Treatment of Lyme Disease in Humans Using Bee Sting Therapy
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE OR INJURY.
Bee venom therapy is a somewhat controversial therapy as far as conventional medicine is concerned, but to a whole group of people who have recovered from Lyme disease, this is the medicine that ultimately heals them. In the community of individuals with Lyme disease, bee venom therapy (which is sometimes abbreviated at BVT and sometimes referred to as “apitherapy”) is more well known as a potential cure. And, though bee venom has been shunned by conventional medicine, there are still scientific studies into this therapy’s efficacy in treating not only Lyme disease, but also:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Candida albicans infection
- Brain injury and subsequent symptoms
- Chronic inflammation and chronic inflammatory diseases
- Infertility (specifically, it has been studied in regard to idiopathic premature ovarian failure in women)
- Mast cell disorders
- Parasite infection (such as amoebas, flukes, and dysentery)
- Cancer (specifically colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma, among others)
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Histamine intolerance
- Keloids (dissolves scar tissue)
- Joint disease
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Infectious spondylitis
- Topical ulcers
- Chronic pain
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- And more…
Bee venom therapy, also known as apitherapy, is most often administered using live honey bees of the Apis mellifera variety. Apitherapy has been used since ancient times in Egypt, Greece, and China, and continues to be an important therapy in many countries and medicine traditions. Melittin, a peptide consisting of 26 different amino acids, is the primary constituent in bee venom that is responsible for producing not only pain at the site of the sting, but also the therapeutic effects of apitherapy. This component has been found to inhibit phospholipase enzyme activity, thereby decreasing inflammation, and also to inhibit neutrophil superoxide, a type of ROS. Bee venom has also been noted for its ability to stimulate the immune system and encourage the release of cortisol (melittin and apamin both stimulate cortisol release and ultimately lead to a decrease in inflammation).
Adolapin, another peptide present in bee venom, reduces inflammation and prevents pain by blocking cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that is also blocked by pharmaceutical painkillers like NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, diclofenac, etc). This component of bee venom is also partly responsible for the drop in blood pressure observed after administering a bee sting.
Other potentially therapeutic compounds present in bee venom include the sulfur-rich amino acids methionine and cysteine, some minerals, hyaluronidase (which breaks down biofilm), formic acid, hydrochloric acid, ortho-phosphoric acid, and other volatile organic acids.
In regard to Lyme disease specifically, the melittin in bee venom is particularly toxic to the Borrelia bacteria. It is able to destroy enough of the outer membrane of the Borrelia bacteria (as well as various other bacterias) in order to incite the disintegration of the cell through cell lysis. Biofilm is not a barrier to the melittin, since it’s delivered with hyaluronidase. The hyaluronidase dissolves biofilm, allowing the melittin to access pathogens living under the biofilm. This means that even Borrelia bacteria that have made a hiding place for themselves somewhere in the body are not immune to attack when a person with Lyme disease is treated with bee venom therapy (in contrast with antibiotics, which can’t dissolve or get underneath biofilm).
Most people with Lyme disease who are using or have used bee venom therapy to cure themselves report that it took time for them to be fully cured. On average, many Lyme sufferers reported that full relief from all of their symptoms took 2 years of apitherapy to happen, though for some people this time period was as long as 4 years. This can sound like a long time, but although a FULL recovery may take up to a few years, a majority of bee venom therapy patients with Lyme disease noted that their symptoms reduced after only 6 months of treatment.
How Bee Venom Therapy is Administered
Though some people do self-administer bee venom therapy, we recommend seeking out a specialist who can administer the treatment for you since this is the safest way to receive this therapy. Some acupuncturists, Traditional Chinese Medicine specialists, or Ayurvedic practitioners may also offer apitherapy, while there are also some practitioners that exclusively offer bee venom therapy (perhaps in combination with other bee-related treatments). Some practitioners teach their patients how to administer apitherapy treatments at home on their own. Regardless, patients should be cleared to receive bee venom therapy by a nurse, doctor, or another qualified individual before starting treatments (your apitherapy practitioner can make a recommendation on a practitioner who can provide this clearance).
Acupuncturists may choose to administer bee stings on specific acupuncture points that are specific to a patient’s condition in order to strengthen the efficacy of an acupuncture treatment. Studies have previously demonstrated that administering bee venom in this way does improve the therapeutic effects of an acupuncture treatment, and that administering the bee venom to acupuncture points may actually prove MORE effective than administering the venom to points unrelated to acupuncture points.
Bee venom therapy sessions may be given 3 times per week for the treatment of Lyme disease and may involve only a few stings at a time, or up to 10 stings per session. The stings do, of course, sting, but most patients report that the pain of the sting lessens over time, particularly when the treatment is combined with the appropriate dietary and environmental health principles (this also supports healing in general). Approximately 140-150mcg (micrograms) of bee venom is delivered per sting.
Apitherapy Safety Precautions, Side Effects, and Contraindications
The vast majority of people won’t experience any severe reactions to bee venom therapy, however approximately 1% of the population will experience anaphylactic shock when stung by a bee, so it’s important for your apitherapist to be prepared for this. Besides this, many people who regularly use bee venom therapy report that though they may not have experienced any kind of negative side effect from the treatment for years, suddenly they have a reaction. For this reason, I think it’s important to include this section.
Below are some important safety precautions to keep in mind whenever you administer/receive bee venom therapy (note that the risk of having a reaction actually can increase, not decrease, with the more “doses” of bee venom you receive):
- Have an emergency “sting kit” on hand that contains:
- A syringe
- At least 1 dose of epinephrine
- Antihistamine tablets
- Have an emergency “sting kit” on hand that contains:
- If your practitioner doesn’t do this already, request that they give you a “test sting” to check how and if you react to the bee venom. This should involve administering one sting of venom somewhere far from the vital organs (such as on the knee), and then removing the stinger after 10 seconds and waiting for 15-20 minutes to see if any allergic reaction develops. If nothing happens, the therapy session may continue as normal.
- **Even if you have a reaction to bee venom, you may still be able to receive apitherapy, but you will first have to be desensitized to the venom (the desensitization process should be guided by a knowledgeable professional who has experience with this)
- Remember these signs of a severe reaction:
- Skin hives
- Swelling around the eyes, throat, lips, and tongue
- Slurring of speech
- Mental confusion
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Other less serious side effects (that are relatively normal and not a cause for concern in most cases) that a person may experience following bee venom therapy include these:
- Pain and burning at the sting site
- Redness/mild swelling at the sting site that lasts for a few days following the sting
- Itching near the sting site
- Large amounts of swelling (angioedema) around the sting site
- Minor respiratory symptoms
- Gastrointestinal discomfort, including abdominal cramps
- Feelings of fear that don’t seem to be related to anything in particular
- Allergic rhinitis
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Generalized itching of the skin
People who shouldn’t receive apitherapy include the following:
- Women who are pregnant
- Those with a known bee venom allergy
- People chronically taking any of the following types of medications:
- Beta blockers
- ACE inhibitors
- Steroid drugs
- People with certain heart conditions or blood clotting conditions
- Those with untreated thyroid disorders, digestive disorders, or autoimmune conditions
- People who live in an environment with a lot of mold
Interesting Caveats on Apitherapy
Experts in apitherapy have noted that one way to overcome a hypersensitivity reaction to a bee sting or to bee sting therapy is to get drunk. I know this sounds strange, but this fact has saved people’s lives! So we wanted to note this information here. Alcohol breaks down the bee venom in such a way that it neutralizes any negative anaphylactic shock-type events that may occur. On the other hand though, drinking alcohol prior to or after treatment can also neutralize the medicinal effects of apitherapy such that the treatment doesn’t work as well as it should.
Bee Venom Therapy Bootcamp for Lyme Disease Sufferers
A place called The Heal Hive has been featured in a variety of places for offering a Bee Venom Therapy Bootcamp where patients can go to learn more about how to cure Lyme disease using bee venom therapy.
Mohamed Ali, Mahmoud Abdu Al-Samie (2012). Studies on Bee Venom and Its Medicinal Uses. Retrieved July 16, 2022 from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258650193_Studies_on_Bee_Venom_and_Its_Medical_Uses
Socarras, Kayla M., et. al. (2017). Antimicrobial Activity of Bee Venom and Melittin Against Borrelia burgdorferi. Retrieved July 17, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745474/
N.A. (2020). The Heal Hive Guide to Bee Venom Therapy. Retrieved July 17, 2022 from: https://thehealhive.com/freeguide