Bee Sting Therapy: Do Controversy and Culture Mask the Powerful Benefits?
by Juliette Jones
“If enough people were to really grasp the incredible medicine the bee venom offers, the greater public would be more inclined to cease all use of pesticides and instead ensure that their gardens provided safe forage in order to support these ancient bee healers.”
I am not a medical doctor, and knowing the laws of the land as I do, I would neither advise nor recommend to anyone else the use of any drug or non-prescription substance as a healing protocol. This goes double for what I have personally experienced as one of the most powerful, least known, most feared, and misunderstood healing agents and pain relief substances available to humankind––namely venom from live honey bees.
What I would do is encourage interested parties to conduct a rigorous investigation and make use of available research (both clinical and anecdotal) on the topic of Apitherapy. Taken from the Latin word apis, meaning bee, Apitherapy is essentially use of products derived from honey bees as medicine including venom, honey, pollen propolis and royal jelly. A good place to start is the American Apitherapy Society (AAS) website Apitherapy.org.
Such research is not found in articles like “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Bee Sting, Beauty Treatments, Just Wont Fly” recently posted online by Dean Burnett of the Guardian. Nor will it be found on the main highways of modern Western allopathic medicine. Except for a select few, modern Western physicians have little or no knowledge on the subject of bee sting therapy, its applications, methods of action, protocols and precautions for safe use. Doctors usually warn against bee venom therapy (BVT), mindful of the danger of anaphylaxis which can be deadly to persons allergic to bee venom.
As a subset of Apitherapy, BVT is known to have been practiced throughout many ancient cultures dating back 6,000 years. In fact, it was practiced by three of the Great Civilizations known for their highly developed medical systems––ancient Egypt, China and Greece. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates used bee venom therapeutically, as have many physicians and healers throughout human history.
Today, bee venom therapy continues to be an accepted medical practice widely used in Europe and countries of the Far East, especially in areas where acupuncture is a mainstream modality. Some researchers believe acupuncture is a derivative of bee sting therapy.
After the First World War, Hungarian born physician, Bodog F. Beck, M.D. (1871-1942) brought Apitherapy to the United States, practicing in New York City where he published his seminal work titled The Bible of Bee Venom Therapy dedicated respectfully “to the pathfinders of bee venom therapy.”
Dr. Beck fully realized the difficulties of trying to introduce this “venerable, time-honored, ancient, almost prehistoric treatment” to the modern West and admits to his own initial distrust and skepticism––“the acid test of mistrust,” as he puts it––until he became convinced of “the real merit and extraordinary efficacy of this curative substance.”
The Bible of Bee Venom Therapy was aimed toward the treatment of arthritic, rheumatic, and neuritic afflictions, but speaks to other physical ailments along the way. In his writing of the preface, we see something of the soul motivation which led him to chronicle his experience as a physician: “The extreme agony, excruciating pain, torment and misery which generally accompany these ailments, the hopeless wretchedness of body and mind, the resultant functional incapacities and deformities are indescribable and appalling. Only the poor, pitiful, miserable victims who are in their pangs can really appreciate the true meaning of these words.”
Charles Mraz, a student of Beck and former co-director of the AAS, became the iconic expert on bee venom therapy in the United States and pioneered techniques for keeping bees, lecturing and consulting all over the world. Mraz passed away in 1999 at the age of ninety-four, having remained an active proponent and practitioner of Apitherapy throughout his entire life. He considered the stings of live bees superior to injections of “purified” bee venom, and people were still coming to his door seeking treatment even on the day he died.
In Health and the Honey Bee, Mraz writes of his of his personal triumph over Rheumatoid arthritis and recounts experiences with the use of bee venom therapy for those seeking relief from painful conditions, offering this insight, “A controversial therapy like bee venom therapy for the treatment of various auto immune diseases in the face of constant opposition and ridicule can be most discouraging. Many times I wanted to give up the struggle, but because of my own dramatic experience and those of others, I persisted.”
Apitherapy is now emerging as a practice in the modern West. More and more people are reporting significant and lasting differences in their health. This applies not only to symptomatic relief, but in many cases, resolution of the underlying condition, and the list of ailments for which bee venom therapy has been applied as effective is growing. Testimonials supporting the helpful effects of bee stings in the treatment of arthritis, fibromyalgia, Bell’s palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, herpes zoster, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, pain control and many other conditions, are forthcoming.
Bees are traditionally symbolic of the accomplishment of impossible quests. Until recently, scientists were unable to determine how bees could fly, given that aerodynamically their bodies are too large for their wingspan. Apparently, they move their wings at a high enough speed to break free of this seemingly impossible limitation.
Obstacles exist which indicate this mode of therapy is definitely not for everyone. Among them, allergy to venom or bee products, or the presence of other health conditions that might prohibit bee venom therapy. The fact that BVT is not part of the accepted medical model in the United States and the reality that pain is involved in receiving a sting from a live bee, are also factors that might give pause. Additionally, bee venom therapy can require support measures such as specific vitamin and detoxification protocols.
To the uninitiated, Apitherapy and especially BVT seem incomprehensible. Often, people have never even heard of Apitherapy until they’ve failed to find success in conventional treatment, and the motivation to find relief from pain and suffering has becomes unbearable. Many articles can now be found on the web for perusal, and experience researchers and physicians can be contacted through the American Apitherapy Society.
The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical evaluation and treatment by a competent, licensed personal health care professional. The author specifically disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from information contained in this article. Varying and even conflicting views are held by various segments of the medical profession. The information presented here is strictly intended to be educational, and is not intended as a basis for medical treatment.