Bee venom: virtues of a poison

Bee venom is produced by specialized glands in worker bees and the queen. The queen uses her venom to get rid of her rivals at birth. Indeed, when a new queen hatches, there are in fact several royal cells that exist, and at birth, there is a Koh Lanta between the potential future sovereigns resulting in the victory of a single larva that will be destined to be queen. On the other hand, the workers use venom to defend the colony, but when they sting a threat, they lose their lives along with their stinger. This shows that, in case of danger, bees do not apply the other hive's policy! On the other hand, fortunately for her, the queen has a smoother stinger which does not remain attached to her victims (it would be silly if the larvae all killed each other to become queen...).

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How to use bee venom?

Bee venom therapy is not recognized as official medicine despite its effectiveness. In this treatment, the practitioner (often a specialized naturopath), will place several bees on the area to be treated. Each sting then injects 0.1 to 0.5 mg of venom or apitoxin. The number of stings (the dosage) varies from 2 to about 30 per session while the duration of the treatment can be from a single session to a much longer period, at a rate of 2 sessions per week. Note here that the lethal dose of venom is on average about 20 stings per kg of weight for an adult, or about 1,300 stings for a 65 kg subject, so there is little risk of death for the subject. However, everyone is sensitive to bee venom in different ways: the sting can cause a widespread local reaction in 10% of subjects, lasting up to 24-48 hours, and in 1% of cases there can be a generalized but mild reaction. A few cases of severe reactions have been reported, in hypersensitive individuals, related to anaphylactic shock (i.e., a violent allergic reaction), which is why this therapy must be highly controlled and practiced by an experienced therapist.

Also, for better effectiveness, the stings are usually done on acupuncture points, and it is called apipuncture. However, if you have read this guide correctly, you should know that when the bee stings, it leaves its abdomen there and dies. This method was therefore a bit barbaric and sacrificial, so to avoid this fatal outcome, techniques were developed to collect the venom from live bees without killing them. The venom is then placed in syringes that will be used by the therapist, but unfortunately it loses some of its properties in this way.


The composition of bee venom is variable depending on the breed, age and food of the bee. It is 85% water, and the rest is composed of:

  • mellitine (50% of dry weight): this is a peptide responsible in part for the pain associated with the sting
  • enzymes (phosphatases and hyaluronidases) (15% dry weight of the venom): these are powerful allergens whose action is potentiated by mellitine, which is the source of the pain but also of the benefits of the venom
  • amino acids (11-15%).
  • carbohydrates (1% to 2%).
  • apamine (2.5 to 3%): this is a central nervous system neurotoxicant, also anti-inflammatory
  • adolapine (1%), an anti-inflammatory and analgesic
  • Of the phospholipids and cathecolamines.


To understand the properties of bee venom, we must first look at the body's reaction to a sting: in this situation, the reaction can range from simple pain, heat, redness, and swelling, to anaphylactic shock, a very strong allergic reaction that requires emergency care.

In apitherapy, bee venom is voluntarily injected into the area to be treated, seeking its anti-inflammatory and analgesic action, particularly to treat rheumatism. This effect is long lasting over time and proportional to the amount of venom injected. Simply put, mellitine is said to be 100 times more potent an anti-inflammatory than hydrocortisone, and, combined with the other molecules in the venom, it leads to an overall anti-inflammatory action and is more than effective in treating joints. Moreover, the venom is also cardiotonic, immuno-stimulant and anticoagulant!


Classically, bee venom is used in the treatment of articular pain associated with arthritis, tendonitis, rheumatism, neuritis, neuralgia, and in general on all pain of inflammatory origin.

On the other hand, more recently, very extensive studies have shown the interest of bee venom to treat multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system characterized by lesional plaques and nerve disorders. Its effectiveness in this setting seems remarkable and promising, but remains highly controversial...

Beware however, this therapy can be dangerous, and people with allergies are very sensitive. Choose your therapist wisely! Someone who doesn't offer to do an allergy test before starting treatment and who doesn't have epinephrine (the immediate antidote for anaphylactic shock) in their office doesn't seem very serious...