Health Care Professional Information

Clinical Summary

Royal Jelly is a viscous substance secreted by worker bees and constitutes the essential food for queen bees and their larvae. It is consumed as a health food around the world. It demonstrated vasodilatory, hypotensive, antihypercholesterolemic, antitumor, anti-inflammatory effects and estrogenic effects (1) (3) (9) but its affinity for estrogen receptors is weaker compared to diethylstilbestrol and phytoestrogens (3).
Royal Jelly was also shown to stimulate MCF-7 cell proliferation which was reversed by tamoxifen (3) ; and stimulated the production of collagen as well as other actions needed for bone formation via its action on osteoblasts (4).
Animal studies indicate that oral administration of Royal Jelly may be effective against colitis (10) and improve testostrerone levels in male rabbits (19).

Clinical studies have demonstrated that Royal Jelly lowered total serum lipid levels and total serum cholesterol in individuals with moderately elevated cholesterol levels (5); and  improved erythropoiesis, glucose tolerance and mental health in healthy subjects (20).
Mid-cycle peri-coital intravaginal applications of a combination of Egyptian bee honey and Royal Jelly improved infertility due to idiopathic asthenozoospermia (2). In an uncontrolled prospective observational study, Royal Jelly improved menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women (6).

Because Royal Jelly has estrogenic effects, women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer should avoid this product; prostate cancer patients should also use caution as royal jelly ncreased testosterone levels in male rabbits.

Purported Uses
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cholesterol management
  • Male infertility
Constituents
  • Lipids — 3-7% ,
  • Carbohydrates — 10-12%
  • Proteins — 12-15%
  • Water — 60-70%
  • Traces of minerals and vitamins
    (1) (2)
Mechanism of Action

Compounds identified in Royal Jelly which exhibit estrogenic activity include 1-hydroxy-trans-2-decenoic acid, 10-hydroxydecanoic acid, trans-2-decenoic acid and 24-methylenecholesterol. They inhibited the binding of estradiol to estrogen receptor beta but had little or no effects on binding to estrogen receptor alpha (4). In another study Royal Jelly stimulated the production of type 1 collagen as well as other actions needed for bone formation through its action on osteoblasts (4).
The mechanism of action for the cholesterol-lowering effects of Royal Jelly is not yet known (5). It was previously suggested that Royal Jelly decreases reabsorption of cholesterol in the GI tract and increases its excretion in the bile due to the presence of phytosterols, mainly B-sitosterol. Another explanation offered is that royal jelly suppresses hepatic cholesterol synthesis (8).

Royal Jelly also inhibits the growth-promoting effects of the environmental estrogen bisphenol A on human breast cancer MCF-7 cells in-vitro (7).

Contraindications

Women with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer should avoid products containing Royal Jelly as they may stimulate the cancer.

Adverse Reactions

Oral administration of high-dose royal jelly for 4 weeks was shown to adversely affect the reproductive system of pubescent male rats. The severity of these effects reduced after cessation of administration (21).

Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications: Theoretically, royal jelly may have additive effects (5).
  • Warfarin: Royal jelly can enhance its effects (18).
Herb Lab Interactions
  • Royal Jelly lowered both the total and LDL cholesterol levels in humans (5).
  • Royal Jelly increased prothrombin time and fibrinolytic activity in rats (8).
Literature Summary and Critique

Guo H, Saiga A, Sato M, et al. Royal jelly supplementation improves lipoprotein metabolism in humans. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). Aug 2007;53(4):345-348.
Fifteen healthy volunteers were randomized to receive 6 grams of Royal Jelly or to a control group for 4 weeks. Royal Jelly supplementation resulted in a 6% reduction in total cholesterol and a 9.1% reduction in LDL cholesterol. The levels of very-low-density-lipoprotein were also decreased. (p<0.05). There were no significant changes in HDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels. These results suggest that Royal Jelly may benefit individuals with high cholesterol levels.

Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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References
  1. Suzuki KM, Isohama Y, Maruyama H, et al. Estrogenic activities of Fatty acids and a sterol isolated from royal jelly. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Sep 2008;5(3):295-302.
  2. Abdelhafiz AT, Muhamad JA. Midcycle pericoital intravaginal bee honey and royal jelly for male factor infertility. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. May 2008;101(2):146-149
  3. Mishima S, Suzuki KM, Isohama Y, et al.Royal jelly has estrogenic effects in vitro and in vivo. J Ethnopharmacol. Oct 3 2005;101(1-3):215-220.
  4. Miyata T. Pharmacological basis of traditional medicines and health supplements as curatives. J Pharmacol Sci. Feb 2007;103(2):127-131.
  5. Guo H, Saiga A, Sato M, et al. Royal jelly supplementation improves lipoprotein metabolism in humans. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). Aug 2007;53(4):345-348.
  6. Georgiev DB, Metka M, Huber JC, Goudev AR, Manassiev N. Effects of an herbal medication containing bee products on menopausal symptoms and cardiovascular risk markers: results of a pilot open-uncontrolled trial. MedGenMed. 2004;6(4):46.
  7. Nakaya M, Onda H, Sasaki K, Yukiyoshi A, Tachibana H, Yamada K. Effect of royal jelly on bisphenol A-induced proliferation of human breast cancer cells. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. Jan 2007;71(1):253-255.
  8. Vittek J. Effect of royal jelly on serum lipids in experimental animals and humans with atherosclerosis. Experientia. Sep 29 1995;51(9-10):927-935.
  9. Moutsatsou P, Papoutsi Z, Kassi E, et al. Fatty acids derived from royal jelly are modulators of estrogen receptor functions. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 22;5(12):e15594.
  10. Karaca T, Bayiroglu F, Yoruk M, et al. Effect of royal jelly on experimental colitis Induced by acetic acid and alteration of mast cell distribution in the colon of rats. Eur J Histochem. 2010 Oct 21;54(4):e35.
  11. Takahama H, Shimazu T. Food-induced anaphylaxis caused by ingestion of royal jelly. J Dermatol. 2006 Jun;33(6):424-6.
  12. Testi S, Cecchi L, Severino M, et al. Severe anaphylaxis to royal jelly attributed to cefonicid. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2007;17(4):281.
  13. Katayama M, Aoki M, Kawana S. Case of anaphylaxis caused by ingestion of royal jelly. J Dermatol. 2008 Apr;35(4):222-4.
  14. Harwood M, Harding S, Beasley R, Frankish PD. Asthma following royal jelly. N Z Med J. 1996 Aug 23;109(1028):325.
  15. Bullock RJ, Rohan A, Straatmans JA. Fatal royal jelly-induced asthma. Med J Aust. 1994 Jan 3;160(1):44.
  16. Thien FC, Leung R, Plomley R, Weiner J, Czarny D. Royal jelly-induced asthma. Med J Aust. 1993 Nov 1;159(9):639.
  17. Yonei Y, Shibagaki K, Tsukada N, et al. Case report: haemorrhagic colitis associated with royal jelly intake. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1997 Jul;12(7):495-9.
  18. Lee NJ, Fermo JD. Warfarin and royal jelly interaction. Pharmacotherapy. 2006 Apr;26(4):583-6.
  19. Elnagar SA. Royal jelly counteracts bucks' “summer infertility”. Anim Reprod Sci. 2010 Aug;121(1-2):174-80.
  20. Morita H, Ikeda T, Kajita K, et al. Effect of royal jelly ingestion for six months on healthy volunteers. Nutr J. 2012 Sep 21;11:77.
  21. Yang A, Zhou M, Zhang L, et al. Influence of royal jelly on the reproductive function of puberty male rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jun;50(6):1834-40.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: Royal Jelly may benefit those with high cholesterol. But it has not been shown to treat cancer in humans.

Royal Jelly is a viscous substance secreted by the worker bees and makes up the essential food for queen bees and their larvae. It is consumed as a health food around the world. Royal jelly has been shown to lower blood pressure; lower cholesterol levels; and reduce inflammation in laboratory and animal studies. It has not been studied as a cancer treatment in humans. Royal Jelly has weak estrogenic activity and should not be used by patients with hormone-sensitive cancer.

Purported Uses
  • Menopausal symptoms
    In one uncontrolled prospective study, Royal Jelly improved symptoms in postmenopausal women.
  • Osteoporosis
    Royal Jelly improved bone health in laboratory and animal studies.
  • Cholesterol management
    Some research evidence supports its use for hypercholesterolemia.
  • Male infertility
    One study suggests its use for male infertility but more large scale clinical trials are needed to confirm this effect.
Research Evidence

High cholesterol
Fifteen healthy volunteers were randomized to receive 6 grams of Royal Jelly or to a control group for 4 weeks. Royal Jelly supplementation resulted in reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The levels of very-low-density-lipoprotein were also decreased. There were no significant changes in HDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Researches conclude that Royal Jelly may benefit individuals with high cholesterol levels.

Do Not Take If
  • You have estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer (Royal jelly can stimulate growth of cancer cells).
  • You are taking Cholesterol-lowering medications (Theoretically, Royal Jelly may have additive effects).
  • You are taking blood thinners such as Warfarin (Royal jelly can enhance its effects).
Side Effects
  • Anecdotal weight gain, facial rash and gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • Several cases of anaphylaxis, asthma, and hemorrhagic colitis have been reported with use of royal jelly.

Oral administration of high-dose royal jelly for 4 weeks was shown to adversely affect the reproductive system of pubescent male rats. The severity of these effects reduced after stopping royal jelly administration.

E-mail your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.