If you've ever been stung by a bee, you've experienced the pain, itching, and swelling caused by the proteins found in bee venom. If you are allergic to bee venom, you may have had a more serious reaction. And even if you are not allergic, the toxins from multiple stings can cause muscle damage, heart and liver problems, and kidney failure.

Chinese Traditions
In spite of the bee venom's bite, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have used it for centuries to relieve the pain and inflammation of arthritis and to treat other diseases. Bee venom therapy, also known as apitherapy, is used as an adjunct to acupuncture. In apitherapy, diluted bee venom is injected into the same acupoints as the needles used in the acupuncture treatment, which means it is not injected directly into the joint itself.

Reviews of the treatment are mixed: a 2008 study published in Acupuncture Research compared the effects of using both bee sting acupuncture and conventional rheumatoid arthritis medications to medications alone, and found that the combination therapy provided more relief than just the conventional medications. Additionally, fewer relapses were reported, and the researchers concluded that doses of conventional medications may be reduced when used with bee venom therapy. However, a 2008 review of various studies on the subject found that while apitherapy was better at reducing pain than acupuncture alone, it wasn't clear whether the therapy could be safely recommended to the general population.

Overall, many researchers have concluded that while apiteherapy may provide some pain relief, there is also a risk of severe allergic reactions—a 2011 issue of the World Journal of Hepatology reported that a 35-year-old woman suffered liver damage as a result of bee sting therapy. More research needs to be done in order to understand who might benefit from bee venom therapy—and who might suffer.



Alqutub AN, Masoodi I, Alsayari K, Alomair A. "Bee sting therapy-induced hepatotoxicity: A Case report." World Journal of Hepatology. 2011; 3(10):268-70. Web. 31 March 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208180/

Chen, J and Lariviere, W. "The Nociceptive and Anti-Nociceptive Effects of Bee Venom Injection and Therapy: A Double-Edged Sword." Progress in Neurobiology. 2010; 92(2):151-183. Web.31 March 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946189/?tool=pubmed

Lee MS, Pittler MH, Shin BC, Kong JC, Ernst E. "Bee Venom Acupuncture for Musculoskeletal Pain: A Review." The Journal of Pain. 2008; 9(4):289-97. Web. 31 March 2013.

Liu, XD, Zhang JL, Zheng HG, Liu FY, Chen Y. "Clinical Randomized Study of Bee-Sting Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis." Acupuncture Research. 2008; 33(3):197-200. Web. 30 March 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18807725