Bee venom therapy has been used for thousands of years. It was used when people noticed that bee keepers, who were stung often, were less likely to develop arthritis, joint and muscle issues. The venom of many animals has proven to be therapeutic when processed. In a similar way bee venom has proven to have some compounds with interesting properties for us.
Bee venom has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptosis, anti-fibrosis and anti-atherosclerosis effects. Some of its components are, peptides including melittin, apamin, adolapin, apamin. Most of those when studies individually have shown that they can have great properties. Some are even toxic to cancer cells.
The way the venom is injected can be in the form of a needle that contains it in a controlled dosage and composition or with a direct bee sting. The second method though, while being the traditional one, can have side effects including allergic reaction.
The mechanism of action involves mainly inflammatory pathways and the immune system, thus this therapy is helpful for the diseases mentioned above. Those diseases are caused by increased inflammation and imbalance in the immune responses. It significantly reduces inflammation and it works like resetting the immune system lowering related cytokines and white blood cells. Even parkinson’s disease can be helped by the effects of bee venom therapy, due to its effects on neurons, having an anti-neurodegenerative effect.
Despite the seemingly amazing effects there have been side effects reported in about a third of the studies on bee venom. Some include immunological systemic reactions, local reactions, allergy, skin problems and nonspecific reactions. Which shows that bee venom compounds do affect such pathways but sometimes the effect isn’t the one desired in the specific condition. I guess personalized medicine could help in this case, determining when and how such a therapy is desirable.
I honestly didn’t expect to find such results for this therapy after a friend mentioned it to me. But it is indeed very interesting and i will be posting more about it once i do some more research on the individual compounds involved.
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Image: By Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org – http://www.insectimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5196086, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11546921