One of the newest trends in natural health circles — royal jelly — is actually extremely old. In ancient China, it was called “the food of emperors.” Over in India, rulers ate it to feel younger and more energetic. In the last century, royals tapped its benefits — it’s rumored that Princess Diana used royal jelly during pregnancy to prevent morning sickness. Today, research has uncovered compelling benefits that suggest why and how royal jelly is especially helpful for women — and something most woman over 40 should consider adding to their health arsenal.
What is royal jelly?
Beekeepers in the know refer to royal jelly as a honey bee’s version of “a mother’s milk”. It’s a protein-rich secretion produced by worker bees that is fed to all larvae for a period of time during the honey bee life cycle. It’s also fed to the developing queen bee in extra amounts.
The exact makeup of royal jelly depends on several things, including the beehive’s location and the surrounding climate. In general, according to ScienceDirect.com, royal jelly consists of water (50-60%), proteins (18%), carbohydrates (15%), and trace minerals. It also contains at least eight essential amino acids, including a high proportion of “free” amino acids, which are thought to be more readily absorbed by the human body.
“Royal jelly is a good source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates and proteins,” says Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and author based in Miami. “It’s particularly rich in B-complex vitamins, which help transport oxygen and other energy-boosting nutrients throughout the body.”
Scientists are trying to understand why royal jelly is so beneficial, but its nutrient-dense composition likely plays a role. Let’s take a closer look at the science:
Royal jelly helps relieve menopausal symptoms
Menopause can cause symptoms like depression and anxiety, brain fog, hot flashes and pain during sex. Some women use hormone replacement therapy to treat these issues, but royal jelly may provide similar relief at a fraction of the price and with much less hassle.
An animal study in the journal Climacteric found that royal jelly reduced depression and brain fog in menopausal rats. Another found that postmenopausal women who took a royal jelly supplement daily experienced relief from anxiety and back pain.
But royal jelly’s menopause benefits extend beyond mental health. Consider that about 50 percent of menopausal women have vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable or painful. “One study found that the vaginal use of royal jelly increased lubrication and decreased vaginal atrophy,” Dr. Chacon says. “There’s even evidence to suggest night sweats, hot flashes and other menopause-related issues can be relieved with royal jelly.”
Royal jelly reduces age-related skin damage
Royal jelly supports healthy, younger-looking skin. In an animal study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found that topical royal jelly enhanced the production of collagen, a naturally occurring protein that helps keep skin firm and wrinkle-free.
Yet another study found that royal jelly promoted skin and wound healing at the cellular level.
“Royal jelly offers cell-regenerating benefits,” Dr. Chacon says. “It lessens dark spots associated with aging and delays premature skin aging. Royal jelly can even prevent fine lines and wrinkles. Because it helps increase collagen, your skin appears younger and more elastic.”
Royal jelly makes PMS less intense
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, affects up to 90% of women. The symptoms vary but they can affect your mood, energy level and quality of life. Once again, royal jelly saves the day!
In a study in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, when 110 college-aged women took an oral royal jelly supplement of 1,000 milligrams daily or a placebo for two menstrual cycles, those who took royal jelly experienced 50% fewer PMS symptoms, while the placebo group experienced only a 5% decrease.
Scientists were unable to identify the exact mechanism responsible for this improvement. But it probably has something to do with a better hormone response.
“Royal jelly has demonstrated superior hormone-balancing benefits compared to other natural supplements,” says Dr. Chacon. “As a result, it’s helpful for women with hormone imbalances because it supports the endocrine system. Women with hormone-related reproductive problems may also benefit.”
Royal jelly promotes healthy brain function
Up to 68% of perimenopausal women experience brain fog and other memory-related issues. Once again, royal jelly offers amazing benefits!
One study, from Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, found that rats given royal jelly were better at removing chemical buildup in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Another found that royal jelly improved memory and reduced symptoms of depression in rats.
It may even help protect the brain from stress. Scientists have found that royal jelly helped rats experience a reduction in corticosterone, a hormone responsible for certain stress responses. The same study found that the treated rats had stronger central nervous systems overall.
Royal jelly is good for the heart
Many menopausal and postmenopausal women have high cholesterol. This often occurs because of hormone fluctuations, but it’s possible to counteract. Rather than relying on medication, consider royal jelly.
Several studies have found a link between royal jelly and lower cholesterol. For example, one animal study had rabbits take a royal jelly supplement for three months. At the end of the test period, the rabbits experienced a 28% reduction in LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Researchers don’t know why royal jelly affects cholesterol, but it may be due to its high B vitamin content. Royal jelly has vitamins B1, B2, B6, B8, B9, and B12, all of which are thought to help lower high cholesterol.
Royal jelly keeps bones strong and healthy
About 80% of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis are women. While a calcium supplement may provide some defense, so too, can royal jelly.
One animal study, conducted by Turkish scientists, found that a combination of royal jelly and bee pollen helped prevent bone loss in female rats. In fact, the bone mass density and calcium levels of rats that took royal jelly and bee pollen were significantly higher than those of rats that didn’t.
Royal jelly can help you lose weight
“Royal jelly is a beneficial addition to your diet because it’s high in nutrients and low in calories,” says Dr. Chacon. “It can boost your energy as well, allowing you to push your workouts to the next level.”
Science confirms this thinking. In a study of women with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that those who supplemented with 1,000 mg of royal jelly ate fewer calories, cut their carb intake and lost weight. Those who didn’t supplement increased their calorie intake and gained weight.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t use royal jelly?
Royal jelly is a natural product made by worker honeybees, but it can present risks. If you’re allergic to bees or honey or have other environmental allergens, talk with your doctor first. You should also speak with your doctor if you have dermatitis.
Likewise, if you’re pregnant or nursing, avoid royal jelly. There isn’t much research on how royal jelly affects breast milk or growing babies, so it’s best to look for a substitute.
What should I consider when buying royal jelly?
Royal jelly can be applied topically or consumed in its raw form — or in the form of oral supplements, liquids and topical ointments. Some royal jelly does contain pesticides, so look for words like “non-GMO” and “organic” on the label for the purest product.
The best way to choose a royal jelly product is to consider the outcome you want to achieve. “If you have a specific skin problem, a topical treatment might be a better option,” says Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, a registered dietitian and the founder of Root Nutrition & Education. “However, there is still a lot unknown about these compounds. Nutritional supplements aren’t regulated like medications, so you want to look for one that has quality ingredients and is backed with third-party testing.”
What’s the recommended dosage of royal jelly?
When supplementing, the recommended dosage of royal jelly when ingested varies. “The appropriate dose depends on several factors, including your health and age,” says Kimszal. “300-6,000 milligram (mg) doses have been shown to have the most effective results. But it’s best to start with a lower dose and see how you’re affected, as royal jelly can be very potent.”
As with any new supplement, it’s always best to talk with your doctor first. She can point you in the right direction and alert you to potential interactions with the medications and supplements you already take.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.