Supplement Focus: Royal Jelly

Dr. Carina Norris is a registered nutritionist, consultant and health journalist. She has written several books on nutrition and health, most recently Healthy Eating.

This wonder-substance could be an all-round health booster

What is it?

Royal jelly is the sole food of queen bee larvae. Worker bees secrete a substance from their salivary glands that they mix with pollen and nectar. The resulting jelly contains a protein called royalactin, responsible for a bee larva becoming a queen - larvae that don't receive royal jelly develop into ordinary worker bees. Royal jelly contains a mixture of proteins, sugars, vitamins and minerals, plus antioxidant polyphenols - organic chemicals which are probably behind some of its potential health benefits.

How can it help me?
Cholesterol lowering - An analysis of controlled studies on royal jelly in humans concluded it could help to lower levels of cholesterol and unhealthy fats in the blood.

Diabetes - Royal jelly has a blood sugar-lowering effect.
Osteoporosis - One study suggested royal jelly could help by enhancing calcium absorption, after animal studies found it was almost as effective as oestrogen therapy at preventing bone-thinning.
Periodontitis - Its antibacterial and bone-protecting effects may help where bacterial infection leads to loss of tooth-supporting bone, according to lab studies on jawbone cells.
Skincare - Royal jelly is found in many beauty products, as it's believed to help firm and moisturise the skin.

How do I use it?
Usually taken in capsule form; it does have the potential to cause allergic reactions. Don't take royal jelly if you're allergic to any bee products (honey or pollen).
It is also available as a cream for use in skincare.

How much do I need?
The usual dose is 50-100mg daily. Higher doses have been used in many animal studies involving royal jelly. But never take more than the recommended amount without consulting your doctor.