What is bee venom?
Bee venom is a colorless, acidic liquid. Bees excrete it through their stingers into a target when they feel threatened.
It contains both anti-inflammatory and inflammatory compounds, including enzymes, sugars, minerals, and amino acids.
Melittin — a compound that consists of 26 amino acids — comprises about 50% of the dry weight of the venom and has been shown to have antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer effects in some studies.
That said, it’s primarily responsible for the pain associated with bee stings.
Bee venom also contains the peptides apamin and adolapin. Although they act as toxins, they have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
Additionally, it contains phospholipase A2, an enzyme and major allergen that causes inflammation and cell damage. Nevertheless, according to some research, the enzyme may also have anti-inflammatory and immunoprotective effects.
As you can see, the substances in bee venom have been associated with both positive and negative health effects.
Importantly, while research shows that some compounds in the venom may have beneficial properties, the isolated effects of each component are unknown, as many components have not been well studied.
How is it used?
Apitherapy is an alternative medicine practice that uses bee products — including their venom — to treat and prevent illnesses, pain, and more.
Although bee venom has recently experienced a surge in popularity, bee-venom therapy has been used in traditional medicine practices for thousands of years.
The venom is used in a number of ways and available in many forms. For example, it’s added to products like extracts, supplements, moisturizers, and serums.
You can purchase bee-venom products, such as moisturizers, lotions, and lozenges, online or in specialty stores.
Meanwhile, bee-venom injections can be administered by healthcare professionals.
Lastly, bee venom is used in live bee acupuncture or bee-sting therapy — a treatment method in which live bees are placed on your skin and a sting is induced.
Some substances in bee venom, including melittin and apamin, may have medicinal properties. Bee-venom therapy has been used for thousands of years as a natural treatment for a variety of conditions.
While not all of the purported benefits of bee venom are backed by science, research has shown that it has several powerful medicinal properties.
Has anti-inflammatory properties
One of the most well-documented benefits of bee venom is its powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Many of its components have been shown to reduce inflammation, particularly melittin — its main component.
Although melittin can cause itching, pain, and inflammation when delivered in high doses, it has potent anti-inflammatory effects when used in small amounts.
Melittin has been shown to suppress inflammatory pathways and reduce inflammatory markers, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β).
May reduce arthritis-related symptoms
The anti-inflammatory effects of bee venom have been shown to especially benefit those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a painful inflammatory condition that affects your joints.
An 8-week study in 120 people with RA found that bee-venom acupuncture, which employed 5–15 bee stings every other day, provided symptom relief effects that were similar to those of traditional RA medications like Methotrexate and
Another study in 100 people with RA showed that combining bee-sting therapy with traditional medications like Methotrexate, Sulfasalazine, and Meloxicam was more effective at reducing pain and joint swelling than treatment with
the traditional medication alone.
Though promising, more high-quality studies are needed to confirm these effects.
May benefit skin health
Multiple skincare companies have started adding bee venom to products like serums and moisturizers. This ingredient may promote skin health in several ways, including by reducing inflammation, providing antibacterial effects, and
A 12-week study in 22 women demonstrated that applying a facial serum containing bee venom twice daily significantly reduced wrinkle depth and total wrinkle count, compared with the placebo.
Another 6-week study found that 77% of participants with mild to moderate acne who used a serum containing purified bee venom twice daily experienced an improvement in acne, compared with the placebo.
What’s more, test-tube studies have shown that the venom has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects against the acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes.
May benefit immune health
Bee venom has been shown to have beneficial effects on immune cells that mediate allergic and inflammatory responses.
Evidence from animal studies suggests that bee-venom therapy might help reduce symptoms of autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, encephalomyelitis, and rheumatoid arthritis, by decreasing inflammation and bolstering your immune response.
Other animal studies suggest that bee-venom therapy may also help treat allergic conditions like asthma.
It’s thought that bee venom increases the production of regulatory T cells, or Tregs, which inhibit allergen responses and reduce inflammation. Although promising, the effects of bee-venom therapy in humans with allergies is unknown.
Additionally, venom immunotherapy, in which bee venom is administered by a healthcare professional by injection — is used to treat people with severe allergies to bee stings.
Research has shown that this treatment is safe and effective and can reduce the future risk of serious reactions to bee stings. In fact, it’s recommended as a first-line treatment for those who are allergic to the venom.
Other potential benefits
Though research is limited, bee venom may benefit the following conditions.
Neurological diseases. Some research suggests that bee-venom therapy may help reduce symptoms related to neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, though human studies are limited.
Pain. One study showed that bee-venom acupuncture, along with traditional medication, significantly reduced pain and improved functional status in 54 patients with chronic lower back pain, compared with the placebo group.
May fight Lyme disease. Some research suggests that bee venom and isolated melittin may have antimicrobial effects against Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. However, more research is needed.
Although these potential benefits are promising, more research is needed to confirm them.
Bee venom has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and may benefit the health of your skin and immune system. It may also improve certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain.
Precautions and potential downsides While bee venom has been shown to offer several potential benefits, it’s important to note that studies supporting these benefits are limited. In fact, most available research has
been conducted on animals or in test tubes.
Certain methods of bee-venom therapy, including acupuncture, can lead to side effects, such as pain, swelling, and redness.
The bottom line: Bee venom is a natural product that has risen in popularity due to its variety of potential health benefits. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, may benefit skin health, and can possibly help
treat symptoms related to various health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain.
The information contained on these Web pages is not intended to be a substitute for medical evaluation and treatment by a competent, licensed personal
health care professional.
This website specifically disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from information contained on these Web pages. Varying and even conflicting views are held by other segments of the medical profession.
The information presented on these Web pages is intended to be educational and is not intended as a basis for diagnosis or treatment.
All rights reserved ©