Contrary to what you might think, royal jelly is not a blancmange served to the queen. It’s actually a byproduct of honey production, and one that may provide an array of health benefits.
Okay, so you probably never thought that (and if anyone asks, neither did we . . .) and you probably had a good idea of what royal jelly was. But did you know how it can benefit your health, if indeed it can? In this guide, we’ll take a look at the purported health benefits of royal jelly and discover whether this is a potential new superfood trend that we should all get excited about, or a gooey, gloopy mess that we should stay well clear of.
What is Royal Jelly?
Royal jelly is secreted by honey bees—or, more specifically, the glands of nurse bees—and is used as a food source to all of the larvae in the colony. This substance is also instrumental in nursing a new queen, as they encase the larvae in a specially constructed cell, fill it with royal jelly, and then essentially let the larvae feed and feed until it grows into a new queen.
The royal jelly is collected from each queen when they are just four days old, as these cells are the only place where significant amounts of the substance can be harvested. It can be considered a byproduct of honey production, but at the same time it’s a process in itself and the reason it carries such a weighty price tag is because it can be quite laborious, with the average hive taking around 12 months to produce a kilo of royal jelly.
Unlike honey, royal jelly is also perishable and will not keep for long periods of time, so it has to be carefully stored after harvest or mixed with honey to prolong its shelf life.
What are the Health Benefits of Royal Jelly?
There are a lot of anecdotal reports considering the apparent health benefits of royal jelly, but you have to take these with a pinch of salt. The sources can’t always be trusted, and you don’t know how much of a role the placebo effect is playing.
Fortunately, there are a few health studies that we can draw from to discover if this product is actually beneficial for your health.
1. Blood Sugar Levels
A Chinese study looked at the effects of royal jelly consumption on 50 females who had been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. It was a placebo controlled, randomised study that lasted for 8 weeks, with half of the patients given 1,000mg of royal jelly a day. (1)
Blood sugar levels were taken before and after consumption, and the researchers noted significant improvements across the board, concluding that it could be beneficial in treating diabetes. However, similar studies have been conducted and have not been able to replicate these results. If there had been any worthwhile benefits concerning blood sugar levels, we would expect to see the same results repeated time and time again, and this just hasn’t been the case.
The aforementioned study about blood sugar levels also found that the royal jelly group had a noticeably elevated antioxidant capacity, something that has been confirmed by several other studies.
Antioxidants are by no means unique to royal jelly. They can be found in abundance throughout nature, and tea is actually one of the very best sources. However, this is definitely a worthwhile addition to the list.
Royal jelly may be beneficial in treating some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. In one 2014 study, researchers found that a 2-month course of treatment with this product was enough to drastically improvement symptoms when compared to a placebo group. (2)
4. It May Improve Heart Health
Studies have shown that supplementation with royal jelly can decrease LDL cholesterol, also known as the “bad” cholesterol, which could have a positive impact on heart health. The studies have been small but fairly convulsive and at the very least should warrant further research. (3)
Royal jelly is generally well tolerated and listed as “Possibly Safe” for most people by WebMD. However, it can be very dangerous to some people.
If you have any allergies to pollen then you should avoid it, as it can cause very serious allergic reactions. The same goes for anyone who has ever suffered a reaction from consuming honey or bee pollen.
In extremely rare cases, it has also been known to cause bloody stools and stomach cramps. It’s also worth noting that very little evidence exists on the long-term safety of royal jelly consumption, because while humans have had access to it for a long time, very little of that time has been spent shovelling it into our mouths.
Do not give it to young infants and do not take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as little is known about the risks in such cases. If you notice any side effects, stop taking it immediately and consult with a medical professional.
Is Royal Jelly Good for You?
There are some notable health benefits, as mentioned above, but they are far from conclusive, and in some cases, researchers have failed to replicate these studies. There are a lot of claims being made about the health benefits of royal jelly, and when it comes to its ability to improve the condition of your skin and even fight the signs of aging, there may be something to it. That’s why it is added to a lot of skincare products, and why it is being sold as a beauty product.
But in terms of health benefits derived via actual consumption, there’s simply not enough evidence. That doesn’t mean that it’s not effective; it just means that no one can really say for certain that it is effective, and until they can, then you probably shouldn’t waste your money on it. It can be expensive, after all, and as discussed below, its taste also leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s also worth noting that the United States and European health authorities have not supported any of the health claims made about royal jelly and have actually discouraged it from being sold for this purpose. The FDA have also taken legal action against many purveyors of this “health food” after they made a number of unsubstantiated claims.
What Does Royal Jelly Taste Like?
Royal jelly doesn’t look very appetising, but the good news is that it actually looks better than it tastes. If you shovel a spoonful of this sticky goo into your mouth expecting a rich, sweet honey-like flavour then prepared to be bitterly disappointed. It’s sour, bitter, and not at all pleasant.
If you want to eat it, you could try masking the taste with sugar or even honey, but based on what we said about the health benefits, and what we have previously said about the benefits of honey, you’re probably better off just leaving the royal jelly for your skincare regime and eating the honey instead.