Royal Jelly is a creamy-white substance made by nurse worker honey bees to feed larvae during their first three days of life. After this time, larvae destined to become workers are nourished on a diet of honey, pollen and water, while those selected to become a future queen continue to receive Royal Jelly as a rich source of nutrients and growth factors.
What does Royal Jelly contain?
It provides a concentrated source of 20 amino acids, sugars, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, sterols and growth factors. The substance is the richest known natural source of vitamin B5, which helps to combat stress, fatigue, and insomnia and it helps to maintain healthy skin, hair and digestion.
It also provides other B group vitamins plus vitamins A, C, D, and E, plus minerals such as potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and manganese. Other ingredients include acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter needed to transmit messages from one nerve cell to another – antioxidant flavonoids and a powerful antibacterial protein, royalisin, which help to deter infections.[i]
What does it do?
Royal Jelly was traditionally taken to boost energy levels, mental alertness, and general well-being. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-ageing and lipid-lowering effects and is especially popular among women around the time of menopause.[ii]
A study involving healthy men and women (aged 42 and 83 years) who took either 3,000 mg Royal Jelly, or a placebo, every day for 6 months, was shown to improve general health and wellbeing. Those taking the substance showed significant improvements in red blood cell counts, blood glucose levels, sex hormone balance and mental health assessments compared with those taking the placebo.[iii]
It has a hormone balancing action and can raise female levels of oestrogen. When 110 students with PMS took ether Royal Jelly or placebo every day for two months, PMS symptoms were significantly improved in those taking Royal Jelly – their PMS score halved from an average of 23 to 11 compared to a reduction of only one point (from 21 to 20) in those taking placebo.[iv]
Royal Jelly has oestrogen-like effects due to the presence of unique fatty acids that, in the laboratory, were found to stimulate human oestrogen receptors to increase production of new bone in bone cell cultures.[v] This oestrogen-like activity makes Royal Jelly a popular supplement for menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.
It can also improve thinning (atrophy) of vaginal tissues after menopause which can cause discomfort, soreness and painful sex. A vaginal Royal Jelly cream was found to improve quality of life significantly more than vaginal oestrogen cream or lubricant.[vi]
Royal Jelly contains proteins (MRJP1 and HBRJ-CPF) that stimulate the production of collagen and stimulate wound healing.[vii] These effects are beneficial in minimising fine lines and wrinkles in ageing skin and help to protect against UVB-induced photoageing.[viii]
Royal jelly contains substances that have an insulin-like action to improve glucose control.[ix] Interestingly, the activity is not inactivated by stomach enzymes and doses of 1g taken once or three times a day significantly improved fasting blood glucose and glycosylated haemoglobin levels (a measure of glucose control) within eight weeks.[x]
Royal Jelly and cholesterol levels
The substance appears to reduce total cholesterol and improve ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol balance.[xi] It’s thought to work by decreasing cholesterol absorption within the intestines, and increase the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids in the liver for excretion via the bile. This cholesterol lowering activity may be even greater than that of plant sterols.[xii]
Where we can get it?
Royal jelly is mainly available as capsules, tablets and liquid jelly.
To preserve the active ingredients, Royal Jelly supplements are freeze-dried and powdered to add to capsules and tablets. Additional ingredients may be added such as vitamin B2 to support energy levels. Eg Healthspan Royal Jelly, 90 capsules, £13.95.
A typical dose is 400mg to 1g daily.
Some products must be refrigerated and taken on an empty stomach – check manufacturer’s instructions.
What to avoid
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 may trigger allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to bee stings.[xiii]
Important, do not take Royal Jelly if you are on blood thinning medication, or if you have a history of any cancer, except under medical advice and supervision.
A to Z of vitamins and minerals is a guide by Dr Sarah Brewer who is the Medical Director at wellbeing brand Healthspan and Rob Hobson who is a Registered Nutritionist.
A to Z of vitamins, Dr Sarah Brewer, Royal Jelly Last modified: June 9, 2023