There’s always been a buzz about the wonderful healing properties of honey, now it seems that the humble honey bee’s sting in the tail is equally as good as a natural medicine.
Bee venom also known as apitoxin is a mixture of proteins that have amazing properties, some act as anticoagulants, others increase of cortisol production and heart rate whilst others act as anti-inflammatories and analgesics. The largest component of the toxin is a small protein called melittin which represents approximately 52% of the total toxin. Melittin is an anti-microbial and can destroy the bacteria that causes Lyme disease as well as chlamydia, mycoplasma and candida. In 2013 a study showed that nanoparticles of melittin could destroy the HIV virus
Use of bee products goes back to the ancient Egyptians but the use of bee venom seems to date back to the late 1800s when an Austrian doctor published a paper on the unusual connection between bee stings and rheumatism.
Uses of bee venom.
Today bee venom is most often used as therapy for arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis and shingles – in particular post herpetic neuralgia. The effectiveness of bee venom for the treatment of multiple sclerosis remains controversial.
New evidence for psoriasis
A recent high quality study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatments investigated the effect of apitherapy on plaque psoriasis. 50 patients who had plaque psoriasis that had proved difficult to treat were enrolled in the study. 25 were given a placebo treatment of injections into lesions and 25 were given bee venom injections into the lesions, both once a week for twelve weeks and the patients were then reassessed after 6 months. Results showed that the apitherapy group have a complete response in 92% of cases and that there was a substantial decrease in the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF alpha when compared to the placebo group. The apitherapy group had no recurrence of the psoriatic plaques at the 6 month follow up point. The group concludes that apitherapy is a safe and effective treatment for stubborn psoriasis that other therapies have failed to cure.
New evidence for frozen shoulder.
The latest study is an update a year after a previous randomized controlled trial had been carried out. Frozen shoulder is a chronic painful illness of unknown cause. The previous study concluded that bee venom acupuncture combined with physiotherapy improvement the movement and reduced pain in patients with frozen shoulder. Patients were contacted a year after the initial study and assessed for pain, movement and satisfaction with their treatment. Results showed that the pain scores continued to be much lower in the treatment group compared to the placebo group and patients were very satisfied with the treatment. The researchers conclude that bee venom acupuncture combined with physiotherapy is an effective long term treatment for frozen shoulder.
Review of the evidence for acne vulgaris
A new Cochrane study has been published that looks at the evidence for CAM therapies to treat common acne. The review included thirty five studies totalling 3227 patients and covered herbal medicine, acupuncture, diet, purified bee venom and tea tree oil. The researchers conclude that there is some limited evidence that a low glycaemic index diet, tea tree oil and bee venom can reduce the number of skin lesions in cases of acne vulgaris but the studies were of poor quality and further studies need to be done.
Eltaher et al. Efficacy of the apitherapy in the treatment of recalcitrant localized plaque psoriasis and evaluation of tumour necrosis factor-alpha serum level: A double blind randomized clinical trial. J. Dermatolog Treat Dec 2014.
Park et al. Long-term effectiveness of bee venom acupuncture and physiotherapy in the treatment of adhesive capsulitis: a one year follow up analysis of a previous randomized controlled trial. J Altern complement Med. Dec 2014.
Cao et al. complementary therapies for acne vulgaris. Cochrane Database Syst Rev Jan 2015.