In a recent conversation with my grandparents, long time arthritis sufferers, they mentioned something about honey bee stings to help ease the pain of arthritis. While this was news to me, apitherapy, as it is apparently called, and is the use of bee related products for medicinal purposes is not new at all. In fact, using bee related products for nutritional purposes has been in use since ancient times.

One of the most common types of apitherapy is using honey bee venom to help eliminate arthritis pain. This is called Bee Venom Therapy or BVT and was introduced by Austrian physician Phillip Terc in 1888. It is not known if this specific form of apitherapy was used in ancient times, though it is entirely possible.

Photo Credit: http://apitherapy.blogspot.com/2012/05/bees-for-health.html

The honey bee is usually held with a pair of tweezers and allowed to sting the patient at the arthritis trigger point. The normal, initial redness, swelling and pain are experienced. Note: if you have severe allergic reactions to bee stings this treatment is not for you! The patient receives the BVT treatment every day until this reaction no longer occurs, usually about three weeks. A session generally consists of two to five stings but it can be an upwards of 20 stings! Ouch!  When the patient becomes desensitized to the stings, the treatment is discontinued because it is found to be ineffective. At this point the patient might feel significantly less arthritis pain, if any. Once the arthritis symptoms reoccur (and they may never again), the process is repeated.

It is believed that bee venom is a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever and so BVT can also be performed for bursitis, tendinitis and dissolving scar tissue in the same manner it is used for arthritis. The therapy however, has mixed reviews. Clinical studies done at Lehigh University, Georgetown University Medical Center and University Medical Center, Groningen, in the Netherlands conclude that there is no pain relief in patients who used BVT, yet the treatment is still being used for patients by some doctors. What do you think? Is the treatment a hoax?  Do you know anyone who has tried it? Would you try it?

Written By: Jennie Stitzinger

Jennie Stitzinger has written 55 post in this blog.

In the summer of 2010 I walked in to the Penn State Agricultural Sciences building to inquire about a job a friend had mentioned to me. I was a poor college student, I needed to pay my summer rent, I was offered the job and I took it—I had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward a little over a year and I was kneeling on rocks and mud, in the cold, northern California rain, surrounded by dairy cows and hundreds of hives while Africanized bees were pinging off my bee suit. With a degree in Community Development from Penn State University, I never thought in a million years I would be working with honey bees upon graduation, but I guess life sure has its surprises. Now a member of the University of Maryland Diagnostic team, I work on many different aspects of BIP and the National Honey Bee Survey. Whether it is field work, traveling, report writing, crunch time projects, or larger missions, I am most likely working on it. What is my favorite part of the job? Working on an awesome project that has impact and is helping beekeepers around the country, learning more about honey bees than I ever thought I wanted to know, and giving me experiences I never thought possible.

  • Hello Jennie: I thought you might be interested in learning about the American Apitherapy Society at http://www.apitherapy.org

    We just finished our Annual Course and Conference, but have lots of info on our website and special access for members, and other benefits for them. Perhaps you will join us!
    Susan Cherbuliez, Treasurer
    American Apitherapy Society, Inc.

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