The name alone is enough to make most of us shy away from this very unusual therapy. It seems counterintuitive to consider that something seen as poisonous could actually be curative. However, the sting of bees has been used for centuries to treat and cure a wide array of ailments. Just one member of the group of therapies known as apitherapy (the use of any product from or part of a bee), bee venom is actively researched for its treatment potential in conditions involving inflammation and autoimmune dysfunction.
Bee-venom therapy (BVT) became popular in the United States as long as 100 years ago. Pioneered by Bodog F. Beck, MD, BVT began not in the frontiers but in a medical office in New York City.1 Bee venom is considered the oldest-known treatment for arthritis.1
This discussion will focus on the use of bee venom as a palliative or curative measure and not as a desensitization technique in bee-sting-allergy therapy.
Composed of peptides, enzymes, and biologically active amines that include histamine, dopamine, and epinephrine,2 BVT can be administered by application of a topical bee-venom compound, use of acupuncture needles to inject minute amounts of bee venom, ingestion of a bee-venom compound, or iontophoresis after topical application of the extract. It can also involve allowing a live bee (or bees) ordered from a bee breeding center to sting the affected body area, after testing the patient for potential allergies.
This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor