George Krucik, MD, MBA
According to the American Apitherapy Association, apitherapy, or "bee therapy" is the medicinal use of products made by honeybees, such as honey, pollen and venom. Bee venom therapy uses the venom from bees to treat ailments that don't respond to traditional Western medicine. Bee venom is usually injected using a syringe, although in some cases a bee sting is used to inject the patient directly with the venom. According to Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, even though few scientific studies have been completed on bee venom therapy, more studies are under way to verify its claims.
Swedish Medical Center states that the most prevalent ingredients in bee venom--mellitin, adolapin, and apamin--all possess anti-inflammatory properties and could help to reduce inflammation in the body. Benefits can also be derived from the body's own immune reaction to the venom.
A 2004 study published by The American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that rats injected with bee venom had a significantly lower occurrence of arthritis than those in the control group. The researchers concluded that treatment with bee venom might inhibit the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in humans.
A study published by Oxford University Press in 2005 investigated the effect of bee venom acupuncture in the treatment of arthritis. The researchers stated that bee venom acupuncture "may become a promising treatment for both RA and OA (osteoarthritis)." The study found that the use of bee venom on acupuncture points had a positive effect on painful, swollen joints.
A 2005 Oxford University study also found that bee venom had potent pain-relieving properties. Swedish Medical Center also states that adolapin has analgesic properties and a number of anecdotal testimonies on the AAS website attest to bee venom's ability to reduce or eliminate pain.
Although no randomized double-blind studies exist to verify such claims, the AAS website has a number of other testimonials, attributing healing and abatement of symptoms to bee venom. In addition to pain relief, individuals claim that bee venom has helped with multiple sclerosis, shingles, burns, tendinitis and infections. Some even testify that bee venom helped with acne, psoriasis, and scarring from skin cancer.