Royal jelly is a sticky substance secreted by worker bees that has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering, antitumor and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also touted for its effects on testosterone and its ability to help heal wounds.
Royal jelly is a protein-rich substance secreted from the glands in the heads of worker bees that is the essential food for worker and drone larvae; it is fed to larvae until the third day of life and to queen bee larvae throughout the larval period.
It is made of water, proteins, carbohydrates, and various trace elements and vitamins. It is rich in pantothenic acid, a substance aiding metabolism of fats and carbohydrates and also contains vitamin B6 important in the metabolism of amino acids (1).
Royal jelly helps lower high levels of cholesterol. A meta-analysis of controlled human trials of royal jelly on elevated cholesterol showed a significant reduction in total serum lipids and cholesterol levels. It also showed a normalization of both HDL (high-density lipoprotein, which is referred to as “good” cholesterol due to its ability to help remove cholesterol from the blood) and LDL (low-density lipoproteins which is referred to as “bad” cholesterol because high levels lead to buildup of cholesterol in the arteries). 2,3
The dose deemed most efficacious was approximately 50 to 100 mg per day, which decreased total serum cholesterol levels by about 14 percent, and total serum lipids by about 10 percent (4).
In a Japanese study, taking 6 g of royal jelly per day for four weeks significantly decreased serum total cholesterol and LDL compared to the control group (5).
Royal jelly may increase testosterone and boost reproductive health. In rats, low doses of supplementation are associated with increases in circulating testosterone and are able to prevent the reduction in testosterone associated oxidative stress; there is a relationship between oxidative stress and decrease in sperms count, percentage of live sperm and an increase in the percentage of abnormal sperm (6).
The results of a study published in Nutrition Journal, revealed that 3000mg royal jelly taken for six months was able to slightly benefit testosterone levels.
The study also reported an increased red blood cell count and an overall mental health improvement (7).
In an animal study, it was found that long-term feeding of royal jelly inhibits the age-associated decline in the testicular function of male hamsters. The hamster group fed royal jelly showed higher testosterone levels and more intensive sperm production than the control group in a dose-dependent manner. (8)
Similarly, in another animal study, royal jelly significantly boosted testosterone levels, increased ejaculated volume, increased seminal plasma fructose and improved sperm motility; in addition, sperm total output was increased and there was a reduction in abnormal sperm and dead sperm (9).
More large-scale clinical trials are needed to confirm this effect on male infertility.
Royal jelly may also improve female sexual health. Changes in a woman’s body after menopause, namely the loss of estrogen and testosterone, can lead to changes in sexual drive.
In a comparison study examining the therapeutic properties of vaginal cream of royal jelly and estrogen on quality of life and sexual and urinary problems in postmenopausal women, royal jelly proved to be most effective.
Results specifically show that vaginal royal jelly is considerably more effective than conjugated estrogens and lubricant in the improvement of quality of life and sexual and urinary function in postmenopausal women (10).
Royal jelly may improve type 2 diabetes markers. In a randomized clinical trial, 50 female volunteers with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive 1,000 mg royal jelly soft gel or placebo for 8 weeks.
After royal jelly supplementation, there was a decrease in mean fasting blood glucose, a significant reduction in the mean serum glycosylated hemoglobin levels and significant elevation in the mean insulin concentration.
While further studies are needed, researchers are optimistic that supplementation may be beneficial in helping to control diabetes (11).
Royal jelly has some antitumor activity. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering, royal jelly has the ability to increase the cytotoxic activity (cancer cell killing activity) of temozolomide (a chemotherapy drug taken to treat some brain cancers) in human glioblastoma cells (12).
In another in vitro study, royal jelly inhibited the growth-promoting effect Bisphenol A (BPA) (an environmental estrogen that stimulates proliferation of human breast cancer cells); it did not affect the proliferation of cells in the absence of BPA 13.
Royal jelly has been found to have estrogenic effects. Therefore, women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer should avoid using it.
Royal jelly may help alleviate symptoms of cancer treatment. One of the side effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation is the development of painful mouth sores, known as oral mucositis. One study shows that when used in combination with regular mouthwash, royal jelly significantly improves symptoms and healing time (14,15).
In a clinical trial with a small sample size, researchers reported that the use of royal jelly three times a day, was effective in reducing oral mucositis induced by chemotherapy and radiation in head and neck cancer patients (16).
Royal Jelly has been associated with severe anaphylaxis and asthma, believed to be associated with allergens in royal jelly, specifically some of the protein compounds that are common to bees and pollen. There is a strong likelihood that those with a bee allergy may also be allergic to royal jelly.
Other possible side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort and facial rash.
Because royal jelly has estrogenic effects, women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer should avoid this product.
Prostate cancer patients should also use caution as royal jelly increased testosterone levels in animal studies.
Further in-depth research is needed to determine an optimal recommended dosage for royal jelly. Researchers have observed benefits when using 50-300mg doses; a Japanese study showed that taking 6g per day for four weeks was effective in improving cholesterol levels.
Royal jelly is a nutrient-rich substance secreted by worker bees that is made of water, proteins, carbohydrates and various trace elements and vitamins. It is also rich in pantothenic acid and contains vitamin B6.
Supplementation has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering, antitumor and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also touted for its effects on testosterone and ability to improve type 2 diabetes.
Royal jelly has been associated with severe anaphylaxis and asthma and is likely to cause a reaction in those with a bee or pollen allergy.