Royal jelly is a yellowish-white substance secreted by honey bees to feed larvae and developing queen bees. It is also called honey bee milk, apilak, or queen bee jelly. Humans also ingest royal jelly as a dietary supplement and use royal jelly in topical creams.
Royal jelly contains fatty acids, proteins, and B vitamins. Some research suggests the supplement can help reduce blood sugar, high cholesterol, and menopause symptoms. Other studies show taking royal jelly may improve lifespan and healthy aging. However, there is still limited evidence that royal jelly offers any health benefits when taken as a supplement.
Researchers have found royal jelly has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Royal jelly is often added to moisturizing creams because it helps the skin retain water. However, most research on royal jelly in skincare only includes lab studies. Since human research is limited, we don’t fully understand how royal jelly’s properties may benefit health.
May Help Blood Sugar Regulation
Evidence is limited, but some research shows royal jelly may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. A research review including human clinical trials found royal jelly minimally lowered blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. However, the researchers found insufficient evidence to prove royal jelly could efficiently manage blood sugar levels for short or long periods.
Research on the effects of royal jelly on blood sugar is also conflicting. Another review found royal jelly did not significantly improve fasting blood sugar levels or hemoglobin A1C. Hemoglobin A1C is a blood test marker that shows your average blood sugar level over time.
May Reduce High Cholesterol
Human studies have shown taking royal jelly helped increase “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and decrease “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. However, the studies available have tiny sample sizes and varying dosages of royal jelly.
A three-month study of 36 healthy postmenopausal women found taking 150 milligrams (mg) of royal jelly daily increased their HDL cholesterol by 7.7% and decreased their LDL cholesterol by 4.1%—a 3% decrease in total cholesterol levels.
Another study of 40 people with slightly high cholesterol found participants who took 3,150 mg of royal jelly daily reduced their LDL and overall cholesterol levels in three months. The same study also found taking royal jelly did not change HDL cholesterol levels. We still need more research to prove if royal jelly is an effective way to help treat high cholesterol.
May Reduce Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Menopause Symptoms
Limited research shows royal jelly may help reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause symptoms. However, like most human research on royal jelly, the studies available are small and don’t have a standardized dose and timeline.
PMS often occurs one to two weeks before having a period and includes symptoms like bloating, constipation, headache, and intense mood swings. A study including 110 female college students found participants who took 1,000 mg of royal jelly for two months reduced their PMS symptoms. Women in the royal jelly group reported a 50% reduction in PMS symptoms.
Menopause occurs after someone stops having a period. After menopause, the body makes less estrogen and progesterone hormones, which can lead to symptoms like mood changes, vaginal infections, and hot flashes. A study including 42 postmenopausal Japanese women found taking 800 mg of royal jelly for 12 weeks helped reduce back pain and anxiety linked to menopause. Another study of 200 postmenopausal women found taking 1,000 mg of royal jelly daily for eight weeks reduced menopause symptoms.
May Reduce Chemotherapy Side Effects
Some lab research has shown royal jelly may help reduce tumor mass and immune response levels related to cancer. There is also limited evidence that royal jelly may help increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy medications. However, we need more research to prove how royal jelly can help treat cancer.
More promising research shows that royal jelly helps reduce oral mucositis, a common side effect of chemotherapy that causes swollen and irritated mouth tissue. A study of 103 chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients found participants who took royal jelly healed their oral mucositis more quickly than the placebo group. However, while research is promising, we need more human studies on the effects of royal jelly and chemotherapy medications.
Royal jelly can be consumed fresh or taken in pill form as a capsule or soft gel. Capsules or soft gels often contain freeze-dried royal jelly with gelatin, oil, or glycerin. Royal jelly is also often added to cosmetic moisturizing creams and immune health supplements that contain vitamin C and honey.
Royal jelly supplements can be taken with or without food in the morning or at night. While research is limited, human clinical trials typically have participants take royal jelly for eight weeks to three months for best results.
There is no standard dosage for royal jelly supplements. Royal jelly doses used in clinical trials have ranged from 150 to 3,150 mg daily, depending on the treatment. However, the most common dosage is 1,000 mg daily for up to 6 months.
Most royal jelly capsules or soft gel manufacturers recommend taking one to two 1,000-mg pills daily, with water. People often take 1/4 teaspoon of fresh royal jelly—with or without food—up to twice a day. This dosage is usually close to or slightly over 1,000 milligrams.
If you want to take royal jelly, talk with your healthcare provider about the best dosage for you.
Royal jelly is typically considered safe when ingested or applied topically in cosmetic creams. However, royal jelly is not recommended for use while pregnant or breastfeeding. It is also not recommended for use in children.
People allergic to honey and bee stings should also avoid royal jelly. Royal jelly has similar allergic substances found in honeybee venom and honey that can cause allergic reactions. Additionally, rare allergic reactions to royal jelly are more common in people with atopic diseases—conditions related to an overreactive immune response—like asthma and eczema.
Potential Drug Interactions
Royal jelly may interact with medications, causing them to be less efficient at treating different health conditions. Drugs you should avoid mixing with royal jelly include:
- Blood thinners. Taking royal jelly with blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin) can increase your bleeding risk.
- Hormone therapy. Royal jelly can increase levels of estrogen and DHEA-S—a hormone that helps make testosterone and estrogen. This can alter the effectiveness of different hormone treatments that work to lower estrogen or testosterone levels.
- Diabetes medications. Royal jelly may increase the effectiveness of diabetes medications and help lower blood sugar, but it may lower blood sugar too much—leading to hypoglycemia.
What to Look For
You can find royal jelly supplements online or at drugstores, supplement stores, and health food stores. Selecting a quality supplement with certified third-party testing is essential when choosing a royal jelly supplement.
Most royal jelly is sourced from China, which has its own national standards for royal jelly quality. However, there are no European or international quality standards for royal jelly. Since royal jelly is a supplement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have to verify its use claims or ingredients. As a result, royal jelly supplements are not well-regulated, and the quality, ingredients, and doses of royal jelly supplements can vary.
Can You Have Too Much Royal Jelly
The effects of taking too much royal jelly are not well understood. However, research has found that taking royal jelly does not cause hepatotoxicity—or injury to the liver.
Taking up 4,800 mg of royal jelly daily for a year has been used safely without complications. That is more than four times the lower recommended daily dose of 1,000 mg.
Most people will not experience side effects when taking royal jelly. However, consuming royal jelly can cause side effects like:
- Abdominal pain
- Upset stomach
- Bloody stool
- Skin rash
People who are allergic to royal jelly, have asthma, or have honey or bee sting allergies can also experience allergic reactions. Allergic reactions to royal jelly can be severe and require immediate medical attention. Signs of an allergic reaction include:
- Skin redness
- Throat swelling
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
Royal jelly is a substance secreted by honey bees with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. How royal jelly actually benefits human health isn’t well understood. Small human studies have found royal jelly can help reduce cholesterol, blood sugar, PMS symptoms, menopause symptoms, and chemotherapy side effects. However, we need more quality research to confirm these benefits. Still, taking 1,000 mg of royal jelly daily is likely safe if you don’t have asthma or allergies.