Since ancient times, people knew about the healing properties of a bee sting. Painful and healing, just like Eros’ arrows of love, painful but ultimately pleasant.
Bee venom was probably one of the first natural cure for arthritis. Apitherapy was used in ancient civilization of China, India, Egypt, Babylon and Greece. We still wander if beekeeping appeared because of the healing stings of the bees, or because of the sweetness of honey.
A little history
– Among the earliest books that mention bee sting therapy is an ancient Chinese medical book, around 500 BC, from In Huangdi Neijing.
– Around 300 BC, in his book “Historia animalia” Aristoteles was describing the stinging apparatus of bees and the powerful properties of bee venom in his book.
– The ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates used bee venom for therapeutic purposes. He described it as Arcanum, amysterious substance whose curative properties he did not quite understand.
– In 14 BC Pliny The Elder was describing the use of bee venom 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.
– In 1609 C. Butler mentioned the sting organ of bees in his book Feminine Monarchie.
– In 1672 Jan Swammerdam provided a thorough description of bees’ venom apparatus.
– In 1834 L. Dufour described the venom gland, which was later found out to contain an alkaline solution, thenceknown as the alkaline or Dufour’s gland. In 1737 Samuel Dave in his Pharmacologia recommended Apis for baldness and as a good diuretic.
– In 1858 the French medical doctor de Marti began to use bee stings for treatment of several diseases. In 1858 C.W.Wolf a prominent homeopathic physician of Berlin edited his book “Apis Mellifica or the poison of the honey bee” considered as a therapeutic agent.
– In 1868 the Russians Lokumski and Lubarski published a work named “Bee venom, a remedy”.
– 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.
– After the first world war Bodog Beck brought BV apitherapy to the US and published a book on BV therapy in 1935, mainly against rheumatoid arthritis.
– In Europe the first commercial bee venom preparation was released in 1928.
– Charles Mraz, a student of Beck, popularised bee venom therapy in the USA.
Main biological and therapeutic effects
of bee venom and its components
see footnotes for references
The composition of bee venom is well studied, it is a complex mixture of of proteins, peptides and low molecular components. The main components are proteins and peptides. There is a difference between fresh and dried bee venom, given by the volatile components, but otherwise, the overall biological activity is similar.
The most important factors in bee venom are proteins and peptides.
The enzymes are proteins catalyzing specific reactions. There are 5 enzymes in BV: phospholipase A2,phospholipase B, hyaluronidase, phosphatase, α-glucisidase.
Polypeptides are made of 2 or more amino acids. The main polypeptides are: melittin, apamine, MCD peptide, secapide, pamine, minimine, adolapine, procamine A, B, Protease inhibitor, tertiapide, cardiopep, melittin F.
Most studies attribute bee venom’ healing properties to these peptides.
The low molecular compounds are different: amino acids, catecholamines, sugars and minerals. In some preparations, sugars were also identified, but if the bee venom is collected with a collector which prevents its contamination by pollen and nectar, then there are no sugars.
Biologically active peptide 50-55 %
– Membrane-active, diminishes surface tension of membranes;
– Anti-inflammatory in very small doses;
– Stimulates smooth muscles;
– Increases capillary permeability increasing blood circulation and lowering the blood pressure, lowers blood coagulation,
– Radiation protective,
– influences the central nervous system,
– Anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral
BUT, higher doses are inflammatory and haemolytic!
Enzyme hydrolysing phospholipids 10-12 %
– Destroys phospholipids and dissolves the cell membrane of blood bodies;
– lowers the blood coagulation and blood pressure,
– prevents neuronal cell death caused by prion peptides
BUT induces inflammation, the strongest allergen and thus the most harmful bee venom component!
cleavage of the toxic lysolecetin 1 %
Effect: Detoxicating activity
Catalyses hydrolysis of hyoloronic acid, the tissue cement 1-2 %
– catalyses the hydrolysis of proteins, thus enabling the penetrating of bee venom into the tissue;
– dilates blood vessels and increases their permeability, causing an increase of blood circulation;
BUT it is allergenic.
Biologically active peptide 2-3 %
– Anti-inflammatory stimulating the release of cortisone,
– antiserotonine action
– increases the defence capability
– Immuno-supressor, stimulates the central nervous system in very small doses
BUT higher doses are neurotoxic!
mast cell degranulating peptide 401, 2-3 %
– Lyses mast cells, releasing histamine, serotonine and heparine
– Melittin-like effect increasing capillary permeability
– simulates the central nervous system
Biologically active peptide 1 %
– Inhibits the specific brain enzymes cyclooxigenase and lipooxigenase
– Decreases inflammations by, anti-rheumatic, decreases pain, antipyretic
– Inhibits the aggregation of erythrocytes
– Has relatively low toxicity
Biologically active peptides 3-4 %
– Inhibits the activity of different proteases like trypsin, chymotprypsin, plasmin, thrombin, thus decreasing inflammation,
– Low toxicity
Secapin, tertiapin, cardiopep, minimin, procamine
Effect: These peptides have an uncertain role in the physiological action of bee venom
– Antiradiation effects
– cardiopep has antiarhythmic effects
Neurotransmitter 0.7-1.5 %
– Dilates blood vessels, increasing the permeability of blood capillaries and increases blood circulation;
Stimulates smooth muscles;
BUT it’s allergenic
Neurotransmitters 0.2-1.5 %
Effect: The low concentrations in bee venom do not cause physiological effects in mammals, but active when injected in invertebrates.
Effect: These are complex ethers, causing alarm of the bee colony and its defensive behaviour. No effect in mammals.
Of all bee products bee venom bee venom produces by far the greatest number of biological effects. It has the highest recognition in modern medicine, many of its components being also used in experimental pharmacology. So far.
As a conclusion:
Melittin is the main bee venom component with many positive biological effects and a relatively low toxicity.
The MCD peptide and phospholipase A are the two most toxic components.
In order to achieve definite biological effects, individual bee venom components can be used. For example the Chinese make melittin spray for public sale. Or, you can find some peptide here: http://www.bachem.com/.
Of course, we do not recommend taking anything without consulting the physician first.
The conditions that can be cured or improved
with bee venom therapy
according to Stefan Bogdanov in Bee Product Science, February 2014
|Disease type||Application, details|
|Arthritis||Both osteoarthritis and rheumatic arthritis
Rheumatic arthritis being more susceptible to BVT
|Against frozen shoulder||BV acupuncture|
|Diseases of the central and
peripheral nervous system
|· Multiple sclerosis
· Post stroke paralysis
· Ganglion nerve inflammation
· Cerebellar ataxy (muscular disfunction)
· Syringomyelia (pain of extremeties, headache)
· Inflammation of facial nerve
· Myopathy (neuromuscular disease)
· Trigeminal neuralgia
· Posttraumatic inflammation of plexus nerve
· Inflammation of arachnoid CNS membrane
· Against lower back pain
|Heart and blood system||· Hypertension
· Endarteritis (chronic inflammation of the inner layer of
· Angina pectoris
|Skin diseases||· Eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis
· Furunculosis (recurring boil)
· Healing of cicatrices
|Other disease||· Opthamology
· Gastroentorology: colitis, ulcers,
· Pulmonology: asthma, bronchitis,
· Otorinolaringology: pharingytis, tonsillitis, ear nerve
· Urology, gynecology
· Cancer and HIV infections
Here are the methods of treating these diseases
as recommended by Simics, M. in Bee Venom: Exploring the Healing Power, p. 38., ext. version.
|Diseases||Bee Sting & Apipuncture||Injection||Electro & Ultra-
|Cream, Liniment, Ointment|
|Bee Venom Allergy||—||X||—||—|
|Muscle, Joint Pain||X||X||X||X|
|Periferial Vasc. Dis.||X||X||—||—|
|Post Herperic Neur.||X||X||—||X|
The Russian doctor Ludyanski has summarised his experience of the application of bee venom in a big Russian hospital. Here is a report on the results of his patients, after being treated with bee venom, in a Russian hospital. (LUDYANSKII, E A (1994) Apitherapy, 1231. Poligrafist Vologda, Russia). I say they are promising results, worth trying it.
– “Albrecht Dürer – Cupid the Honey Thief – WGA07372” by Albrecht Dürer – Web Gallery of Art, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons;
– “Spelling Bee Writing on notebook Stock Photo” picture credit pixtawan via free digital photo;
– ASAFOVA, N; ORLOV, B; KOZIN, R (2001) Physiologically active bee products (in Russian). Y.A.Nikolaev; Nijnij Novgorod; 360 pp;
– JEONG, J K; MOON, M H; BAE, B C; LEE, Y J; SEOL, J W; PARK, S Y (2011) Bee venom phospholipase A2 prevents prion peptide induced-cell death in neuronal cells. International Journal of Molecular Medicine 28 (5): 867-873;
– LUDYANSKII, E A (1994) Apiterapia. Vologda, Russia; Poligrafist; 460 pp;
– SHKENDEROV, S; IVANOV, T (1983) Pcelni Produkti, The Bee Products (in Bulgarian). Zemizdat (Abstract in Honey bibliography): 1-238;
– SON, D J; LEE, J W; LEE, Y H; SONG, H S; LEE, C K; HONG, J T (2007) Therapeutic application of antiarthritis, pain-releasing, and anti-cancer effects of bee venom and its constituent compounds. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 115 (2): 246-270;
– URTUBEY, N (2005) Apitoxin: from bee venom to apitoxin for medical use. Termas de Rio Grande Santiago del Estero, Argentina
– Stefan Bogdanov, http://www.bee-hexagon.net