Bee Sting Therapy: Health Benefits + Side Effects

Bee sting therapy is a treatment traditionally used in Asian countries that is gaining popularity among alternative practitioners worldwide. Proponents claim that it helps with chronic pain, inflammatory conditions, Parkinson’s, and even cancer. But are its purported benefits backed by science? And what are its main risks? Read below to find out.

What Is Bee Sting Therapy?

Live bee sting therapy, also known as Bong-Chim or bee venom therapy, is a traditional therapy with bee venom originated in Greece and China and popularly used in several Asian countries, especially Korea, for a variety of conditions. More recently, this therapy has experienced a surge in popularity among alternative practitioners worldwide [1, 2].

Bee sting therapy consists of directly injecting the sting from a live bee placed on the skin and intentionally leaving the venom sac in the tissue for therapeutic purposes. Alternatively, the term ‘bee venom therapy’ is more commonly employed when the venom is injected with a syringe [1].

In both cases, the venom can be administered systemically or in the form of chemical stimulation of acupoints, so-called “bee venom acupuncture” or “apipuncture” [2].

Although the evidence to support these uses is generally insufficient due to the lack of well-controlled clinical trials, proponents claim it can be used for many conditions, including [3, 1, 2]:

Bee venom is also routinely used in venom immunotherapy, which consists of exposing allergic people to gradually higher doses of the venom with the intention of altering the immune response and reducing allergic symptoms in case of a bee sting [4].

Components of Bee Venom

Bee venom, also known as apitoxin, is a bitter, colorless liquid mainly composed of proteins that causes inflammation and is used by bees for defensive purposes [5].

The venom contains many active components, including [2]:

Of these, the peptide melittin makes up approximately 50% of bee venom. This substance is responsible for many of its potential therapeutic effects since it had antibacterial, antiviral, and anticancer activities in cell-based studies [2, 6, 7].

Although melittin causes itching, pain, and inflammation when delivered at high doses (such as when being stung by a bee), smaller