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Seven Promising Uses of Honeybee Venom Therapy

By The Bioregulatory Medicine Institute

Bee on a person's finger

Did you know that being stung by a honeybee might have unexpected benefits? While it may seem surprising, modern scientists are uncovering some of the same healing properties of honeybee venom that Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician hailed as the "Father of Medicine," recognized over 2000 years ago.  

This is an abbreviated version of an article published in August 2020. Click here for the original article. 

What Makes Honeybee Venom So Special

What makes honeybee venom so amazing is that it has over 18 active components, including peptides, enzymes, and compounds. This complex blend forms the basis of its healing properties, some of which have strong neurological, immunological, and anti-inflammatory effects.  


Promising Uses of Honeybee Venom Therapy (BVT)

1.    Inflammatory Conditions: Physicians, both ancient and modern, have long recognized the benefits of bee venom therapy (BVT) for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. This is largely due to a substance called adolapin found in honeybee venom, which helps reduce inflammation and pain while preventing the destruction of connective tissue. The most compelling study on bee venom therapy (BVT) for osteoarthritis was a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery in 2001. In this study, 60 patients with knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to receive either BVT or traditional acupuncture treatments twice weekly for 4 weeks. The results showed that over 82% of patients treated with bee venom reported substantial pain relief, compared to only 55% of those treated with acupuncture alone. The researchers proposed that bee venom reduces pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis by blocking the production of pro-inflammatory substances and inhibiting the formation of rheumatoid synovial cells. Another study on 17 arthritic dogs showed that 14 out of the 17 recovered to normal (or almost near normal) after receiving several injections of bee venom at the site of stiffness.  

2.    Immune System Issues: Studies have looked into how bee venom therapy (BVT) might help with immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and allergies. Some studies also indicate that BVT might help desensitize people with allergies by exposing them to small amounts of allergens found in bee venom. This exposure could help the immune system become less reactive over time. 


3.    Infectious Diseases: Bee venom is also effective at fighting off certain bacteria and viruses. It's been found to work against bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (including the kind that's resistant to antibiotics), Escherichia coli, and the bacteria linked to acne and viruses such as herpes simplex virus (which causes cold sores and genital herpes), influenza virus, and possibly even HIV. It works because the antimicrobial compounds in bee venom, such as melittin and phospholipase A2 (PLA2), can damage and destroy bacterial cells. Researchers have also evaluated bee venom and its main components melittin and PLA2 on different viruses, including West Nile Virus and Hepatitis C, with impressive results. However more research is needed to better understand the antimicrobial abilities of bee venom and its compounds against various germs.  


4.    Nervous System Disorders: Studies have looked into how bee venom therapy (BVT) can help with nervous system problems like Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), neuropathic pain, and stroke. Research suggests that bee venom might protect brain cells and reduce inflammation in Parkinson's. It's also been tested in MS to see if it can ease symptoms by affecting the immune system. Some studies suggest that bee venom could help with pain caused by nerve damage, like in MS or diabetes. And in stroke, bee venom might protect the brain from damage and help with recovery. 


5.    Pain Management: Researchers at Kyung Hee University Hospital in South Korea, published in the journal, Toxins 2017, conducted a double-blinded, sham-controlled trial conducted which looked at 48 participants with chronic low back pain who were randomly assigned to receive either BVA or sham acupuncture treatment twice a week for 4 weeks. The BVA group received injections of diluted bee venom into acupuncture points, while the sham group received needle insertions at non-acupuncture points without bee venom. The results showed that the BVA group experienced a significantly greater reduction in pain intensity compared to the sham group, as measured by the visual analogue scale (VAS) and the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI). Importantly, no serious adverse events were reported in either group.  


6.    Skin Issues: Treating skin issues such as atopic dermatitis, acne vulgaris, alopecia, vitiligo, and psoriasis are still in the beginning stages, but a 2021 review titled, Cosmetic Applications of Bee Venom in the journal Toxins showed promising results. This review highlighted the therapeutic potential of bee venom (BV) across various dermatological conditions. In atopic dermatitis (AD), BV was effective at reducing inflammation and skin damage in both mouse models and clinical studies, offering a promising alternative to conventional treatments. For acne vulgaris, BV showed antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, effectively managing lesions and inflammation, suggesting its use as an alternative to antibiotics. In androgenetic alopecia (AGA), BV promoted hair growth without adverse effects, presenting a potential solution to current medications' limitations. In wound healing, BV accelerated the closure of wounds, particularly in diabetic models, through its anti-inflammatory and angiogenic effects, indicating its utility in diabetic wound management. In combating facial wrinkles, BV-containing cosmeceuticals showed promise in reducing wrinkle formation and size, with minimal irritation reported in clinical trials. Additionally, in vitiligo and psoriasis, BV showed potential in inducing repigmentation and managing psoriatic plaques, respectively, though further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms and optimize its therapeutic use. 


7.    Certain Cancers: Recent studies suggest honeybee venom may have cytotoxic effects on cancer cells, hinting at its possible role in cancer therapy. Several studies have shown that honeybee venom and/or melittin have anti-cancer effects including ovarian, prostate, liver, breast, cervical, and renal cancer cells. Substances in bee venom, especially melittin, can cause different types of cancer cells to self-destruct or burst, which may help treat certain cancers. However, more research is still needed to fully understand how bee venom works against cancer and to develop it as a safe and effective treatment.  


How Is Bee Venom Therapy Administered? 

Honeybee venom therapy can be administered through several methods, depending on the condition being treated and the desired therapeutic effect. One approach involves allowing bees to directly sting the patient at specific points on the body. Alternatively, purified and sterile forms of bee venom can be injected into the patient or administered in a technique called bee venom acupuncture (BVA), where the venom is injected into acupuncture points on the skin, combining the effects of acupuncture and bee venom therapy. Bee venom can also be incorporated into cosmetics or other formulations for topical application to the skin, such as for treating acne. Oral administration is possible as well, with bee venom being formulated into coated calcium alginate gel beads containing liposomes for targeted delivery to the colon.


Regardless of the administration method, it is crucial that bee venom therapy is only administered by trained professionals, as it can cause severe allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, and proper precautions and emergency medical care should be available in case of adverse reactions.  


Where Is Bee Venom Therapy Offered? 

Bee venom therapy is offered at various locations around the world, including the Chung Institute in Encino, California, USA, which specializes in using bee venom to incite the body's healing. The American Apitherapy Society, which provides information and resources on apitherapy (the medical use of honeybee products), may also provide a network list for its members.


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