Bee Venom Therapy: What It Is, Benefits, Safety, Side Effects & Drug Interactions

bee on a human skin close up
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Many people feel a mix of fear and curiosity with bees. But did you know some folks are turning to bee venom therapy for potential health benefits? Is this buzzy trend truly helpful, or could it be risky?

An expert in natural medicine offers some answers and discusses what bee venom therapy entails, its supposed health advantages, possible side effects, interactions with medications, and most importantly, whether it's a safe choice.

What is bee venom therapy?

This therapy introduces bee venom into the body through manual injection or bee stings. An article from the journal Molecules notes bee venom is finding its way into treating various human illnesses.

Packed within the venom are potent elements like peptides and enzymes, which are believed to combat inflammation and central nervous system disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Bee venom also shows potential benefits against diverse cancer types and boasts antiviral properties, even for helping counter the formidable human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Potential health benefits of bee venom therapy

Although many people fear bee stings, their venom can provide various health benefits, according to Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, an internationally recognized expert and educator in integrative medicine and herbal medicine and in women’s health.

“Bee venom is believed to reduce pain and inflammation, especially with arthritis," said Low Dog, who practices in Pecos, N.M.

She noted that beekeepers talk about how often they get stung.

"They commonly mention that they experience less pain and inflammation," Low Dog said. "That’s why so many people are talking about the potential benefits of bee venom.”

The venom is made in a tiny gland in the bee's abdomen. When a bee stings a mammal, the bee dies because it can't retract its stinger, Low Dog said. The bee tries to pull away and the stinger and part of their abdomen are torn from their bodies. They die of abdominal collapse.

Safety of bee venom therapy

Bee venom therapy is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States.

“While many specialists in Europe have the proper training and controls in place in Europe, that is not the case here,” Low Dog said.

That said, some U.S. practitioners may use bee venom therapy experimentally to help control pain and inflammation related to arthritis and other health concerns.

Low Dog advised that those considering bee venom therapy consult with an allergist first for allergy testing.

Though an article from indicates that only a small proportion of the adult population (3%) and children (about 0.5%) are allergic to bee stings and at risk of possible systemic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, "it’s essential to know if you could have an allergic reaction,” Low Dog said.

Side effects of bee venom therapy

“The most common side effects of bee venom therapy include redness and swelling at the site,” Low Dog said. “An enzyme called melanin is what tends to cause pain. Patients can use ice or ibuprofen to relieve discomfort. Even people that see the benefits of bee venom therapy complain of redness and swelling, so this is usual.”

Though bee venom therapy is likely safe when injected into the skin by a trained professional, there are other potential side effects besides the risk of an allergic reaction. They include:

  • Itching

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest tightness

  • Heart palpitations

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Sleepiness or fainting episodes

  • Low blood pressure

  • Anxiety or confusion

Low Dog advises allergy testing due to the potential for allergic reactions. Common side effects include redness and swelling.

Given the experimental nature of bee venom treatment and limited research, careful consideration is wise. Safer alternatives like acupuncture and other treatments for arthritis deserve exploration, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Potential drug interactions of bee venom therapy

Low Dog said she was not aware of any drug interactions, but she offered a caveat.

“It is important to remember that much of the research on bee venom therapy has been experimental," Low Dog said. "It’s not a common therapy. However, a potential immune response could be a problem for you if you take an immunosuppressant.”

Dosage for bee venom therapy

Many articles about bee venom therapy found online discuss a process that allows bees to sting you directly to deliver their venom. However, this practice is now considered outdated.

“Now, we can extract bee venom without killing the bees," Low Dog said. "The venom can be administered with an injection or with an acupuncture needle. The acupuncture points are used for the delivery.”

For this reason and insufficient research, there are no clear dosage recommendations for bee venom therapy.

What a doctor says

“Medically, bee venom therapy is a very experimental approach,” said Low Dog. “And bee venom is not FDA-approved for anything besides desensitizing you from allergic reactions. This is something done by an allergist."

There's little research to go on, she pointed out. Do allergy testing first, especially if you have never had a bee sting before.

Bottom line

While bee venom's potential health benefits are intriguing, safety must be a top priority. Research highlights its promise in treating various conditions, yet FDA approval is nonexistent.

SOURCE: Tieraona Low Dog, MD, Integrative Medicine Concepts, Pecos, N.M.


Molecules: Bee Venom: Overview of Main Compounds and Bioactivities for Therapeutic Interests

HealthDay: 1 Billion People Worldwide Will Suffer From Arthritis by 2050

Johns Hopkins Medicine: Arthritis Inviting Bees to Your Property, No Fear of Stings

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