Royal jelly, a thick, pastelike substance secreted by honeybees to feed and nurture queen bees, contains high concentrations of many nutrients that are beneficial to humans. Its chemical composition and the effects it has on queen bees -- allowing them to become fertile, grow considerably larger and live longer than worker bees -- leads its proponents to posit that royal jelly can be a boon to our health and beauty in numerous ways. Among the long list of potential applications for royal jelly is treatment for skin disorders and improvement of the general health of the skin. However, consumers should be aware that royal jelly's hype comes largely from anecdotal evidence and word-of-mouth; reputable scientific evidence supporting the benefits of royal jelly is noticeably lacking.
When it is fresh, royal jelly is about 60 to 70 percent water. Its other primary components are major proteins: amino acids, including all the amino acids that are essential for human nutrition; sugars, mostly fructose and glucose; lipids; minerals; and vitamins. Royal jelly's fats, suspended as a natural emulsion, have moisturizing properties, protect skin from dehydration and reduce inflammation. Amino acids are a component of collagen, which keeps the skin firm. Cosmetic functions of royal jelly, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, include improving the appearance of wrinkles and stretch marks, boosting elasticity and firmness, and normalizing the fat secretions of skin glands to reduce oiliness. Royal jelly also has antibiotic and fungicidal properties.
Fresh, unprocessed royal jelly is available refrigerated, frozen, freeze-dried and sometimes blended with honey or beeswax. You can apply it directly to the skin as a mask or lotion or use it as an ingredient when concocting your own homemade beauty products. This type of royal jelly needs to be refrigerated to retard deterioration. A 1962 study showed that royal jelly, when applied directly onto burn blisters, helped to heal wounds and improve skin regrowth. Commercially available cosmetics that list royal jelly as an ingredient include moisturizing lotions, soaps, liquid cleansers and healing creams for burns and wounds. Such products generally contain royal jelly in tiny amounts and are unlikely to prevent the natural deterioration of its nutrients over time.
Consuming royal jelly orally, whether in its raw form, as tablets or soft gel capsules, or less commonly as a liquid tincture, is another way to experience its potential benefits. Anecdotal evidence suggests that doing so can help to clear up skin conditions, although scientific studies are unavailable to substantiate such claims. The nutrients present in royal jelly suggest that eating it on a regular basis is beneficial to your general health and thus the health of your skin, in much the same way that taking a multivitamin supplement is good for you. However, royal jelly's all-natural credentials might make it preferable to a regular supplement.
Royal jelly might be natural, but that doesn't mean it's safe for everyone. In rare cases, it can cause an allergic reaction, resulting in inflammation, worsening of dermatitis and in extreme cases, asphyxiation. While scientific studies provide only scant evidence of royal jelly's benefits, they do offer a clear warning against consuming it orally or topically if you are allergic to bee venom. Evidence suggests that people with other allergies or asthma are also more likely to experience an adverse reaction to royal jelly. A 1983 study reported that two out of 10 patients experienced allergic contact dermatitis when subjected to patch tests. Royal jelly can also react dangerously with medications. Be cautious and consult a pharmacist, physician or other health care professional before using royal jelly.
Joanne Thomas has worked as a writer and editor for print and online publications since 2004. As a specialist in all things food and drink, she has penned pieces for Livestrong, Robert Mondavi and Modern Mom, among other names. She found her first jobs in a series of kitchens before moving on to celebrate food via the written word. Thomas resides in California and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Bristol, U.K.