements,” he says. “After a few days of life, only bees destined to become queen bees are fed exclusively royal jelly.”

Queen bees continue to consume only royal jelly (no honey, no pollen) for their entire lives.

But beyond the retail price and the specific way bees make it, there are only a few nutritional differences between honey and royal jelly, according to Sollid.

“No [are] grim enough to be of great significance to human health,” he says.

(Here’s what you need to know about manuka honey.)

Royal Jelly Nutrition Facts

Royal jelly is a combination of water, proteins, sugars, lipids and mineral salts. Sollid says royal jelly is made up of up to 70 percent water, while honey is only about 17 percent water.

That said, the exact extent of royal jelly makeup is unknown. And the nutrition facts vary depending on the source.

Investigation Frontiers in Pharmacology discovered that royal jelly contains unique proteins and fatty acids. This includes nine glycoproteins, or major royal jelly proteins, and two fatty acids (trans-10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid and 10-hydroxydecanoic acid).

It also contains B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, biotin, and folic acid.

People use it in gel, powder or capsule form. But there is no official recommended dosage for royal jelly.

Potential Benefits of Royal Jelly

Royal jelly is sold as a supplement and remedy for various ailments.

Still, clinical evidence demonstrating royal jelly’s beneficial effects on human health is lacking, according to Sollid and Malkani. The research we have is small and needs to be backed up by larger human trials.

Here’s what the available research has found.

It Can Treat Menopause Symptoms

The most compelling research on royal jelly suggests that when taken orally, it may help improve some of the symptoms associated with menopause and increase feelings of well-being in menopausal women, although more research is needed, according to Malkani .

The hormonal changes during menopause cause unwanted side effects such as hot flashes, pain, memory loss, depression and anxiety.

In a study published in Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, researchers followed 42 healthy Japanese postmenopausal women for 12 weeks. Those who took 800 milligrams of royal jelly powder (orally) reduced their back pain and anxiety with no unwanted side effects.

Another study, published in gynecological Endocrinology, found that 36 postmenopausal women who took 150 milligrams of royal jelly daily for three months improved their cholesterol levels (more on that below).

It can affect cholesterol levels

Some studies have shown that royal jelly supplements can lower cholesterol levels, even in people who are not menopausal. According to some experts, this is due to the special proteins in royal jelly PLOS ONE.

A small, month-long study published in Pharmaceutical Biology looked at 40 people with mild high blood pressure. Half of the people took nine capsules of royal jelly daily for three months.

Each capsule had 350 milligrams of royal jelly, for a total of 3,150 milligrams per day.

Researchers looked at their cholesterol levels and found that people who took royal jelly daily lowered both their total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

It could regulate blood sugar levels

In a small, six-month study of 61 healthy people, researchers examined how royal jelly might affect fasting blood sugar levels in healthy individuals.

After six months, fasting glucose levels were lower in the 30 people who took 3,000 milligrams of royal jelly daily than in those who took a placebo.

Another small study, published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, looked at 50 women with type 2 diabetes and saw similar results. In this pilot study, half of the women took a one gram dose of royal jelly gel every day for eight weeks, while the other half took a placebo.

The researchers found that women given royal jelly had lower blood sugar levels. And their levels were lower than those of women in the control group.

It can support the immune system

Royal jelly has the potential to boost or boost antibodies, a natural immune response against foreign bacteria and viruses, according to research in Nutritional Science and Nutrition.

The study is promising, but it was done in cells, so it’s very preliminary and needs a lot of additional research, especially in humans, to substantiate the findings.

And a review study published in microbiological Research found that royal jelly promoted antibacterial activity and was even effective against many multi-resistant bacteria. This research means that the jelly can strengthen or support the immune system.

Other Potential Benefits

Animal research points to some other potential benefits of royal jelly: treating dry eyes, reducing the side effects of cancer treatment, slowing signs of aging and aiding wound healing.

But there isn’t enough data to say these benefits translate to humans.

Who should avoid royal jelly?

Side effects are generally rare. “When ingested or used topically in appropriate amounts, royal jelly is generally safe for most people,” says Malkani.

The risks and side effects of royal jelly mainly have to do with the fact that it is a bee product. People who are allergic to bee stings or pollen may not want to try this supplement.

“In people with asthma, bee allergies, or a genetic predisposition to developing allergic reactions, royal jelly appears to cause an increased number of allergy symptoms, some of which can be severe,” says Malkani.

According to Frontiers in Pharmacologyallergic reactions include:

  • Asthma
  • Anaphylaxis, which causes difficulty breathing, swelling in the mouth and throat, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and sometimes loss of consciousness
  • Contact dermatitis, a red, itchy rash caused by coming into contact with something you are allergic to

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid royal jelly, as there isn’t enough reliable evidence at this time to know if it’s safe for this population, notes Malkani.

If you are taking certain herbal supplements or prescription drugs that thin the blood or lower blood pressure, talk to your doctor before taking royal jelly.

It is always a good rule of thumb to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before adding any supplement.

What experts think about royal jelly

Malkani generally does not recommend royal jelly, although she often recommends and uses honey in recipes and cooking for its potential health benefits, great taste and texture.

Sollid also notes that honey is much cheaper than royal jelly.

And if you’re looking for ways to improve your health, there are many ways to do it. It may not be worth adding an expensive supplement to your diet, given the lack of research.

Still, Sollid recommends checking with your health care provider first if you’re considering taking royal jelly. As with all dietary supplements, read the label carefully and use as directed.

Next, check out the natural health benefits of honey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.