Medically reviewed on Mar 16, 2018
Scientific Name(s):Produced by the honeybee, Apis mellifera L.
Common Name(s): Royal jelly
Royal jelly has been studied for a variety of actions, including antimicrobial, antitumor, antihypertensive, and immunoregulatory activity. Additionally, effects on lipid profile, insulin-like action, and neurological and estrogenic effects have been demonstrated. However, clinical trials are lacking.
Clinical trials are generally lacking in dosage recommendation. Small clinical trials have used 6 to 10 g royal jelly per day for 14 to 28 days in trials evaluating the effect on the lipid profile.
Contraindications have not been identified. Allergy to bee venom is considered a relative contraindication.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Royal jelly possesses some estrogenic activity.
Case reports of hematuria due to potentiation of warfarin have been documented.
In many allergy patients, skin tests were positive for royal jelly. There have been case reports of allergy, acute exacerbation of asthma, anaphylaxis, and death.
Data are limited.
Royal jelly is a milky-white secretion produced by the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands of worker honeybees of the species A. mellifera L . to induce differentiated growth and development of the queen bee. Royal jelly is the principal food of the honeybee queen. Because of this specialized nutrition, queen bees differ from workers in several ways; the queens are approximately twice the size, they lay approximately 2,000 eggs a day (female worker bees are infertile), and they live 5 to 8 years (approximately 40 times longer than worker bees). 1 These differences have led to the marketable assumption that ingestion of this product will do as much for humans as it does for bees; that is, increase size, improve fertility, and enhance longevity.
In many countries, royal jelly has been promoted widely as a commercially available medicine, health food, and cosmetic (as an emollient, moisturizer, and nourishing substance). It is used in traditional medicine for longevity in Europe and Asia. Royal jelly has been sold as a skin tonic and hair growth stimulant. 1 , 2 , 3
Royal jelly is composed of a complex mixture of water (50%), proteins (approximately 15%), sugars, lipids, vitamins, pheromones, amino acids, and minerals. 3
Fatty acids (including hydroxydecanoic acids) and sterols (including sitosterol, desmosterol, and methylenecholesterol), tryptophan, organic acid glycosides and monoglucosides glycopeptides, N-glycans, adenosine monophosphate N-oxide, apisimin, and a variety of major royal jelly proteins (including MRJP 1 to 9) have been identified. 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13
Uses and Pharmacology
Recent clinical trials are lacking and suggested pharmacologic effects are largely based on in vitro and animal model experiments.Antibacterial activity
The protein royalisin found in royal jelly has potent in vitro antibacterial activity against gram-positive bacteria, but not against gram-negative bacteria. Hydroxydecanoic acid has in vitro bacteriostatic activity against Streptococcus aureus and Escherichia coli . These antibacterial components are believed to modestly enhance host defenses in honeybees. Additive or synergistic effects have been demonstrated in vitro with starch and honey. 14 , 15 , 16Antioxidant activity
Antioxidant activity has been demonstrated with royal jelly using different in vitro and plant models, 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 while protection against oxidative stress-induced injury has been demonstrated in animal experiments. 18 , 21 , 22 , 23 Lipid peroxidation was inhibited in vitro and in experiments in rats; however, clinical data are lacking. 24Antitumor activity
Royal jelly exhibited antitumor activity in experimental mouse leukemias, 25 and antiangiogenesis activity has also been demonstrated in vitro. 8 In human cervico/uterine carcinoma cells, some royal jelly fractions actively inhibited tumor growth and some did not. 10 One study found that royal jelly inhibited the growth-promoting effect of bisphenol on breast cancer MCF-7 cell lines, although another study showed that royal jelly enhanced MCF-7 proliferation. 13 , 26Estrogenic activity
A number of studies evaluated royal jelly for relief of menopausal symptoms in the 1970s. However, recent clinical trials are lacking. Binding to estrogenic receptors (weak in comparison with diethstilbesterol and phytoestrogens), stimulation of mRNA expression in estrogen-responsive genes, and enhanced MCF-7 cell proliferation (which could be blocked by tamoxifen) have all been demonstrated in vitro. 13 , 27 Animal experiments in rats and ewes have also been conducted. Mild hypertrophy of the uterine luminal epithelium was achieved in rats supplemented with royal jelly, 13 while effects in ewes were varied. The effect of royal jelly supplementation on the onset of estrus has shown mixed results in ewes, with one trial showing no effect, while another exhibiting a shorter time to estrus compared with control and no difference compared with gonadotropin. 28 , 29 , 30 In both experiments, positive effects on pregnancy and lambing rates were demonstrated.
In tissue culture models and ovariectomized rats, a positive effect on osteoporosis was demonstrated. Increased calcium content and recovered bone mass were suggested to be the results of enhanced intestinal calcium absorption, rather than antagonism of the parathyroid hormone. 31Hypertension
As a result of GI enzymatic hydrolysis, peptides derived from royal jelly demonstrated angiotensin 1–converting enzyme inhibitory activity in the spontaneously hypertensive rat. Other studies suggest trans-2-octenoic acid and hydroxydecanoic acid may account for the antihypertensive activity, but different fractions exert lesser or greater effects on duration of action. Royal jelly also was associated with a protective action and therapeutic activity in adrenaline-induced arrhythmia; however, no effect on heart rate has been observed. 32 , 33 , 34 , 35Immunoregulatory activity
Various in vitro experiments have examined the actions of royal jelly and its constituents on the immune system. 4 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 Experiments in animals have demonstrated immunoregulatory activities, with the administration of royal jelly (500 to 1,500 mg/kg body weight/day) increasing survival in tumor-bearing mice and demonstrating positive effects on bone marrow stem cells and tumor-induced splenic hematopoiesis. 41 Additionally, auto-immunity was inhibited in systemic lupus erythematous-prone mice, with a delay in disease progression, decreased proteinuria, and increased survival. 42 Increased healing rates were observed in guinea pig tympanic membrane perforation. 43
In an in vitro study using lymphocytes from healthy volunteers and patients with Graves disease, royal jelly caused lymphocytes to proliferate and certain cytokines to be secreted, suggesting a potential immunomodulatory role in the management of this disease. 44Insulin-like activity
In rats and in vitro experiments, insulin-like activity has been shown with royal jelly, and components may be structurally and functionally related to insulin. In an insulin-resistance model in rats, royal jelly reduced plasma insulin and triglycerides without affecting plasma glucose levels. 10 , 35Lipid profile
Small clinical trials have demonstrated mixed effects on the lipid profile in humans. Royal jelly administered at 10 g/day for 14 days increased serum high-density lipid (HDL) levels in elderly participants, while a trend toward improved low-density lipid (LDL) levels was seen with no effect on serum triglycerides. 45 In another trial, 6 g/day for 4 weeks resulted in decreased serum total cholesterol and LDL, but had no effect on HDL or triglycerides. 46Neurological activity
Traditional use of royal jelly in preventing aging has led to experiments regarding neuronal activities. Stimulation of production of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor has been demonstrated in the adult mouse brain, with a prediction of a neuroprotective role for royal jelly. 47 In addition, 10-hydroxy-trans-2-decanoic acid increased the generation of neurons from neural stem (progenitor) cells in vitro, 48 while adenosine monophosphate stimulated neuronal differentiation of pheochromocytoma PC12 cells. 49
Activity on the pituitary gland in middle-aged rats has also been demonstrated, 50 and orally administered royal jelly increased granule cell content in the hippocampus, with an observed improvement in induced cognitive impairment in mice. 48
Toxicological assessments are lacking. A case report described mucosal hemorrhage, edema, and inflammation attributed to royal jelly consumption. A drug-induced lymphocyte stimulation test for royal jelly was positive. 57
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