The Lowdown on Bee Sting Therapy

Close-up of honey bee
Bee Sting Therapy. Don Farrall / Getty Images

Bee sting therapy is a type of alternative therapy that involves administering bee stings at specific points on the body. Also known as bee venom therapy and apitherapy, bee sting therapy is said to aid in the treatment of various health conditions.

In some cases, bee sting therapy involves injecting bee venom (rather than using live bees).

How Does Bee Sting Therapy Work?

According to proponents of bee sting therapy, bee venom contains compounds with anti-inflammatory effects.

By reducing inflammation, these compounds are said to promote healing and alleviate pain. One of the bee-venom compounds found to possess anti-inflammatory properties is called melittin.

Uses for Bee Sting Therapy

In alternative medicine, bee sting therapy is touted for the following health problems:

Benefits of Bee Sting Therapy

So far, studies on the health effects of bee sting therapy have yielded mixed results. While some research suggests that bee sting therapy may help treat certain health conditions, other research indicates that the therapy may be of little benefit. Here's a look at some key study findings:

1) Arthritis 

Bee sting therapy may aid in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study published in the Chinese journal Acupuncture Research in 2008. For the study, 100 people with rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to treatment with either a combination of bee sting therapy and standard medication or medication alone.

After three months of treatment, both groups showed significant improvement in a number of symptoms, including joint swelling, stiffness, and pain. In addition, those assigned to bee sting therapy appeared to have a lower rate of relapse compared to those only given medication.

2) Multiple Sclerosis 

Bee sting therapy may not be beneficial for people with multiple sclerosis, suggests a small study published in Neurology in 2005. The study involved 26 patients with multiple sclerosis, each of whom was given bee sting therapy or no treatment for 24 weeks. At the end of the study period, researchers found no difference in disease activity, disability, fatigue, or quality of life between the two groups. Bee sting therapy also failed to reduce relapse rate.


Some patients may experience severe allergic reactions to bee stings. In some cases, bee sting therapy can trigger anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening. Given these safety concerns, it's crucial for anyone with a bee-sting allergy to avoid this treatment.

Bee sting therapy is also known to cause pain, as well as such side effects as anxiety, dizziness, insomnia, changes in blood pressure, and heart palpitations.

In addition, there's some concern that bee sting therapy may interfere with immune function. In a 2009 report published in the Korean Journal of Internal Medicine, for instance, researchers suggest that bee sting therapy may contribute to the development of lupus (an autoimmune disorder).

Furthermore, a 2011 report from the World Journal of Hepatology warns that bee sting therapy may be toxic to the liver.

Other Forms of Bee Therapy

Several other types of bee products may enhance your health. For example, studies show that honey may fight coughs in people suffering from the common cold. In addition, preliminary research indicates that bee pollen may aid in the treatment of seasonal allergies, while propolis may help cold sores heal.

Using Bee Sting Therapy

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend bee sting therapy as a treatment for any condition. If you're considering using bee sting therapy (or any other bee product) in the treatment of ​a condition, make sure to consult your physician before beginning treatment. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Alqutub AN, Masoodi I, Alsayari K, Alomair A. "Bee sting therapy-induced hepatotoxicity: A case report." World J Hepatol. 2011 Oct 27;3(10):268-70.

Lee JY, Kang SS, Kim JH, Bae CS, Choi SH. "Inhibitory effect of whole bee venom in adjuvant-induced arthritis." In Vivo. 2005 Jul-Aug;19(4):801-5.

Liu XD, Zhang JL, Zheng HG, Liu FY, Chen Y. "Clinical randomized study of bee-sting therapy for rheumatoid arthritis." Zhen Ci Yan Jiu. 2008 Jun;33(3):197-200.

Rho YH, Woo JH, Choi SJ, Lee YH, Ji JD, Song GG. "A new onset of systemic lupus erythematosus developed after bee venom therapy." Korean J Intern Med. 2009 Sep;24(3):283-5.

Wesselius T, Heersema DJ, Mostert JP, Heerings M, Admiraal-Behloul F, Talebian A, van Buchem MA, De Keyser J. "A randomized crossover study of bee sting therapy for multiple sclerosis." Neurology. 2005 Dec 13;65(11):1764-8.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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