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glass jar of royal jelly with flowers on wooden table

All about royal jelly: benefits, uses and types

20 Apr 2021 • 2 min read

Royal jelly is a bit of a powerhouse of a substance with a rather regal name and long history to boot.

This article is aimed at talking you through all you’d like (and need) to know about royal jelly, as well as answering key questions, including:

  • What are the benefits of royal jelly?
  • Can humans eat royal jelly?
  • What is royal jelly made of?
  • How do you take royal jelly?

What is royal jelly made of?

Royal jelly isn’t what you may initially think it is. In its purest, rawest form, royal jelly is a protein-packed substance that’s excreted from the glands of worker bees (in other words, it’s bees’ version of mother’s milk).

All bee larvae are fed royal jelly for the first few days of their life. But it’s the larvae that’s selected to go on to become queen bees that are bathed in royal jelly to create more substantial, queen-shaped cells, which then go on to become to rule future bee colonies. Queen bees eat royal jelly throughout their entire life.1

Royal jelly typically contains about 60% to 70% water, 12% to 15% proteins, 10% to 16% sugar, 3% to 6% fats, and 2% to 3% vitamins, salts, and amino acids. Its make-up also varies, depending on where it’s originated from and the climate and conditions there.2

Don’t get mixed up with bee pollen, beeswax, bee venom or propolis, while these may all also be produced by bees, they aren’t the same thing as royal jelly.

A brief history of royal jelly

Royal jelly is a highly regarded substance within cultures worldwide. It’s considered as being a highly prized and precious product, due to:

  • The way it’s made
  • The fact it’s available in limited supply
  •  It’s not necessarily the most straightforward thing to source

Historically, this means that it’s mainly only been used by royalty, just like the queens in bee hives, who live off it for their entire lives.

In Chinese medicine, it’s referred to as being the ‘food of emperors’ while the Maharajas of India have long valued it as being the key to maintaining youthful energy. In Egypt, it was given to Pharaohs to help promote longevity, meanwhile Queen Elizabeth is believe to regularly use it to help prevent fatigue. To say it is somewhat of a special, treasured commodity would be an understatement...3

Can humans eat royal jelly?

Yes, it is possible for human beings to eat royal jelly.

Fresh royal jelly tends to be a gel-like substance or it can be freeze dried. It’s also available as powder tablets or royal jelly capsules that can also be taken orally.4

How do you take royal jelly?

Royal jelly can be taken or applied in lots of different ways. As we’ve just mentioned, you can consume it, in gel/paste form, or even drink it in liquid form.5 You can also get royal jelly honey too.

This type of less-processed royal jelly doesn’t keep for as long as other types of royal jelly. It can usually last for around two weeks in a fridge or a few months in the freezer. The more ‘raw’ version of royal jelly tends to cost more than the other variations too.

You’ll also find there are royal jelly tablets, capsules and lozenge supplements, as well as all sorts of royal jelly day creams, night creams, body washes, soaps, balms, shampoos and other beauty and skincare products. Once you start to look, you’ll soon realise just how extensive the world of royal jelly really is.

Supplements are the easiest way to take royal jelly orally for several reasons, including the equal dosage, longer shelf life, the fact they can be kept at room temperature, and they’re more straightforward to take.

What are the benefits of royal jelly?

Royal jelly is believed to be able to do lots of wonderful things for people’s skin, hair and overall health and wellbeing. There are all sorts of reasons why people use, and rave about it. We’ve captured some of them below:

1. It contains so many nutrients!

Royal jelly is made up of nine glycoproteins, which are collectively known as Major Royal Jelly Proteins (MRJPs) and two fatty acids, trans-10-Hydroxy-2-decenoic acid and 10-Hydroxydecanoic acid.6

But that’s not all. It also happens to contain some trace minerals, as well as this long list of B vitamins:

  • Thiamine (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Pantothenic acid (B5)
  • Pyridoxine (B6)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Folic acid (B9)
  • Inositol (B8)
  • Biotin (B7)

Handpicked content: ‘What’s the best Vitamin B to take?’

2. It may have an antioxidant effect

It’s widely reported that royal jelly can help reduce oxidative stress within the body. According to several studies, it’s the amino acids, fatty acids and phenolic compounds that give it its antioxidant qualities.7

3. It may help with skin health

Whether applied topically or taken orally, royal jelly is believed to be able to help with skin complaints.8

Initial studies have shown that royal jelly may enhance the production of proteins involved in tissue repair. However, more research is needed.

4. It may help maintain normal blood pressure

It’s thought that royal jelly may be able to support normal blood pressure levels. Initial studies have revealed this could be because of specific proteins that are present within royal jelly however, more research is required to evidence this claim.9

5. It may ease the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Preliminary research has shown that royal jelly could have an effect on PMS. In a 2014 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 110 women with PMS were given 1,000mg of royal jelly or a placebo.10

After two menstrual cycles, the women in the royal jelly group reported more than a 50% reduction in their PMS symptom score, while women in the placebo group had less than a 5% decrease. Further research is needed to establish royal jelly’s impact on PMS symptoms.

For more on relieving PMS read, ‘The top 5 foods to tackle PMS.’

6. It may have probiotic properties

This is due to the fact that royal jelly happens to be a source of bifidobacteria, which supports the health of the gastrointestinal tract and is a type of probiotic.11

Clinical studies have attributed immune enhancement to the presence of bifidobacteria in the GI tract act. Meanwhile, it’s believed the unique composition of royal jelly suggests that it may possibly enhance the growth, activity and viability of bifidobacteria in fermented dairy products.

What are the side effects of taking royal jelly?

Up to 1,000mg of royal jelly can reportedly be taken every day without there being any side effects. However, some people have been known to have an allergic reaction to it because they’re either allergic to royal jelly or some of the ingredients that are added to it.12

Signs of being allergic to royal jelly range from minor nasal issues, to more serious and potentially-life threatening symptoms, such as wheezing, rapid heart rate and swelling on the face or around the throat or tongue.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should seek professional medical advice before taking royal jelly.

Royal jelly and other medication

Royal jelly may slow blood clotting and intensify the effects of blood thinners, which can make people more susceptible to bruising and bleeding.

It may potentially also impact medication that’s used to treat high blood pressure, which may cause an abnormal drop in blood pressure.

Last updated: 1 April 2021

Sources

  1. https://www.beeculture.com/royal-jelly-worker-bee-produced-protein-rich-mothers-milk/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-503/royal-jelly
  3. https://www.beeculture.com/royal-jelly-worker-bee-produced-protein-rich-mothers-milk/
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324152#how-to-use-it
  5. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-royal-jelly-89507
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/royal-jelly
  7. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/royal-jelly
  8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/royal-jelly
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/royal-jelly
  10. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-royal-jelly-89507
  11. https://www.eatthis.com/royal-jelly-health-benefits/
  12. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-royal-jelly-89507
 
bhupesh-panchal

Bhupesh Panchal

Author

Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
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