Apitherapy is a type of alternative therapy that uses products that come directly from honeybees. It’s used to treat illnesses and their symptoms as well as pain from acute and chronic injuries.

Illnesses that apitherapy may treat include:

Injuries that apitherapy can treat include:

During apitherapy treatment, honeybee products may be:

  • applied topically
  • taken orally
  • injected directly into the blood

Apitherapy has been used for thousands of years. It can be traced back to ancient Egypt and China. The Greeks and Romans used bee products for medicinal purposes as well, where bee venom was used to treat joint pain from arthritis.

Bee venom, honey, and other products

Apitherapy can include the usage of all products created naturally from honeybees. This includes:

  • Bee venom. Female worker bees produce bee venom. It can be delivered directly from a bee sting. The bee sting may be administered to the skin through a stainless steel micro mesh. This allows the venom to enter the skin, but prevents the stinger from being attached to the skin, which would kill the bee.
  • Honey. Bees produce this sweet substance. It can also be harvested.
  • Pollen. This is the male reproductive material bees collect from plants. It contains a large number of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Royal jelly. The queen bee feeds on this enzyme-enriched food. It contains a large number of beneficial vitamins.
  • Propolis. This is a combination of beeswax, tree resins, honey, and enzymes made by bees to protect the hive from external threats, like bacteria or viruses. It contains strong antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties as a result.
  • Beeswax. Honeybees create beeswax to build their hive and store both honey and pollen. It’s commonly used in cosmetic products.

Finding products that are as pure and, in some cases, fresh as possible can help get you the best results possible from apitherapy. Taking a vitamin that only contains a small portion of royal jelly, for example, wouldn’t be as effective as taking one with a larger dose of the honeybee product.

It’s also worth noting that local honey can be most beneficial to help you fight allergies.

Benefits and uses of apitherapy

Apitherapy can be used to treat a number of different conditions:

Ease arthritis pain

Bee venom therapy (BVT) has been used since ancient Greece to help relieve pain from rheumatoid arthritis. This is due to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.

has found that BVT can lead to a decrease in swelling, pain, and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. One even found that it can reduce the need for traditional medications to be used, and that it simultaneously reduced the risk of relapse.

Heal wounds

Honey has long been used topically to treat wounds — including both open cuts and burns — thanks to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties. Today’s research backs this up. A found that medical dressings containing honey were effective at helping heal wounds while lowering the risk of infection.

Helps with allergies

Local wildflower honey, as it turns out, can help treat allergies in several ways. Honey can soothe a sore throat caused by allergies and act as a .

Local wildflower honey may also protect people from allergies. This is because local wildflower honey can also contain trace amounts of flower pollen, a known allergen. Consuming local honey could slowly introduce this allergen to the body, potentially building up an immunity to it.

Treat immune and neurologic conditions

BVT can be used as a complementary treatment for diseases tied to both the immune system and the neurologic system, including:

While bee venom shouldn’t be the first or only method of treatment for these conditions, that bee venom was able to boost the immune system and reduce some symptoms of these conditions in the body — partially thanks to bee venom’s anti-inflammatory effects.

It’s important to note that this research also indicates that bee venom can be a double-edged sword. Bee venom can cause side effects in many people, even if they aren’t allergic. Treatment must be considered carefully.

Regulate thyroid function

BVT was to help regulate thyroid function in women who have hyperthyroidism. However, research into BVT as a thyroid treatment is currently very small, and more studies are needed.

Reduce gingivitis and plaque

Propolis can have a number of health benefits. It can reduce gingivitis and plaque when it’s added to a mouth rinse. into propolis-containing mouthwashes found that it may be able to naturally protect against oral diseases. Propolis may even help heal and prevent canker sores as well.

Serve as a multivitamin

Both royal jelly and propolis contain a large number of vitamins and nutrients. They can actually be taken as multivitamins to improve overall health, including hair appearance. Propolis is available as and . Royal jelly can be found in and .

Are there any side effects or potential risks?

Different methods of apitherapy carry different risks. For people allergic to bee products, all methods of apitherapy can be dangerous.

BVT in particular can be dangerous. Bee venom can induce a histamine response. This can cause anything from irritation like swollen, reddened skin to severe allergic reactions that can be life-threatening. BVT can be painful. Even if you aren’t severely allergic to bees, it could still lead you to experience negative side effects. These include:

  • headache
  • cough
  • uterine contractions
  • discoloration of the sclera, or white of the eye
  • jaundice, or yellowing of the skin
  • severe pain in the body
  • muscular weakness

The takeaway

Apitherapy makes uses of a large number of different honeybee products. Some practices of apitherapy will have less risk than others. For example, adding honey to your tea to soothe a sore throat carries less risk than being stung by bees to relieve arthritis pain.

Talk to your doctor to see if apitherapy is right for you. Together, you can make sure it won’t interfere with any other current treatment. If you’re ready to look into apitherapy and your doctor isn’t sure where to go next, look for a naturopath who offers it as a treatment method.

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