What is Bee Venom Therapy
Bee magazines and forums are abuzz about Bee venom therapy (BVT). This alternative therapy is being touted as a possible cure for devastating illnesses such as cancer and Lyme disease.
In this article, we’ll discuss the following:
- The basics of bee venom therapy
- The composition and properties of bee venom
- The history of bee venom therapy
- The benefits of bee venom
- The risks involved in bee venom therapy
- The cost of bee venom therapy
What is bee venom therapy?
Bee venom therapy (BVT) is a branch of Apitherapy that focuses on the use of venom secreted by the bees for medicinal purposes. Apitherapy also involves using other bee products such as pollen, honey, propolis, and royal jelly for treating certain ailments. Bee venom therapy, however, is limited to the healing applications of bee poison.
There are 2 methods of administering the venom during therapy:
- By purposely getting the patient stung by a bee
- By using electric stimulus to extract a bee’s venom, then injecting it under the patient’s skin
While method 1 might seem archaic, it’s still widely practiced around the world.
In method two, carefully diluted doses of bee venom are injected, in a process known as herbal acupuncture.
Bee venom: Composition and properties
Honey bee venom – also known as Apitoxin – is bitter and colorless. Bees excrete it through their stingers. Apitoxin is 88% water. The other key ingredients are histamines, amino acids, and enzymes.
Bee venom is cytotoxic, meaning it’s toxic to the cells. It’s also hemotoxic, which means that it destroys the red blood cells and can irreparably damage tissue and organs. It also has anti-coagulation properties.
In recent years, bee venom has found widespread application in the beauty and health industry. Products such as bee venom cream, bee venom mask, and bee venom arthritis cream have become commonplace.
The history of bee venom therapy
Apitherapy is estimated to be as old as the practice of beekeeping itself. That makes it over 5000 years old.
We’ll never know who came up with the idea of treating illnesses with bee venom. But we do know the rationale──beekeepers seldom suffer from disorders such as joint pain and rheumatism. Doesn’t seem too compelling, right? But bee venom therapy has been known to help with a wide range of health issues.
Noted Austrian physician Philipp Terc is credited for popularizing bee venom therapy in modern times. In 1888, he wrote the article “About a Peculiar Connection between the Bee Stings and Rheumatism”. The article reignited public interest in the therapeutic properties of bee venom.
In 1935, Hungary-born American physician Bodog F. Beck coined the term “bee venom therapy”. Beck excelled at treating rheumatoid and arthritic ailments by herbal acupuncture.
Note that the scientific evidence backing bee venom’s medical benefits is sparse. However, bee venom therapy continues to be a popular traditional and alternative medicine around the world.
Bee venom therapy scientific research and medical benefits
More research has been conducted into the applications and effectiveness of bee venom therapy in the last few years than in the last decade. Here are the findings:
The healing properties of bee venom
Bee venom has the following therapeutic properties:
- Antiviral and antibacterial
- Anti-apoptotic (fights cell degeneration/death)
- Anti-fibrotic (prevents scarring or thickening of tissue)
- Anti-atherosclerotic (prevents hardening or thickening of arteries due to plaque buildup)
Applications of bee venom therapy
Bee venom therapy has been found to be effective in treating the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Chronic pain
- Liver fibrosis
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Bee venom’s benefits for skin
According to scientific research, regular application of bee venom serum on the skin has the following benefits:
- It reduces the wrinkle count
- It reduces the size of the wrinkle covered area
- It reduces the average depth of the wrinkles
Bee venom therapy for allergies
If you’re not allergic to bee venom, you can easily treat bee sting swelling and pain using antiseptics and antihistamines. But if you’re allergic, a single bee sting can cause these problems:
- The appearance of itchy, reddish rashes on and around the site of the sting
- Difficulty in breathing
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Elevated pulse
- Low blood pressure
Severe allergic reactions to bee venom can also cause anaphylactic shock and death.
Bee venom therapy has been known to be highly effective in treating bee sting allergy. The immunotherapy process involves administering purified bee venom injections at regular intervals. This therapy offers 98-99 percent protection from bee sting allergy.
Bees, bee venom and bee venom therapy: Frequently asked questions
- Are all bees venomous?
Are bees venomous? Not all of them are. Of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees, 550 are stingless and hence non venomous. In addition, the males across species lack stingers and so, aren’t venomous.
Do bees die after stinging?
The sting is the bees’ primary defense against predators. As such, stinging shouldn’t cause them serious injury. And yet, we know that a honey bee will meet a painful death after stinging a human. That happens because of the stinger’s shape.
A honeybee’s ovipositors are modified into barbed stingers. When they sting a human or another fleshy-skinned mammal, the stinger gets stuck. Attempts to pull away tear up the bees’ abdomen, leaving the stinger embedded in the skin. This is common across all species of honey bees, including the dreaded Africanized honey bees or killer bees.
Honey bees can sting other insects without sustaining injury in the process. Other bee species such as bumblebees, however, have smooth stingers. They can sting multiple times and survive stinging both insects and mammals.
- What happens if you don’t pull out a stinger?
A stinger lodged in the skin is often accompanied by the bee venom sac. If left in the skin, the stinger can continue to pump venom into your body long after you get stung. That’s why the first thing you should do after getting stung is remove the stinger.
- How long does bee venom stay in the system?
The answer depends upon the quantity of bee venom you’ve been administered. If you’ve been stung once, the effects can last from a couple of hours to up to 48 hours.
If you have an allergic reaction, the effects can last for up to 10 days.
- What are the risks of bee venom therapy?
The potential risks of bee venom therapy vary with the method of administration. Herbal acupuncture can cause reactions such as pain, redness and swelling at and around the site of application.
Other observed side effects include vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, hyperventilation, and debilitating pain. Individuals who are allergic to bee venom can develop Arthropathy and have trouble breathing.
Application of topical bee venom products such as moisturizers and masks can cause redness, itching and hives.
- What is the cost of bee venom therapy?
Bee venom therapy cost primarily depends upon the quality of bee venom used. The price of bee venom itself can vary from $30-$300 per gram. Factors such as transportation, production and packaging costs also influence the cost of venom.
Currently, the average cost of a single bee venom therapy session is about $200. This typically includes the consultation fee.
That’s it. You’re now familiar with the following aspects of bee venom therapy:
- The process and applications of bee venom therapy
- Its history and benefits
- The risks and costs involved
Bee venom therapy is still an experimental treatment. It’s only been approved by the FDA for bee-venom-desensitization. The lack of published evidence and consensus on safe administration procedures are the major reasons why it’s yet to be recognized by medical bodies.
Interested in trying out bee venom therapy? We’d recommend you only seek treatment from a reputed clinic with plenty of experience in the field. Also, don’t forget to check out the treated patients’ testimonies and reviews of the clinic’s services before getting the jab.
Main Compounds of Bee Venom – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6720840/
American Apitherapy Society – https://apitherapy.org/
Introduction to Apitherapy – http://medicineworld.org/alternative/apitherapy.html
Bodog F. Beck – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodog_F._Beck
Medicinal Uses of Bee Venom – https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=13504