Perhaps you caught the little ditty on the news last week about thousands of honey bees trapping customers and employees in a store in downtown New York City. Petrified of being stung, the hostages pressed their faces to the windows watching intently as a passerby managed to lure most of the bees into a cardboard box.
However, had you been Kathy Oliver – a 30-year-old, formerly wheel chair bound victim of multiple sclerosis – you may have walked unafraid into the midst of the swarm.
Oliver, who is blind in one eye and had suffered horrible pain in her hands, is a believer and advocate of bee therapy also known as apitherapy.
One Sunday night, she and her husband were watching TV when Tulsa, Oklahoma honeybee therapist, Jim Lloyd demonstrated bee-stinging therapy as a remedy for MS. She and her husband were in Lloyd’s office the following Friday for her first “stinging.”
Oliver says much of her pain was gone after that first session. They bought a honeybee hive and during the next 10 months she was stung 2,000 times.
She is now walking and pain free and her CT Scan no longer shows lesions on her brain.
If you’ve ever bee stung by a bee, you’ve already experienced bee-venom therapy. The only difference between the sting you got and the therapeutic kind is that yours was probably accidental.
People who use bee venom for medicinal purposes don’t wait around for random bee attacks. Using long tweezers, they pick up live honeybees and put the bees next to their skin letting them do what comes naturally.
For those of us who have been stung, a single encounter with a bee was enough. People undergoing apitherapy, however, may get stung eighty times a day or more.
Why would anyone do this? Because bee stings are thought to help ease the symptoms of a wide variety of disorders, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, tendonitis, fibromyalgia, lupus, shingles, gout, bursitis, low-back pain and premenstrual syndrome.
These aren’t the claims of beekeepers looking to make a buck. They’re testimonials made by patients whose experience with bee venom has made them believers.
This is hardly a new therapy. Hippocrates recorded the benefits of apitherapy for arthritis pain back in 130AD and it enjoys widespread support in China and Europe today.
Like many alternative remedies, there seems to be little empirical evidence to suggest the mechanism by which bee venom has therapeutic value. The actual healing process is still a mystery
However, there have been studies that have demonstrated the existence of compounds in bee venom with important pharmacological properties. Among the most important is Peptide-401, which one research study claims is 100 times more effective as an anti-inflammatory agent the hydrocortisone.
Another compound identified is Mellitin, which forms the bulk of the honeybee venom. Numerous studies have shown that Mellitin inhibits the formation of free radicals that are believed to contribute to joint damage.
You don’t have to be stung to get bee venom. It is available by injection, tablets, capsules, liquid, gels, salves and creams.
Is bee-venom therapy dangerous? Approximately 2 percent of the population is allergic to stings from bees and wasps.
A person having a severe reaction may develop hives, as well as swelling around the eyes, lips, throat and tongue. Vomiting, mental confusion, difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness are signs of anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.
For more information on bee therapy, check out the American Apitherapy Society’s website at apitherapy.org.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437 or by email at email@example.com.