Apis mellifera, Apis Venenum Purum, Apitoxin, Apitoxine, Bald-faced Hornet, Bee Sting Venom, Bombus terrestis, Bumblebee Venom, Frelon à Face Blanche, Frelon Jaune, Guêpe à Taches Blanches, Honeybee Venom, Mixed Vespids, Pure Bee Venom, Veneno de Abeja, Venin d'Abeille, Venin d'Abeille Mellifère, Venin d'Abeille Pure, Venin de Bourdon, Venin de Guêpe, Vespula maculata, Wasp Venom, White-Faced Hornet, Yellow Hornet, Yellow-Jacket Venom.
Bee venom is made by bees. This is the poison that makes bee stings painful. Bee venom is used to make medicine. Don't confuse bee venom with bee pollen, honey, or royal jelly. Other venoms are derived from related members of the insect order Hymenoptera.
Bee venom is given as a shot for rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain (neuralgia), multiple sclerosis (MS), reducing the reaction to bee stings in people who are allergic (desensitization) to them (venom immunotherapy), swollen tendons (tendonitis), and muscle conditions such as fibromyositis and enthesitis.
How does it work?
Giving repeated and controlled injections of bee venom under the skin causes the immune system to get used to bee venom, and helps reduce the severity of an allergy to bee venom.
Likely Effective for...
- Reducing the severity of allergic reactions to bee stings. A series of bee venom shots under the skin (bee venom immunotherapy) seems to be effective for reducing reactions to bee stings in people with severe allergy to bee stings. Bee venom immunotherapy provides 98% to 99% protection from reactions to bee stings. Once immunotherapy is stopped, the risk of reaction over the next 5 to 10 years is about 5% to 15%. Purified bee venom for under-the-skin injection is an FDA approved product.
Possibly Ineffective for...
- Arthritis. People used to think that bee venom might be a useful treatment for arthritis. This theory was largely due to supposed swelling-reducing (anti-inflammatory) effects of bee venom and the observation that many beekeepers don't develop arthritis. However, research results have not supported this.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS). Administering live bee stings in gradually increasing doses up to 20 stings given three times weekly does not seem to improve multiples sclerosis. Treatment for 24 weeks does not seem to improve fatigue, disability, or quality of life.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Nerve pain.
- Painful, swollen tendons (tendonitis).
- Muscle swelling (inflammation).
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Bee venom is safe for most people when injected under the skin by a trained medical professional. Some people might get redness and swelling where the injection is given. Side effects include itching, anxiety, trouble breathing, chest tightness, heart palpitations, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sleepiness, confusion, fainting, and low blood pressure.
Side effects are more common in people with the worst allergies to bee stings, in people treated with honeybee venom, and in women.
Live bee stings have been safely administered under medical supervision in doses up to 20 bee stings three times weekly for up to 24 weeks.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: Bee venom might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it's best to avoid using bee venom.
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.
Bee venom might increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system, bee venom might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For reducing the severity of allergic reactions to bee stings: Healthcare providers give bee venom as a shot (by injection) to "desensitize" people who are allergic to bee stings. Purified bee venom for under-the-skin injection is an FDA approved product.
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Birnbaum J, Charpin D, Vervloet D. Rapid hymenoptera venom immunotherapy: comparative safety of three protocols. Clin Exp Allergy 1993;23:226-30. View abstract.
Bomalaski JS, Ford T, Hudson AP, Clark MA. Phospholipase A2-activating protein induces the synthesis of IL-1 and TNF in human monocytes. J Immunol 1995;154:4027-31. View abstract.
Bousquet J, Muller UR, Dreboro S, et al. Immunotherapy with hymenoptera venoms. Allergy 1987;42:401-13. View abstract.
Caldwell JR. Venoms, copper, and zinc in the treatment of arthritis. Rheum Dis Clin North Am 1999;25:919-28. View abstract.
Cuende E, Fraguas J, Pena JE, et al. Beekeepers' arthropathy. J Rheumatol 1999;26:2684-90. View abstract.
de Jong NW, Vermeulen AM, de Groot H. Allergy to bumblebee venom. III. Immunotherapy follow-up study (safety and efficacy) in patients with occupational bumblebee-venom anaphylaxis. Allergy 1999;54:980-4. View abstract.
Ewan PW. ABC of allergies. Venom allergy. BMJ 1998;316:1365-8. View abstract.
Gennari C, Agnusdei D, Crepaldi G, et al. Effect of ipriflavone-a synthetic derivative of natural isoflavones-on bone mass loss in the early years after menopause. Menopause 1998;5:9-15. View abstract.
Golden DB, Kagey-Sobotka A, Lichtenstein LM. Survey of patients after discontinuing venom immunotherapy. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2000;105(2 Pt 1):385-90. View abstract.
Hebel SK, ed. Drug Facts and Comparisons. 52nd ed. St. Louis: Facts and Comparisons, 1998.
Hider RC. Honeybee venom: A rich source of pharmacologically active peptides. Endeavour 1988;12:60-5.. View abstract.
Hollister-Stier Laboratories LLC. Instructions and dosing schedule for allergenic extracts hymenoptera venom prodcts. No. 355120-HD1.
Li JT, Yunginger JW. Management of insect sting hypersensitivity. Mayo Clin Proc 1992;67:188-94. View abstract.
Mosbech H, Muller U. Side-effects of insect venom immunotherapy: results from an EAACI multicenter study. Allergy 2000;55:1005-10. View abstract.
Petroianu G, Liu J, Helfrich U, et al. Phosholipase A2-induced coagulation abnormalities after bee sting. Am J Emerg Med 2000;18:22-7. View abstract.
Somerfield SD. Bee venom and arthritis: magic, myth, or medicine? N Z Med J 1986;99:281-3.. View abstract.
Subbalakshmi C, Nagaraj R, Sitaram N. Biological activities of C-terminal 15-residue synthetic fragment of melittin: design of an analog with improved antibacterial activity. FEBS Lett 1999;448:62-6. View abstract.
Vick JA, Mehlman B, Brooks R, et al. Effect of bee venom and melittin on plasma cortisol in the unanesthetized monkey. Toxicon 1972;10:581-6.
Vick JA, Shipman WH. Effects of whole bee venom and its fractions (apamin and melittin) of plasma cortisol levels in the dog. Toxicon 1972;10:377-80.
Wesselius T, Heersema DJ, Mostert JP, et al. A randomized crossover study of bee sting therapy for multiple sclerosis. Neurology 2005;65:1764-8. View abstract.