Apitherapy- The Painful Healing Sting

The ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates used bee venom for therapeutic purposes. He described it as Arcanum, a mysterious substance whose curative properties he did not quite understand.
In 14 BC Pliny the elder described BV use in his Natural history. Galen (130–200 AD) prescribed the use of honey and bee venom as a cure for baldness.

It is documented that Charlemagne (742-814) received bee stings for therapy against gout, while Monfat (1566- 1634) prescribed bee stings to improve the flow of urine and against kidney stones after.

The modern use of BV in apitherapy was initiated through the efforts of Austrian physician Philip Terc in his published results “Report about a Peculiar Connection between the Bee Stings and Rheumatism” in 1888.

Apitherapy, therefore,  is the use of honey bee products for medical purposes, this include bee venom, raw honey, royal jelly, pollen, propolis, and beeswax.

Whereas bee venom therapy is the use of live bee stings (or injectable venom) to treat various diseases such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, sciatica, low back pain, and tennis elbow to name but a few.

All insects that can sting are members of the order Hymenoptera, which includes ants, wasps and bees. Since the sting is believed to have evolved from the egg-laying apparatus of the ancestral, hymenopteran species, only females can sting. The sting is always at or near the abdominal end, rather than the head.
Therefore the pain inflicted by a honeybee, defending its colony, is not caused by a bite, as is frequently said, but by a sting.

BEE VENOM is safe for human treatments, the median lethal dose (LD50) for an adult human is 2.8 mg of venom per kg of body weight, i.e. a person weighing 60 kg has a 50% chance of surviving injections totaling 168 mg of bee venom. Assuming each bee injects all its venom and no stings are quickly removed at a maximum of 0.3 mg venom per sting, 560 stings could well be lethal for such a person. For a child weighing 10 kg, as little as 93.33 stings could be fatal.

Simply put, average adult can safely tolerate 13 bees per pound of body weight. This shows the importance of determining the body mass index (BMI) of patients, as that will assist to know the perfect dose of the bee venom to administer.

When a bee stings, it doesn’t normally inject all of the 0.15 to 0.3 mg of venom held in a full venom sac, only when it stings an animal with skin as tough as ours will it lose its sting – and with it the whole sting apparatus, including the venom sac, muscles and the nerve centre.
These nerves and muscles however keep injecting venom for a while, or until the venom sac is empty.

Bee Sting Reactions

After a bee stings, in the normal reaction,  the skin is reddened and painful. Swelling and/or itching may also occur, the swelling/itching may peak at around 48 hours after you’ve been stung, but it usually should be completely gone within a few hours or days and maximum a week”. No wonder some practitioners refer to it as The Painful Healing Sting.

Bee venom contains proteins that affect the skin cells and immune system, resulting in pain and swelling at the site of the sting, even if a person is not allergic to the venom

Melittin is the main component and the major pain producing substance of honeybee venom. Melittin is a basic peptide consisting of 26 amino acids.

Additionally, bee-venom therapy can cause serious side effects or even death in highly allergic individuals by causing anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can make it hard to breathe.

How would I prevent anaphylaxis reaction?

*  Patients should be fully informed of the dangers of apitherapy before undergoing it.

  • Apitherapy practitioners should be trained in managing severe reactions.
  • Apitherapists should be able to ensure they perform their itechniques in a safe environment.
  • Apitherapist should be able to differentiate between normal and anaphylaxis reactions.
  • Apitherapist should ask if the patient had had anaphylaxis reaction before.
  • Should he/she had experienced it, bee venom shouldn’t be administered on him/her.
  • If patient has not been stung before, a glass cup of water or 2 should be given to him/her before the first sting.
  • He should be stung once, then observe him for 5 to 10 minutes, should he develop any strange reactions.
  • Any strange action such as dizziness, weakness, pour water mixed with salt on him and allow him to drink from the water.
  • Leave him to relax and if symptoms persist after 5 minutes, call an ambulance.

The symptoms of anaphylaxis can vary. In some people, the reaction begins very slowly, but in most the symptoms appear rapidly. The most severe and life-threatening symptoms are difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.

Bee venom mild reactirons

  • A sharp, burning pain
  • An area of raised, red skin
  • Slight swelling

Moderate allergic reactions

  • Severe redness around the sting.
  • Swelling around the sting, which may gradually increase in size to a diameter of 10 cm or more over a period of 24–48 hours.

Severe allergic  (anaphylaxis) reaction

  • Skin reactions, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Constriction of your airways and a swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble breathing.
  • A weak and rapid pulse.
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Dizziness or fainting.

Thankfully, it’s recorded that of 10,000 people, only 1 person is prone to have this anaphylaxis reaction.

Based on this fact, it is important to prepare your patients for that and prevent such by allowing the patients drink water before bee venom administration on them, especially new patients, and a  new patient should be tested with a single sting.

Chemical composition of bee venom

Stefan Bogdanov, in one of his articles, Biological and therapeutic properties of bee venom, enumerated the beneficial biological effects of whole bee venom in animal and cell experiments which includes, Anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritis action, Anti-cancer effects, Against polycystic ovarian syndrome, Liver protecting, etc

Honey bee venom is a bitter, colorless liquid. It is a complex mixture of enzymes and peptides. Enzymes in the bee venom include phospholipase A2, phospholipase B, hyaluronidase, phosphatase and α-glucosidase. In addition, bee venom contains peptides such as melittin, apamin, mast cell degranulating peptide, adolapin, tertiapin, secapin, melittin F and cardiopep.

Diseases curable

Some of the conditions treated are:
Multiple sclerosis
Arthritis (many types)
Treatment of wounds and burns to the skin
Chronic pain
Premenstrual syndrome
Ligament injuries
Sore throat
General immuno-stimulant
Decreases blood cholesterol level
Some types of cancer
Dilates capillaries and arteries
Tropical ulcers.

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