By Dr. Thomas S. Lee, NMD, APH |
Our co-evolution with bees goes back to the earliest agricultural societies. Growing crops larger than those needed to feed a family allowed complex modern society and commerce to develop. It also required the systematic pollination efforts of the honey bee.
Over time, farming communities noticed that bees seemed to care for their caretakers, who would live longer and less painfully than their unstung neighbors. Words of mouth through large families went to the ill and hurting, who began to visit beekeepers for a chance to feel better through their bee stings. This was practiced for thousands of years wherever people grew crops.
What is Bee Venom Therapy?
Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) amplifies the interaction between the brain and an irritant in the skin. Everything else that could or should be going on at that point is amplified along with it. Biochemicals in the bee venom “shout” to the brain to “get the repair crew here right away and deal with these problems.” This works well in chronic disease where the brain has grown accustomed to constant pain and progressing weakness. Moments after the sting, we see the circulation improve, the skin warms up, and muscle reflexes quicken around the site of that sting for hours and sometimes days after a treatment.
Before the days of needles and syringes, live bees were either put onto the skin to sting, or patients were put near beehives which were then aggravated to coax the bees out to sting. Recently, jars of bees were stored in a freezer and sent home with people to be pulled out while the chilled bees were slower, to warm up under a glass placed where the sting was intended to be.
Trying to use live bees in a doctor’s office doesn’t work well as therapy. Good entertainment, however, when you must team up in shooing escapees out of the office. Modern clinical protocols involve injecting an average bee’s load of venom into a patient’s skin at relevant acupuncture, neural therapy, or dermatome points to stimulate their body. When done at proper intervals, BVT has been proven to strengthen and normalize the nerve and vital forces passing through and around that point. These “stings” help people get stronger and feel better.
Only honey bee venom that has been sterilized and dosed precisely for injection is used in therapy. Or, venom can be prepared as a lotion or ointment that meets federal regulatory standards for purity. The hive queen bee would laugh at these hygienic measures, but insect royalty doesn’t have to answer to a medical board. No treatment of venom goes deeper than the skin, or where a bee’s stinger can possibly reach. For those with dread of needles or no access to trained providers, effective bee venom ointments can be prescribed by licensed physicians who would train you in their safe use.
What is in Bee Venom?
Bee venom contains at least 18 active substances. Mellitin, the most prevalent substance, is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents known—100 times more potent than hydrocortisol. Adolapin is another strong anti-inflammatory that inhibits cyclooxygenase, one of the body’s most inflammatory enzymes. Many other specialized biochemicals are found in venom including Apamin, Compound X, Hyaluronidase, Phospholipase A2, Histamine, and Mast Cell Degranulating Protein (MCDP). These work to soften tissues and facilitate the flow of fluids. Also, there are measurable amounts of the neurotransmitters Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Seratonin.
Does it Hurt?
A little bit, yes, and it’s a little itchy afterwards.
What’s it Good For?
Arthritis and other systemic inflammations. BVT can be useful in both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, helping both pain and swelling. Even systemic inflammations not related to joints, such as ulcerative colitis or even asthma, may warrant a trial of bee venom. The mechanism of action seems to be the stimulation of endogenous cortisol.
Acute and chronic injuries. Bursitis, tendonitis, and other areas of injury with local inflammation can benefit from BVT. Jaw neck and head pain responds well, as does chronic back and neck pain.
Scar tissue. Keloids and other scar tissues are broken down and softened by the hyaluronidase and other substances in the bee venom. These often respond by flattening out and fading in color. Internal scar tissue, such as adhesions from previous surgery, may respond to treatment over the area.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Many thousands of patients with MS have sought out bee venom therapists and beekeepers. The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America awarded a grant to Dr. John Santilli to prepare the venom in extract form to study its effect on MS patients. The treatment is prolonged and not for the squeamish, but the common responses are increased stability, less fatigue, and fewer spasms.
Who Should Avoid BVT?
People who are allergic to bees should certainly not consider BVT. Bee venom therapy is also not indicated for people who are heavily medicated for pain and inflammation, for current or recent users of steroids, and those unable or unwilling to inform themselves about how to make this therapy help them get better. Like any therapy, the results of BVT are not only related to the provider’s skill or the power of medicines used. The desire to heal and intention to understand and apply this method to heal is necessary for successful results.
That said, some medicines and therapies are better than others. Used well in the right situations, this is one of the best we have available. But be aware that any shutdown of the pathways of inflammation and pain with a drug or a toxin will affect one’s ability to heal. Inflammation and pain are both critical and powerful aspects of the human immune system. Naturopathic physicians want to train up that immune system and strengthen its power, not shut it off. Evidently, so do common honeybees.
1. Beck, F. Bodog, MD. Bee Venom Therapy: Bee Venom, Its Nature, and Its Effect on Arthritic and Rheumatoid Conditions, 1935. Hardcover reprint in 1984. Also published as The Bible of Bee Venom Therapy, soft cover, 1997.
2. Broadman, Joseph., MD. Bee Venom: The Natural Curative for Arthritis and Rheumatism, 1962. Soft cover reprint: Bee Venom Therapy, 1997.
3. Kim, Christopher, MD. Bee Venom Therapy and Bee Acupuncture Therapy, 1992. A medical textbook for physicians and acupuncturists in Korean and English.
For more info call Dr. Thomas S. Lee at 775-284-4700.