What Is Royal Jelly?
Royal jelly, also known as gelee, is a thick gelatinous milky white substance secreted from glands near the head of nurse worker bees and fed to the hive’s queen from her larval stages and up into adulthood. Its sole purpose is to stimulate her growth and development. It seems that the royal jelly acts on the juvenile hormones in the developing queen’s body and this allows her to mature while the drones, which aren’t given royal jelly, remain in a state of physical immaturity. A hive queen can live up to seven years, but without her special diet of royal jelly, the queen would have had the same short life cycle as any other worker bee – seven to eight weeks.
The nutritional content of royal jelly is a potential benefit in itself as the substance provides a range of essential nutrients that are necessary for good health. Royal jelly comprises:
water (50 to 60 percent)
proteins (18 percent)
carbohydrates (15 percent)
lipids (3 to 6 percent)
mineral salts (1.5 percent)
The Ancient Egyptians kept bees as far back as 5,500 B.C. and royal jelly has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries and still is today.
People have used royal jelly as a general health tonic for ages but it is also used for specific ailments too. It has been touted to relieve heart, liver, kidney, digestive, and skin disorders, to treat high cholesterol, slow the signs of aging, relieve the pain of arthritis, slow the progress of multiple sclerosis, enhance immunity, improve sexual performance, enhance hair growth and even to heal bone fractures. Many people swear that royal jelly helps improve their stamina, energy, and overall sense of well-being too. Melbrosia, a mixture of royal jelly and bee pollen and is commonly used by menopausal women to manage their hot flashes and other associated physical symptoms.
It is a popularly held belief that royal jelly has rejuvenating and anti-aging properties in humans, scientifically it hasn’t lived up to this expectation, but it isn’t without potential medical benefits.
As indicated, Royal jelly is comprised of mostly water, but it also contains proteins, fats, sugars, and other trace substances too. One of the types of protein found in royal jelly, and one of the sugars, has been found to have antibacterial or antimicrobial properties. The gelee also contains vitamins, minerals, and other phytosterols like Neopterin – also found in humans this chemical is believed to play a role in our immune system. According to PDR Health, “Royal jelly may have hypolipidemic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative activities. There is very preliminary evidence that it may also have some antibiotic, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing and anti-cancer effects.”
As a supplement, it can be taken in a tablet or capsule form, or it can be ingested in a wide variety of food items such as chocolates, fruit bars, and antioxidant drink mixes. Royal jelly can also be found in an amazing array of personal care items like lip balm and skin cream too.
While royal jelly supplements and products are widely available and frequently used by pregnant and nursing mothers, those with allergies or hypersensitivities to any of its components shouldn’t use this supplement. Side effects include rashes and itching, asthma attacks and bronchospasms, and rarely, anaphylaxis and even death has occurred.
As with any health supplement, unsubstantiated claims are commonplace when it comes to extolling the virtues of royal jelly, and though there are no current studies that point definitively to the benefits of its use there is emerging information that looks hopeful.
From available literature, Royal Jelly and its derivate components, such as Royalisin, Jelleines, and 10-hydroxy-2-decanoic acid (10-HDA), showed high activity against Gram positive bacteria while their effectiveness decrease against Gram-negative. Moreover, several studies carried out on Royal Jelly showed that this product is also effective against many multidrug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). This is particularly important since one of the major public health problems is currently represented right from the onset of an increasing number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to the selection of resistant clones many for which it is often not provided an adequate therapy. Multidrug-resistant bacteria management requests increasing attention to the antibacterial molecules/products used. For this reason researches in recent years has been directed toward the discovery of new antimicrobial substances, particularly natural substances such as plant extracts, essential oils, and antimicrobial peptides isolated from many different animals. The interest in beehive products is also further enhanced by the fact that these products have always represented an important resource such as functional foods, which have not only the nutritional function but also nutraceutical or rather to improve and promote human health due to the presence of molecules that prevent or fight various disease states.
On the basis of the results obtained by several studies about the antibacterial properties of Royal Jelly, it seems clear that this beehive product could be a potential subject of further investigation by the scientific world.
The new findings regarding its active components, their inner mechanisms of action, and the possibility of isolation and purification of the pure substances, represent a starting point for the formulation of new products for therapeutic and pharmacological uses as an alternative to conventional antibiotics. Natural peptides, as Major Royal Jelly Proteins, could be taken into account as potential alternatives. The use of RJ could lead to the realization of nutraceutical products with a remarkable added value.
Infertility is a serious problem for young a couple which is increasing due to many agents. Male related factor infertility includes about 50% of infertility causes and resolving this factor sometimes need difficult and expensive procedures. Finding an easier and less expensive method to solve this problem would have a significant hopeful effect for infertile couples.
We know that 37% of infertile men have abnormal seminal parameters including 24% asthenospermia, 10-15% azoospermia, and oligospermia. The distribution of the etiology of male infertility reveals that about 23% of them are idiopathic . RJ develops the queen bee gonads as Queen Bees will produce 2,000 eggs per day with each day’s brood equal to 21.2 times her own body weight.
Studies have shown that oral exposure to royal jelly displays estrogenic effects in adult female rats. Nakaya et al. reported that royal jelly has anti-environmental estrogen activity, which can prevent the negative effects applied by exogenous estrogen on the male reproductive system . Furthermore, Abdelhafiz and Muhamad found that the intravaginally administration of bee honey and royal jelly might be a probably effective method for treating infertility conducted by asthenozoospermia.
Kohguchi et al. shown RJ diet excited higher testosterone content and better spermatogenesis in hamster testis.
In another study performed on rabbits in Egypt by El nagar, spermogram parameters were significantly improved and serum testosterone levels increased in heat-stressed male rabbits after consumption of Royal Jelly . In our study, the use of Royal Jelly has no effect on the testosterone levels in rats. But sperm quality was quite affected after the use of Royal Jelly and significant changes in the number and motility of sperms were considerable.
We found that consumption of Royal jelly has a significant effect on sperm count. The mean sperm count in the case group was approximately 5 times more than the control group and sperm motility was significantly effective and progressive in case group. Also, the leydig cell count was obviously more in the group that used Royal jelly. Using Royal jelly had no effect on LH, FSH, and testosterone serum level. In only one similar study performed on rats in china by Yang and his colleagues, their results showed using Royal jelly has no significant effect on sperm count . We evaluate the effect of royal jelly on histology of testis, spermogram parameters, and sexual hormones in male rats carefully. In our opinion, if we could generalize the animal results to human, consumption of Royal jelly would be useful for infertile men suffering idiopathic azoospermia, oligospermia, and asthenospermia.
According to the many properties of Royal Jelly and its positive impact on sperm parameters and testicular histology in the treatment of infertility due to male factors, we recommend that a study is also done to assess the effects of Royal Jelly in female rats.
At the end of the study, the sperm count in royal jelly (case) group was significantly higher than control group (P <001). The mean count of sperms in each high power field in case group was 141, compared to the control group which was 25 (Table 1) (Figure 1,2). However, No significant changes in the sperm morphology were recorded in the treatment group compared with the control group.
Both animal and human studies demonstrate that royal jelly may positively impact cholesterol levels and thereby reduce heart disease risk.
Though the exact mechanism remains unclear, specific proteins in royal jelly may help lower cholesterol (7Trusted Source).
One 12-week study found that rabbits supplemented with royal jelly significantly reduced their total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels by 28% and 23%, respectively (8Trusted Source).
Similarly, a one-month human study saw an 11% and 4% reduction in total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in people taking about 3 grams of royal jelly daily (9Trusted Source).
Conversely, another small human study determined no significant differences in cholesterol levels between participants treated with royal jelly and those on a placebo (10Trusted Source).
While these studies are promising, more research is needed to better understand royal jelly’s impact on heart health.
Royal jelly may slow the aging process in several ways.
A few studies show increased lifespan and improved cognitive performance in rats treated orally with royal jelly (24Trusted Source).
Royal jelly is sometimes included in topical skincare products to support the maintenance of healthy, younger-looking skin.
Animal research indicates that royal jelly may support increased collagen production and protection from skin damage associated with UV radiation exposure (12Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
Since human research on the anti-aging benefits of oral or topical royal jelly use is insufficient, more studies are needed.
Precautions For Use
Royal jelly has been known to cause some negative side effects due to allergic reactions.
Symptoms can range in severity from hives to asthma and anaphylaxis. Most manufacturers recommend seeking medical advice before using.
Due to the lack of positive evidence to ensure safety, most manufacturers advise consumers not to take royal jelly during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Do your research before trying Royal Jelly. There are a number of brands on the market that are not 100% natural. Some brands, especially those imported should be carefully scrutinized. Some could contain additives not listed on the label, or even very old, ineffective Royal Jelly.
If at all possible, buy a brand that’s produced in your country. Most quality health food stores carry a variety of brands.
I personally only rely on brands that are known to be fresh and are refrigerated to maintain freshness and potency.
Royal Jelly is available in several forms:
Mixed with raw honey (Thick mixture)
Mixed with processed honey
A natural state, or pure and unmixed (must be kept refrigerated)