“What I learned in 18 months of stinging myself with bees.”
People have been stinging themselves with bees for purposes of health since time immemorial. Therapeutic bee stings were used in the times of Galen and Hippocrates. The use of honey, pollen and royal jelly goes back even further, to ancient Egypt. This practic is known, collectively, as apitherapy.
The practice is primarily DIY, with books, articles and videos readily available over the internet. Recent rising interest has been further flamed by anecdotes of its efficacy in treating Lyme disease, which is increasing across the country as the host ticks expand their range.
The recent death of one woman in Spain who was receiving the treatment through a clinic has also fanned flames of doubt. How safe is bee sting therapy (also called bee venom therapy)? Does it really have redeeming value?
We spoke with a friend of CATALYST (who chooses to remain anonymous) who did DIY bee sting therapy for 18 months. Here’s what she had to say:
CATALYST: What is bee sting therapy?
Bee sting therapy, or bee venom therapy (BVT), is just what it sounds like. You sting yourself with live bees, or someone else stings you, or you can get bee venom injections from a clinic. Generally the stings are administered following a protocol and hit pain points like joints or near the spine, or various acupuncture points.
Who does it and why?
Historically, it’s been used with great success for joint pain and arthritis, stuff like that. I can attest that it works in that capacity, very well for me personally. A big contingent of people presently using BVT have chronic Lyme disease, or fibromyalgia or other mystery “garbage can” diagnoses. They do it because Western medicine has failed them, and they are looking for any way to get healthy. There is promising evidence that BVT works for many people in these situations.
How do you do it?
There is a wealth of information about BVT out there on the Internet, and several Facebook support groups. You need to do your own research and take full responsibility for your own wellbeing. BVT in my experience is largely self-administered because of the liability issues. You can absolutely go into anaphylactic shock from a bee sting, but it’s much rarer than people suppose. Never sting yourself without following a protocol, and you must have an Epi-Pen or other emergency adrenaline shot available. That’s why that woman died in Spain—the clinic where she went didn’t have an adrenaline shot, and she went into shock and had a stroke while waiting for an ambulance.
Why is it supposed to work?
My theory is that it revs up your immune and endocrine systems and spurs your body to do a gigantic cleaning out of cryptic pathogens. More research is needed. But big pharma obviously isn’t too motivated to put money into studies, since bee venom isn’t terribly patentable.
What was your personal experience?
A friend started a BVT protocol for chronic Lyme, and was having good results. I was suffering from chronic fatigue / fibromyalgia-type symptoms for several years, and was at the end of my rope after Western medicine could only offer me pain meds and antidepressants. My friend completely recovered from Lyme.
I was on a protocol of 10 bee stings, every other day. I’m still working through some issues but I felt better on BVT than I had in years before that. I gained a bunch of weight, though.
Some people do gain weight with BVT—it can stimulate the appetite. Some people lose weight. For me, I think it “cut loose” a bunch of stuck stuff, and the weight gain was part of the reaction to that. Everyone who does BVT has a different reaction depending on their individual metabolism. It makes you learn a lot about your body, for sure. But it’s not for everyone, and definitely not for the faint of heart.
Where do you get the bees from?
You can get them for about ten cents a bee in the mail (Google “apitherapy bees” for suppliers), from local beekeepers who might be friendly to your cause, or you can get them off the flowers in your garden during the summer months. BVT shots are available at some clinics but will cost you $50 or more per shot, and in my experience are actually more painful than the live stings.