healthHealth and Medicine

The Royal Jelly Of Bees Is Great At Healing Wounds, And Now We Know Why


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


Developing queen larvae encased in royal jelly shells. Waugsberg/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 3.0

When it comes to healing wounds, the things that always sound the most appropriate – and effective – always have fairly technical-sounding names. The US National Institutes for Health (NIH) cite a good few, including “collagen, silicon, chitosan, and hyaluronic acid” wound dressing polymers. They all sound rather sciencey, and are therefore probably quite good.

The technicality of the name of a wound-healing material, however, is not a good indicator of said effectiveness. This is fortunate, as the rather silly-sounding “royal jelly” is also pretty remarkable at healing wounds too, according to a new study in Scientific Reports.


Royal jelly is a honey bee secretion that is used to feed larvae, as well as the queen bee herself. It’s given to every type of bee, regardless of what rank they happen to be.

It’s made from glands contained within the heads of worker bees. When a new queen is required – because the old one is dying or has abdicated – worker bees load up a few larvae on royal jelly in specially constructed cells in order to force them into generating queen-like physiologies.

Based on this vaguely magical property, various health food companies have made plenty of unfounded claims with regards to royal jelly and what it can do for the human body. However, this new study – led by a research team at the Slovak Academy of Sciences – appears to have confirmed that there is at least one genuine use for it: healing cellular damage.

The authors note that royal jelly has “multiple effects, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory activities, in various cell types.” However, “no component(s) (other than antibacterial) have been identified in RJ-accelerated wound healing.”


By separating out the royal jelly into its individual compounds, the team were able to see how effective each one was when it came to repairing mechanical cellular damage. As it turns out, a small protein named defensin-1 was the molecule responsible here – once again, something that technically sounds rather apt.

Royal jelly is given to larvae in order to turn them into queens. Mirko Graul/Shutterstock

In order to confirm its effectiveness, the researchers manufactured their own version of the defensin-1 gene, which ultimately allowed them to produce a rather concentrated version of the protein. The team then used this compound, along with regular royal jelly, to see how good both were at healing wounds on rats – both remained effective at healing wounds.

As aforementioned, royal jelly has been used to assist in wound healing before, but this is one of the first studies to definitively confirm that there is a scientific basis behind its application. It’s more than likely that you’ll be seeing defensin-1 used in the field, or being sold in pharmacies, in the near-future as a result.


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