Bee sting therapy is an alternative Asian medicine practice that involves directly injecting the sting from a live bee placed on the skin and intentionally leaving the venom sac in the tissue for healing purposes. This therapy is gaining popularity among alternative practitioners worldwide. According to proponents, it helps with inflammatory diseases, chronic pain, and even skin problems. Let’s look at how this therapy works and what health benefits it can offer you.
What Are the Components of Bee Venom?
Bee venom is full of active components that have an amazing effect on our health. These biologically active components include:
- Enzymes (such as phospholipase A2)
- Peptides (such as melittin, apamin, and adolapin)
- Small molecules (such as histamine)
The peptide melittin makes up about 50% of bee venom. This component has lots of potential therapeutic effects such as antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer. At high doses, melittin can provoke itching, pain, and inflammation but smaller amounts of this substance have anti-inflammatory properties. Other peptides of venom (apamin and adolapin) act as protective toxins but preliminary evidence suggests they might also have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving activity through similar mechanisms. And the enzyme phospholipase has some possible immunoprotective effects.
What Are the Health Benefits of Bee Sting Therapy?
In order to maintain the effects of bee venom on the immune system, bee sting therapy must be performed every three months. This therapy can be used in both adults and kids. According to a study involving 134 children and 207 adults, bee sting therapy was relatively safe in both cases and children experienced fewer adverse reactions.
1. Adhesive Capsulitis
Adhesive capsulitis also called frozen shoulder is a condition in which the soft tissue (the capsule) that surrounds one of the shoulder joints becomes inflamed which results in shoulder pain and limited mobility. In one study involving 68 people with this condition followed up for 1 year, bee sting therapy in combination with physiotherapy improved shoulder pain and mobility better than either therapy alone.
Bee sting therapy has been used for arthritis in Asia, particularly in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. Two studies found that the therapy decreased joint swelling, tenderness, and stiffness, and improved patient’s health status. Another two Chinese studies involving over 200 people found that bee venom had similar effectiveness as drugs that are usually prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, like methotrexate and celecoxib, and worked effectively along with these drugs to improve the symptoms.
3. Parkinson’s Disease
In three studies on 117 people with Parkinson’s disease, both conventional and bee sting therapy worked to improve Parkinson’s symptoms, quality of life, and depressive mood.
A mouse study showed that bee venom protected the mouse brain from neurodegeneration by increasing the production of Tregs (cells that modulate the immune system and prevent autoimmune disease). Peptide apamin contained in bee venom was partially responsible for these effects in another clinical trial om mice.
4. Skin Health
In one study involving 22 women, topical bee venom serum reduced wrinkles and their depth.
Furthermore, purified bee venom killed bacteria Propionibacterium acnes which cause acne. Cosmetics containing bee venom used for 2-6 weeks decreased the number of acne lesions and harmful bacteria in two studies. One study with 50 people has been shown that injection of bee venom into the lesions improved psoriasis and decreased the levels of inflammatory proteins.
5. Chronic Pain
In one clinical trial, 54 people with chronic back pain have been performing bee venom acupuncture for three weeks. The procedure reduced pain intensity and improved functional status when injected only into acupoints. In one study involving 79 people suffering from chronic pain in the jaw joint, topical bee venom relaxed the joint muscles and hence reduced pain.