Bee Venom: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

As the name implies, bee venom is an ingredient derived from bees. It’s used as a natural treatment for a variety of ailments.

Its proponents claim that it offers a wide range of medicinal properties, ranging from reducing inflammation to treating chronic illnesses. However, research in some of these areas is either lacking or conflicting.

What is bee venom?

It contains both anti-inflammatory and inflammatory compounds, including enzymes, sugars, minerals, and amino acids.

Melittin — a compound that consists of 26 amino acids — comprises about 50% of the dry weight of the venom and has been shown to have antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer effects in some studies.

That said, it’s primarily responsible for the pain associated with bee stings.

Bee venom also contains the peptides apamin and adolapin. Although they act as toxins, they have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Additionally, it contains phospholipase A2, an enzyme and major allergen that causes inflammation and cell damage. Nevertheless, according to some research, the enzyme may also have anti-inflammatory and immunoprotective effects.

Potential benefits

While not all of the purported benefits of bee venom are backed by science, research has shown that it has several powerful medicinal properties.

Has anti-inflammatory properties

One of the most well-documented benefits of bee venom is its powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Many of its components have been shown to reduce inflammation, particularly melittin — its main component.

Although melittin can cause itching, pain, and inflammation when delivered in high doses, it has potent anti-inflammatory effects when used in small amounts.

Melittin has been shown to suppress inflammatory pathways and reduce inflammatory markers, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin 1 beta.

May reduce arthritis-related symptoms

The anti-inflammatory effects of bee venom have been shown to especially benefit those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a painful inflammatory condition that affects your joints.

An 8-week study in 120 people with RA found that bee-venom acupuncture, which employed 5–15 bee stings every other day, provided symptom relief effects that were similar to those of traditional RA medications like Methotrexate and Celecoxib.

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