Innovations in laboratory diagnostics, new drugs and cannabis therapy are but a few examples of advancements in modern medicine and pharmacy. Pharmaceutical science is ever evolving and, in addition to developing new synthetic molecules, it keeps uncovering the hidden potential of plants, but also animals. One of these discoveries was royal jelly, a substance that often makes headlines on many websites and is also the subject of much research. However, how much do we really know about this relatively new remedy we often hear can “heal all wounds”?

What is royal jelly?

Royal jelly is a white viscous secretion of hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands of honeybees (Apis mellifera), although it is better known as a “superfood” for larvae, but also queen bees. The fame it has today is due to many applications in biomedicine and healthcare, healthy diet and cosmetics.

It is composed mainly of water (50-60%), proteins (9-18%), carbohydrates (7-18%) and lipids (3-8%), but also minerals like iron, sodium, calcium, potassium, manganese and copper as well as enzymes, hormones, nucleotides etc. Most of the protein composition is made up of major royal jelly proteins which are the cause of its wide applicability. Although it is considered to modulate inflammatory responses and has potential anticancerogenic and antibacterial effects, can we really believe all that? Can royal jelly really cure the incurable?

Antimicrobial activity

Along with major royal jelly proteins, mostly royalyzin, an important role in fighting microorganisms is played by 10-HAD (trans-10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid). In fact, they work in synergy against bacteria such as Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Prevotella intermedia, Fusobacterium nucleatum and Porphyromans gingivalis, as well as some strains of E. coli. It also does not spare Gram-positive bacteria like Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus and Paenibacillus larvae.

Moreover, because of its fatty acids, royal jelly possesses antifungal activity against fungi like C. tropicalis, C. albicans and C. glabrata, but also against some genera of moulds. Apart from antibacterial and antifungal effects, another one of its “superpowers” is its antiviral activity against the following: herpes simplex virus 2, influenza virus, heart coxsackievirus B3, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) etc. Royal jelly kills the protozoal Trypanosoma cruzi which causes Chagas disease, and it also has confirmed effect on the dysenteric amoeba.

Anticancerogenic effect

Endogenous hormones such as oestrogens and testosterone are linked tightly to oncogenesis, the transformation of healthy cells into tumours, the growth of tumour cells, but also with the progression of breast, ovarian and prostate tumours. Oestradiol plays a key role in growth and development of oestrogen dependent breast tumour and royal jelly inhibits the proliferation of tumour MCF-7 (Michigan Cancer Foundation-7) cells caused by oestradiol by preventing oestradiol signalling that stimulates further tumour development. It should be noted however, that the effect of royal jelly was only observed when in combination with bisphenol, therefore the effects on tumour cells are still in the “assumption” phase.

On the other hand, the anticarcinogenic effect of royal jelly and prostate cancer have very few common points. It is also not clear what effect it has on cervical cancer, although there is research pointing to royal jelly as a potential new weapon in the fight with malignant growths. Therefore, the consummation of royal jelly is still not recommended even though it has a potential antitumour effect because its physical and chemical properties have not been fully investigated, and it is likely that even if there are improvements after using it as a monotherapy, they will not be noticeable.

Elixir of life

The attempts to stop aging and prevent new wrinkles presents an everlasting tilt at windmills. Royal jelly is considered to contain growth factors and hormones for which it is also used today as a cosmetic product. Its protein (MRJPs) and lipid components can extend the lifespans of various animals including honeybees, crickets, silkworms, nematodes, mice, and among other things, they inhibit human tissue aging in cell cultures by upregulating the epidermal growth factor (EGF) signalling path.

Moreover, it affects the main connective tissue protein – collagen. Namely, royal jelly affects collagen production in fibroblasts (connective tissue cells), and it is this effect on the production and distribution of collagen that is mainly responsible for “delaying wrinkles”. In addition, 10-HAD in the presence of ascorbic acid facilitates transforming growth factor (TGF) production which consequently increases collagen production. Despite this, its effect on enzymes that participate in collagen production is still unclear.

Cherry on top

Among other components, royal jelly contains those that are insulin-like and can therefore help diabetics. Research has proven that it encourages regeneration of damaged pancreas cells, and in doing so prevents the development of diabetes. Thus, by “repairing” pancreas cells and by keeping insulin (pancreatic hormone) levels sufficient, blood sugar is modulated. For example, it has been confirmed in rats that long term application of royal jelly as part of diabetes type 2 therapy could prevent insulin resistance.

All the facts mentioned are just a part of more complex and broader research, yet they give a good insight into what scientists are studying. There is undeniable potential in royal jelly as a “helping hand” to those in need, but also those that wish to improve their health.

So, what now? In the net of intertwining possibilities, it is hard to decide – to turn towards or away from royal jelly? Do we know what the package we received contains? Are we certain that the sample is homogenous and that its quality has been verified? Although each new drug and therapeutic option is welcome, before consummation and exposing yourselves to whatever effect may arise, be mindful of what you are taking. Quality, safety and effectivity are extremely important factors that must be guaranteed before any drug can be put on the market. In conclusion, even though royal jelly can be your new companion in the battle against bacteria, cancer, or even aging, pay attention on its concentration in the remedy, the composition of what you are about to consume, be certain of what you are using, and most importantly – be rational. Each effort is good and worth making, but only if the primary goal is met – to help yourself.


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