The Many Health Benefits of Royal Jelly
This article is about Royal Jelly, a bee product, and its uses as a traditional medicine and tonic.
Royal Jelly has a long history of being used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a health giving tonic. Now science is confirming that royal jelly contains many beneficial compounds. This article discusses the health benefits of royal jelly based on recent research.
What is Royal Jelly?
Royal Jelly is the special food that is produced by bees and given to queen bees (hence the name "royal"). Only the queen bees eat this food, and the worker bees who produce it never consume it. In addition to feeding the queen of the beehive, royal jelly is used to actually create queens.
Beehives are a strictly hierarchical society with the queen bee at its center. The queen is fed and protected by the worker bees. The queen bee's main function is to create more bees. Of all the bees in the hive, the queen is the only fertile female; the drones are sexless. The queen bee gives birth to millions of bees and so ensures that the hive continues and that she has workers who can go around to forage for food.
In a little understood process, the royal jelly is actually used to create the queen bee. When the hive needs a new queen because the queen is dead or about to die, the workers will select bee larvae and feed them extra amounts of the royal jelly. These will mature into queen bees. If these same larvae had been fed the regular diet provided to all larvae, they would develop into regular worker bees. There is something special in the royal jelly that turns a regular bee into a queen bee, which scientists have called royalcitin. It has been found that this compound, when given to fruit flies, resulted in larger stronger fruit flies even though the fruit flies do not normally use any bee honey and do not naturally require the application of royal jelly to complete their life cycle.
Traditional Uses of Royal Jelly
Bee keepers long ago discovered that the royal jelly was different than other bee products. It was reasoned that because the royal jelly was reserved for the queen, it must have special qualities. Traditional folk medicine, especially traditional Chinese medicine, maintains that the royal jelly has beneficial effects on human health as a tonic, nutritional supplement and as a cure for several diseases.
In China, Royal Jelly has long been used to make health tonics and medicines. It is often sold in glass vials mixed with other tonic plants such as ginseng.
Nothing in this article is meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Always follow the advice of a licensed medical doctor.
Do not use royal jelly if you are allergic to it or have any allergy to bees or bee products such as honey.
What Are the Health Benefits of Royal Jelly?
If you are a bee, royal jelly has many health benefits, including making you the queen of the beehive. Bees that are lucky enough to grow up on a diet of royal jelly will become insect royalty and rule their millions of bug subjects with absolute authority.
The health benefits of royal jelly for humans is still open to debate. It is known that in addition to the component known as royalcitin, royal jelly contains various trace minerals, enzymes and B-complex vitamins.
There have been a limited number of studies testing the health benefits of royal jelly, but some have produced some interesting results. For example:
- one study found that royal jelly might reduce the damage to the liver and kidneys when exposed to certain chemotherapy agents. It concluded that royal jelly "may be used in combination with cisplatin in chemotherapy to improve cisplatin-induced oxidative stress parameters and apoptotic activity."
- an article published in Biomedical Research concluded that Royal Jelly "might have the capacity to restore the function of the immune system in individuals with alcoholic liver diseases" because of its ability to minimize stress related immune dysfunction.
- Another article also published in Biomedical Research found that Royal Jelly improved the immune system of rats which were subjected to stress by helping to cope with stress and fatigue but showed no effect on otherwise healthy immune systems. The researchers concluded that "These findings provide interesting evidence that RJ [royal jelly] did not affect the immune function in the normal situation but exhibits an anti-stress effect through the well-balanced restoration of the dysregulation of immune cells under the stressed condition."
- A Japanese study conducted by researchers at the Department of Presymptomatic Medical Pharmacology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sojo University, concluded that Royal Jelly may beneficial in the treatment of presymptomatic diseases. I understand this to mean that royal jelly may help prevent certain diseases from progressing.
- A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (J Med Food. 2011 Sep;14(9):899-906. Epub 2011 Aug 3.) noted that "which may have antitumor and antibacterial activity and a capacity to stimulate collagen production." In this study the researchers found that royal jelly may help protect the skin from damage by UV rays by stimulating collagen production.
- Another Japanese study found that Royal Jelly seemed to have an antidepressant effect on mice which were subjected to stressful situations designed to induce anxiety and stress. It concluded that Royal Jelly was "effective in ameliorating the stress-inducible symptoms of depression and anxiety" in mice.
More Scientific Studies Regarding the Health Benefits of Royal Jelly
- A paper published in the Journal of Biochemistry concluded that Royal Jelly "activates several important intracellular signaling factors involved in the stimulation of hepatocyte DNA synthesis and the protection of cells from apoptosis." In plain English, the study found that Royal Jelly delayed cell death in rats. Although the study does not reach this conclusion it is interesting that in traditional Chinese medicine, Royal Jelly is believed to increase lifespan (longevity) and there are legends of certain Chinese emperors and sages living centuries thanks to royal jelly.
- A study using mice exposed to an poisonous insecticide found that "results suggest that RJ [royal jelly] is a potent antioxidant" that afforded the rats some protection against the poison depending on dose.
- A Japanese study using rats, published in the European Journal of Histochemistry, found that Royal Jelly may reduce damage to the colon due to colitis. The researchers concluded that "The results suggest that oral treatment with RJ [royal jelly] could be used to treat colitis."
- A paper published in the Journal of Food Medicine, entitled
Antifungal Activity if the Hanoeybee Products Against Candida" 2011 Jan-Feb;14(1-2):128-34. Epub 2010 Dec 4. concluded that royal jelly can help fight infections of candida albicans and other yeasts, though bee propolis was even more effective.
- Several articles in the peer reviewed Alternative Medicine Review note that royal jelly, especially compounds known as jelleins have antibacterial properties useful in preventing wound infections. The author, Laid Bokraa, notes that "The current prevalence of anti-biotic resistant microbial species has led to a re-evaluation of the therapeutic use of ancient remedies, including honey and Royal Jelly. Neither of these two natural products have an adverse effect on tissues, so they can be safely be used on burns and inserted into the cavities, including the sinuses, to clear infection."
And there are lots and lots more studies, too numerous to mention here. Unfortunately there are no published studies using humans, though there are centuries of anecdotal evidence accumulated by folk medicine and natural healers that suggest that Royal Jelly is a potent nutritional supplement.
My Own Personal Experience With Royal Jelly
In my own case, I discovered Royal Jelly by chance when I went into a Chinese food store and found dozens of different varieties of royal jelly. I decided to try some and found that within a few weeks my extremely dry skin improved. Almost all my life I have suffered from very dry skin on my hands. In winter, my skin often cracks and even bleeds. Even at the best of times my skin was rough and scaly. Creams including prescription drugs never helped, and it was something that I had just gotten used to. After taking royal jelly regularly for a few weeks, my skin improved. It lost its dry scaly appearance and looks normal. I cannot say for sure that this is due to the royal jelly, but I have suffered from this condition for well over 30 years. I have been taking 3 vials of royal jelly every day for the past 8 months or so and my skin has remained normal. It is a remarkable improvement.
Where to Find Royal Jelly
You can harvest royal jelly yourself if you have your own bees. A healthy beehive produces about 500 grams of royal jelly every year, which actually isn't that much. You would need a lot of bees to harvest enough royal jelly for yourself.
Plus, chances are you don't want to be stung to death. so the best place to find royal jelly is at a health food store or in some cases at your local traditional Chinese food store. This means that you will probably have to make a trip to China Town in order to find it, but it will worth the trip.
Buying royal jelly from a traditional Chinese store is not only cheaper than buying it from a health food store or online, but while there you will likely discover a whole new world of exotic teas and foods.
Store bought royal jelly comes in a variety of formats:
- Vials containing liquid. This is usually mixed with a small amount of alcohol as a preservative. The vial may also contain other health ingredients such as ginseng. It is important to read the label to determine what it contains, and the proportion of royal jelly to the other ingredients. You can drink the royal jellly straight or mix it in a beverage or smoothie.
- In dried, granular form. These grains can be mixed into smoothies or other foods. They don't taste that great on their own.
- A paste-like jelly. This is the most concentrated form of royal jelly, but honestly it tastes disgusting. I recommend buying it in liquid vial form.
Health Risks of Royal Jelly
Although Royal Jelly is generally a health giving product, it is not for everyone. As with all natural remedies, there are risks associated with it.
There have been some reports of people suffering serious allergic reactions to taking royal jelly. If you are allergic to bees, you probably should not try this product. It is also possible that some people will be allergic to royal jelly even if they are not otherwise allergic to bees or other bee products such as honey.
Royal jelly is the product of bees harvesting pollen from millions of flowers, and packs the concentrated goodness and nutrition from Nature's bounty. Unfortunately, the flowers harvested by the bees are sometimes contaminated by pesticides and pollutants; these things can find their way into the royal jelly. If possible, try to buy royal jelly which has been certified organic.
As well, royal jelly may have an effect on blood pressure and blood sugar. It is not recommended for diabetics or women who are or may become pregnant.
Another concern is that royal jelly in liquid form is usually mixed with a small amount of alcohol to preserve freshness. Anyone who is an alcoholic or who is allergic to alcohol will need to avoid this form of royal jelly.
Royal jelly has many potential health benefits and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. However as with all natural remedies and tonics, you should exercise caution to ensure that that royal jelly is right for you. I recommend starting with only a small does of liquid jelly, the kind that comes in a vial form, and mixing it in with orange juice or in a smoothie. If you like the taste and feel that it is doing you good, you can take the jelly more often; but don't over do it; everything in moderation.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.