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The Health Benefits of Venom

Venom is synthesized by honey bees for only one purpose: as a defensive agent against predators, primarily large mammalian and other vertebrate predators. In order to be of defensive value the venom must induce pain, cause damage, or have some other pharmacological or sensory activity in the potential predator. Bee venom, unlike many other insect allomones, or chemical defenses, is water soluble, not fat soluble, and must be injected or applied to moist tissues to be active. This water solubility is an advantage as it allows a whole new suite of highly active defensive compounds to be used. Bee venom is composed of a diversity of proteins, peptides, active amines, and other compounds which possess a variety of activities. The main pain-inducing and lethal component appears to be melittin and this component might be responsible for much of the activity of bee venom in apitherapy use.

Mankind has used bee venom primarily for apitherapy to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases, with recent usage for immunotherapy of bee sting allergic patients. The immunotherapy use will not be considered further for further discussion. Apitherapy has been particularly successful with individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and multiple sclerosis, but a variety of other immune disorders including scleroderma and asthma have been treated. The benefit of apitherapy for treatment of arthritis has received some research attention by the medical establishment.

Some of the problems in demonstrating efficacy of bee venom treatments for immune diseases stem from the very nature of immune disorders. Immune disorders are characterized by "flare ups" and remissions that occur unpredictably. In addition, immune disorders are particularly susceptible to treatment placebo effects. These two factors combine to make clinical research trials on immune diseases very difficult and often inconclusive. These same problems also plague medical research concerned with evaluating established treatments. In the cases of arthritis and multiple sclerosis, modern medicine has no cures, it simply treats to suppress symptoms. The established treatments include use of steroids, strong anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, antimalarials, and gold salts - drugs with serious side effects, and that often fail to deliver relief. This frustrating situation led one researcher to comment "rheumatoid arthritis rarely kills the patient; corticosteroids often do". These problems lead this writer to observe that apitherapy has never killed anyone and has negligible side effects. Thus, what valid criticisms can be raised against apitherapy for rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis?

The question arises: how does bee venom work? The answer is not clear, but we have some hints. Bee venom has anti-inflammatory effects, it might well "shock" the immune system which somehow might correct imbalances, it causes pain, and it might stimulate the nervous system which, in turn, can exert influence on the immune system. Bee venom possesses chemical components responsible for these activities: anti-inflammatory action - mast cell degranulating peptide, apamin; "shocks" immune system - phospholipase A2, hyaluronidase; pain - melittin; stimulates nervous system - melittin, apamin, mast cell degranulating peptide. Overall, bee venom appears to have the chemical properties to affect the immune system and immune disorders, and apitherapy has been shown to work in many cases - so all that is needed is a clearer understanding of how apitherapy works and to convince mainstream practitioners to use apitherapy.

  Bee venom therapy uses live local bees to inject the beneficial compounds directly under the skin.  The bee stinger is the perfect length to penetrate an adequate layer of skin without going too deepy.  Bee venom is applied to chronic pain areas as well as acupuncture points.  People with allergic reactions to bees or bee stings should not attempt this type of therapy.   
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