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Honeybee venom is produced by two glands associated with the sting apparatus of worker bees. Its production increases during the first two weeks of the adult worker's life and reaches a maximum when the worker bee becomes involved in hive defense and foraging. It diminishes as the bee gets older. The queen bee's production of venom is highest on emergence, probably because it must be prepared for immediate battles with other queens.

Used in small doses however, bee venom can be of benefit in treating a large number of ailments. This therapeutic value was already known to many ancient civilizations. Today, the only uses of bee venom are in human and veterinary medicine.

Physical characteristics of bee venom

Honeybee venom is a clear, odorless, watery liquid. When coming into contact with mucous membranes or eyes, it causes considerable burning and irritation. Dried venom takes on a light yellow color and some commercial preparations are brown, thought to be due to oxidation of some of the venom proteins. Venom contains a number of very volatile compounds which are easily lost during collection.

The physiological effects of venom

Bee venom has long been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of various kinds of rheumatism. Although venoms of the different honeybee species differ slightly, there have been reports of successful rheumatism treatment with Apis dorsata venom by Sharma and Singh (1983) and with A. cerana venom by Krell (1992, unpublished).

Most of the reports of cures are of individual cases, though several unrelated patients have experienced the improvement or cure of similar ailments. Bee venom treatments are often accompanied by changes in life style, nutrition or other which may account for part, if not most of the benefits from treatments. Reported clinical tests were often conducted in countries with less rigorous methods than the standard Western, double-blind placebo tests. Despite these considerations, many patients did report positive results and many of the successful treatments occurred after established medical or surgical procedures had failed. However, there is a very real resistance in Western medical circles either to accept these results or to test bee venom treatments according to Western medical standards.

The diseases and problems which have been reported by patients or doctors as improved or healed with bee venom therapy are listed below. This does not constituent an endorsement or recommendation for the treatments. Stinging should never be tried unless there is immediate access to emergency treatment in case of an allergic reaction.

List of diseases and health problems improved or healed according to anecdotal reports: Arthritis, many typesa, Epilepsya, Mastisa, Chronic pain, Decreases blood viscosity and coagulability , Neruoses, Therosclerosisd, Infectious spondylitise, Infect. Polyarthritise, Myositisf, Thrombophiletritisf, Iritisg, Animals, Arthritis, Multiple sclerosisa, Bursitisa Some types of cancera, Migraine, Dilates capillaries and arteries, Rhinosinusitisc, Polyneuritise, Neuralgiae, Malariae, Tropical ulcersf, Cancer, temporary, Iridocytis, Premenstrual syndrome, Ligament injuries, Sore thr.3oat, General immuno-stimulant, Decreases blood, cholesterol level, Endoarteriosis, Radicultitise, Endoarthritise, Intercostal myalgia, Slowly healing wounds, Keratoconjunctivitis, Asthmah.

The use of venom today

No uses for venom, other than medical ones are known to the author. The only legally accepted medical use of bee venom in Western European and North American countries is for desensitizing people who are hypersensitive (allergic) to bee venom. Since the early 1980's, pure bee venom has been used for desensitization. The use of whole body extracts has been largely discontinued after a double-blind test proved the higher efficiency of pure venom (Hunt et al., 1978). In Eastern Europe and in many Asian countries bee venom has been used in official medical treatment of a large variety of ailments for a considerable length of time.

The use of pure venom injections and well placed bee stings is increasing in Western countries as an alternative to heavy (and sometimes ineffective) drug use, which is often associated with numerous side-effects. This is particularly so for arthritis and other rheumatoid inflammations.

Since bee venom has both a local and a systemic effect, correct placement of injections, or stings and the dosage are very important. Therefore, bee venom therapy must be properly learned. Still, relief of some ailments can be obtained by simply applying a sting or two to the affected area, i.e. to some painful, immobile arthritic joints.

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