For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Evidence on royal jelly in humans is limited, with no clear evidence of benefit on markers of diabetes or risk factors for heart disease.
Royal jelly is a viscous substance secreted by worker bees that makes up the essential food for queen bees and their larvae. It is consumed as a health food around the world. Laboratory and animal studies suggest royal jelly may reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation. However, studies in humans are quite limited and do not provide adequate evidence of benefit.
Because laboratory studies identified some estrogenic activity with royal jelly, it should not be used by patients with hormone-sensitive cancer.
Some research suggests benefit, but evidence is very limited.
A few small studies suggest it may improve some markers of type 2 diabetes, but a meta-analysis determined it does not improve glucose levels, and quality of evidence has been cited as low.
In a small uncontrolled prospective study, royal jelly improved symptoms in postmenopausal women.
In patients receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy, royal jelly along with standard mouthwash therapy improved symptoms of oral mouth sores and healing time. Confirmatory studies are needed.
Do Not Take If
For Healthcare Professionals
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. In laboratory studies, it demonstrated vasodilatory, hypotensive, antihypercholesterolemic, anti-inflammatory, and estrogenic effects (1) (3) (9), although its affinity for estrogen receptors is weaker compared with diethylstilbestrol (3). Royal jelly appeared to increase cytotoxic activity of temozolomide (28), but has also shown both inhibitory (7) and proliferative (3) effects. Animal studies suggest royal jelly may be effective against colitis (10) (22) and improve testosterone levels (19).
Evidence on royal jelly in humans is limited. Small clinical studies suggest that it may lower total serum lipid and cholesterol levels in those with moderately elevated levels (5), and improve erythropoiesis and glucose tolerance in healthy subjects (20). Other small studies suggest that royal jelly may improve type 2 diabetes (23) (24) or cardiometabolic markers (33), but a meta-analysis determined that supplementation does not improve glucose levels (34), and quality of evidence has been cited as low (35).
A combination supplement that contained royal jelly appeared to benefit patients with mild cognitive impairment (27). Other studies suggest that royal jelly supplementation may improve premenstrual (26) and menopausal symptoms (6).
Only a few studies have been conducted in cancer patients. Royal jelly swished, then swallowed, along with standard mouthwash therapy improved symptoms of oral mucositis and healing time in patients receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy (29). Another small study suggests benefit with topical royal jelly ointment in head and neck cancer patients (30).
Because royal jelly has estrogenic effects (3), women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer should avoid this product. Prostate cancer patients should also use caution as royal jelly increased testosterone levels in animal studies (19).
Mechanism of Action
In animal models, anti-inflammatory effects with royal jelly were likely mediated by CD3-, CD5-, CD8- and CD45-positive T-cell immune responses (22). Protective effects against taxol-induced testicular damage were attributed to improved antioxidant status and E2f1 transcription factor upregulation (31).
Various mechanisms for cholesterol-lowering effects have been posited (5). Royal jelly may decrease reabsorption of cholesterol in the GI tract and increase 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).
Effects against oxidative stress are attributed to antioxidant peptides (24). Improved glucose tolerance and erythropoiesis occur from accelerated conversion of DHEA-S to testosterone via activation of 3β-HSD2 and/or 17β-HSD3 (32). In type 2 diabetic women, royal jelly supplementation reduced hemoglobin A1c and fasting blood glucose levels, increased insulin concentrations, and decreased oxidative stress via improvement of malondialdehyde levels, erythrocyte superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase activities (23).
Compounds identified in royal jelly exhibit weak estrogenic activity, but also inhibit binding of estradiol to estrogen receptor beta (4).
- Warfarin: In a case report of elevated INR and subsequent bleeding, royal jelly was the only identified source of warfarin’s enhanced effects (18).
- Temozolomide: Laboratory studies suggest royal jelly may increase the cytotoxic effect of temozolomide (28). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.