Royal Jelly - Medical Research

Medical Research

Highly touted royal jelly, fed to the debutante larvae that grow into queen bees, contains a powerful antibacterial protein that Japanese researchers discovered and named royalisin. Rich in amino acids, royalisin is primarily effective against "Gram-positive" bacteria, which include staph and strep species (Fujiwara S, Journal of Biological Chemistry, July 5,1990;265:11333-7).

Like propolis, royal jelly also appears to have anti-tumor properties. Another team of Japanese researchers gave royal jelly to one of two groups of laboratory mice before transplanting different types of cancer cells in them. The royal jelly had no effect on the leukemia cells, but it had dramatic effects on sarcoma cells. The lifespan of the mice was extended by about one-fifth and tumor sizes were about half the size, compared with untreated mice,according to a report in the journal Nippon Yakurigaku Zasshji-Folia pharmacologica Japonica (Feb. 1987;89:73-80).

In sum, we could learn a lesson from bees that eat honey and royal jelly, and seal their hives with propolis. By eating these bee products, we can preventively "innoculate" ourselves against many bacterial and viral infections - and maybe even reduce our risk of developing cancer.

So, in light of the scientific evidence, next time you hear someone ridicule bee propolis, royal jelly, and other products, just tell them to "buzz off."

This article originally appeared in the Natural Foods Merchandiser, published by New Hope Communications. The information provided by Jack Challem and The Nutrition Reporter newsletter is strictly educational and not intended as medical advice. For diagnosis and treatment, consult your physician.

Royal Jelly is a thick, creamy fluid synthesized in nurse bees' bodies during digestion of bee pollen and secreted from glands in their heads. Collection is a labor-intensive process that involves gently vacuuming the royal jelly from hive cells, where it is stored, and straining out the larva. All larvae are fed royal jelly for three days, but the queen bee eats royal jelly exclusively, which makes her fertile and able to live for five to seven years. In contrast, worker bees are sterile and live just seven to eight weeks. royal jelly has a reputation for maintaining youthfulness in humans, but research, while encouraging, lags behind that for other hive products.

Fresh royal jelly is 2.0 to 6.4 percent trans-10-hydroxy delta-2-decenoic acid (HDA) by weight.6 HDA is a monounsaturated fatty acid with a hydroxyl group. polyunsaturated (essential) fatty acids are mainly metabolized to hydroxy fatty acids in the skin. Hydroxy fatty acids protect skin from dehydration, and some are strongly anti-inflammatory. HDA may also be anti-inflammatory.7 royal jelly also contains collagen; lecithin; and vitamins A, C, D and E--all of which benefit the skin.8 Concentrated royal jelly moisturizes dry skin and soothes dermatitis.2,9

Additionally, royal jelly contains all the B vitamins and is especially rich in pantothenic acid.8 It contains phytosterols (mainly beta-sitosterol) and enzymes, as well as acetylcholine and hormones including estradiol and testosterone.10 All of these compounds help lower cholesterol. A review of controlled studies concluded that in humans, 50 to 100 mg royal jelly per day decreased total cholesterol by 14 percent and triglycerides by 10 percent.10Royal jelly at a dose of 15 mg/kg body weight also slowed the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits fed high-fat diets.1

Researchers and consumers alike share a new enthusiasm for ancient foodstuffs such as bee products. In 1999 researchers at the USDA/University of Arizona in Tucson discovered genes that respond to a 24-hour royal jelly diet--the process that turns ordinary bee larva into queen bees via better nutrition alone. At Northern Ohio University in Ada, rats fed only raw bee pollen granules were healthier and leaner than those fed standard rat chow.


  1. Cheng pC, Wong G. Honey bee propolis: prospects in medicine. Bee World 1996;77:8-14.
  2. Krell R. Value-added products from bee keeping. FAO Agricultural Services Bulletin 124; 1996.
  3. Ghisalberti EL. propolis: a review. Bee World 1979;60:59-84.
  4. Amoros M, et al. Comparison of the anti-herpes simplex virus activities of propolis and 3-methyl-but-2-enyl caffeate. J Nat prod 1994;57:644-7.
  5. Krol W, et al. Inhibition of neutrophils chemiluminescence by ethanol extracts of propolis (EEp) and its phenolic components. J Ethnopharm 1996;55:19-25.
  6. Bloodworth BC, et al. Liquid chromatographic determination of trans-10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid content of commercial products containing royal jelly. J AOAC Int. 1995;78:1019-23.
  7. Ziboh VJ. The significance of polyunsaturated fatty acids in cutaneous biology. Lipids 1996;31:S249-53.
  8. Lecker G, et al. Components of royal jelly II: the lipid fraction, hyrocarbons and sterols. J Apic Res 1982;21:178-84.
  9. Iannuzzi J. Royal jelly: mystery food, in three parts. Am Bee J 1990;8:532-4, 587-9, 659-62.
  10. Vittek J. Effect of royal jelly on serum lipids in experimental animals and humans with atherosclerosis. Experientia 1995;51:927-35.
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