What Is Royal Jelly?

Supporters claim this bee-derived supplement may fight diabetes, PMS, and more

Raw royal jelly, tablets, and capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak 

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Royal jelly is a milk-like substance secreted by bees that provides nutrition to developing larvae as well as the queen bee. People sometimes use royal jelly as a form of apitherapy, or alternative medicine that uses bee products. It's also called honey bee milk, bee spit, and bee saliva.

Royal jelly advocates claim it offers anti-aging benefits and boosts the immune system. Some practitioners claim it can prevent or treat diabetes, high cholesterol, and other diseases. However, there is a lack of evidence to support such claims.

This article explains what royal jelly is, how to find it and use it, and why it may offer health benefits. It discusses some of the potential side effects, like allergic reaction, that may occur when using royal jelly.

Royal jelly

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

What Is Royal Jelly?

Royal jelly is comprised mainly of water, sugar, fatty acids, and several unique proteins, one of which is called royalactin. Many claims of royal jelly's health benefits are based on royalactin's effect on developing bee larvae.

When a queen bee dies, the worker bees will feed high quantities of royal jelly to a selected female larva. This alters the insect's DNA and turns it into a queen. Claims that eating royal jelly can help improve fertility stem from this fact.

Royal jelly is not the same as honey, but it's edible and generally thought safe to consume in a variety of forms, including royal jelly capsules and liquids.

Benefits of Royal Jelly

Royal jelly contains bee-derived proteins, along with several antioxidants and antibacterial compounds, that are believed to afford health benefits to humans.

Among some of the conditions royal jelly is said to treat are:

Royal jelly is even said to slow the aging process by eliminating free radicals or fight infections by bolstering the immune system. It is also used to increase endurance and well-being (not only to treat specific health conditions).

FDA Action on Royal Jelly

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that there is no sufficient evidence on royal jelly to support claims of health benefits. The FDA has stepped up action against manufacturers who make false claims about royal jelly's health benefits.

That is not to say that studies haven't shown any promise. Some research results do suggest that royal jelly may offer health benefits in specific circumstances.

Cancer Care

Royal jelly may offer benefits in cancer care. A wide range of animal studies, as well as laboratory research on various types of human cancer cells, show promise due to royal jelly's potential in slowing the growth of cancer cells, for example. However, treatment benefits remain unproven.

Other studies suggest that royal jelly may limit liver damage and other harms caused by powerful chemotherapy drugs. For oral mucositis, a common side effect of both chemotherapy and radiation treatments, royal jelly was among the beneficial remedies identified by researchers for treating mouth sores, bleeding, and other symptoms.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Some studies suggest that royal jelly, taken alone or in combination with other herbal supplements, may improve function and limit additional damage in people living with chronic kidney disease.

A 2021 study that looked at 20 people diagnosed with renal failure found that royal jelly, used along with various other remedies including a Middle Eastern tree resin called Gum olibanum, was able to reduce creatinine and urea concentration levels.

Other researchers have found protective effects when royal jelly is used in treating people with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer).

Diabetes

Royal jelly may regulate blood sugar, suggests a 2016 study in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes. According to the research, 50 people with type 2 diabetes were given either a placebo or 1,000 milligrams (mg) of royal jelly three times daily.

By the end of the eight-week trial, the group provided royal jelly had a significant reduction in their blood glucose, while those given the placebo had a slight increase.

Despite the positive results, a 2019 review in the World Journal of Diabetes found only a minimal benefit to royal jelly use. Based on an evaluation of 18 clinical studies, the researchers concluded that the quality of evidence supporting the use of royal jelly in diabetes was low to very low.

High Cholesterol

Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) is a concerning disorder linked to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart attack, and stroke.

In a small study published in Gynecological Endocrinology, 36 postmenopausal women given 150 mg of royal jelly daily experienced a 7.7% increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol, as well as a 4.1% decrease in LDL ("bad") cholesterol and a 3.1% drop in total cholesterol.

Similar results were achieved in a 2017 study in Pharmaceutical Biology in which 40 adults with mild hypercholesterolemia were given either a placebo or 350 mg of royal jelly daily. After three months, LDL and total cholesterol levels were reduced in the royal jelly group.

On the flip side, there were no changes in HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, body weight, waist size, or body fat compared to the placebo group.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Preliminary research suggests that royal jelly may help reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In a 2014 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 110 female university students with PMS were given either 1,000 mg of royal jelly or a placebo. Treatment started on the first day of menstruation and continued through two menstrual cycles.

After two cycles, women in the royal jelly group had 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 confirm the results and better determine the exact mechanism of action of royal jelly.

Wound Healing

Studies on how royal jelly might promote wound healing have delivered mixed results. Some researchers say applying a topical royal jelly to the skin can improve healing with wounds such as foot ulcers in diabetics.

However, an Iranian study of 25 people with 60 different ulcers failed to show any real benefit for those treated with topical royal jelly rather than a placebo. On the other hand, the same study found no obvious adverse effects, or harms, in using royal jelly on the skin when seeking to heal these wounds.

Possible Side Effects

Despite the FDA's concerns, royal jelly is generally considered safe and well-tolerated when used appropriately. Studies have shown that royal jelly may be taken in daily doses of up to 1,000 mg for three months with no notable side effects.

With that said, royal jelly has been known to cause allergic reactions in some people, ranging from mild nasal symptoms to life-threatening anaphylaxis. This may be in response to royal jelly itself or to ingredients commonly added to supplements, including bee pollen and flower pollen.

Call 911 for an Allergic Reaction

Call 911 or seek emergency care if you experience shortness of breath, wheezing, hives, rapid heart rate, dizziness, or the swelling of the face, throat, or tongue after consuming royal jelly. These are symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can lead to fainting, shock, coma, respiratory or heart failure, and death.

Drug Interactions

Royal jelly may slow blood clotting and intensify the effects of blood thinners like warfarin, leading to easy bruising and bleeding. If you use royal jelly on an ongoing basis, be sure to stop treatment two weeks before a scheduled surgery to prevent excessive bleeding.

Royal jelly may also interact with antihypertensive drugs used to treat high blood pressure, causing an abnormal drop in blood pressure (hypotension). To avoid interactions, advise your healthcare provider if you are planning to use royal jelly and include a list of all of the other drugs you are taking, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your OB/GYN before taking royal jelly supplements. 

How to Buy and Use Royal Jelly

Royal jelly comes in a variety of forms, including tablets, gelcaps, liquids, pastes, and unprocessed raw jelly. It can be sourced online or found in drugstores, health food stores, and certain higher-end grocery stores.

Supplements

Royal jelly supplements are by far the easiest form to use and dose. The tablets and softgels are both made with lyophilized (freeze-dried) royal jelly and can be safely stored at room temperature.

When buying royal jelly supplements, opt for brands that have been voluntarily tested by an independent certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Certification does not mean that the product is effective but that it simply contains the ingredients listed on the product label. This offers at least some reassurance, as supplements are not regulated in the United States.

Always read the product label to see what other ingredients are included. If you don't know what an ingredient is, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider. For added quality and safety, choose an organic brand over a non-organic one.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, be sure that the gelcaps you choose do not contain animal-based gelatins.

Other Preparations

Unprocessed royal jelly is usually packaged in small, dark glass bottles in doses ranging from 250 to 500 mg. Royal jelly can be quite bitter and is often mixed with honey to improve the taste.

The main disadvantage of unprocessed royal jelly is that it does not keep well, lasting for only two weeks in a refrigerator or a few months in the freezer. It is also quite expensive.

Royal jelly liquid and paste are more shelf-stable but often include stabilizers and preservatives to prolong their expiration. These can generally be stored for up to six months in the refrigerator or up to three years in the freezer.

If you decide to freeze royal jelly, divide it into small portions first. Defrost it only when you are ready to use it immediately. Royal jelly should never be refrozen once thawed.

When exposed to air, royal jelly can turn from a creamy yellow to a darker brown. Over time, the gelatinous texture can also become dense and harder to spoon. Ultimately, the color, texture, and taste is an indication of royal jelly's freshness.

Never use royal jelly beyond its expiration date, if it smells funny, or if it develops a rotten taste.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Bee Products J L.

  2. Salama S, Shou Q, Abd El-Wahed AA, Elias N, Xiao J, Swillam A, et al. Royal Jelly: Beneficial Properties and Synergistic Effects with Chemotherapeutic Drugs with Particular Emphasis in Anticancer Strategies. Nutrients. 2022 Oct 7;14(19):4166. doi:10.3390/nu14194166.

  3. Daugėlaitė G, Užkuraitytė K, Jagelavičienė E, Filipauskas A. Prevention and Treatment of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy Induced Oral Mucositis. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Jan 22;55(2):25. doi:10.3390/medicina55020025.

  4. Alkhatib B, Alhilo I, Alhilo S. The Effect of Selected Traditional Herbal Combination with Royal Jelly on Kidney Function: Case Series. Annals of Clinical Case Reports.  2021; 6: 1981.

  5. Araki K, Miyata Y, Ohba K, Nakamura Y, Matsuo T, Mochizuki Y, et al. Oral Intake of Royal Jelly Has Protective Effects Against Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor-Induced Toxicity in Patients with Renal Cell Carcinoma: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Medicines (Basel). 2018 Dec 20;6(1):2. doi: 10.3390/medicines6010002.

  6. Siavash M, Shokri S, Haghighi S, Shahtalebi MA, Farajzadehgan Z. The efficacy of topical royal jelly on healing of diabetic foot ulcers: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Int Wound J. 2015 Apr;12(2):137-42. doi:10.1111/iwj.12063.

Additional Reading

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.