When ancient Greeks suffered arthritis and other joint problems, they took to bees to sting them with their venom. We know treating illnesses using bee products, which also includes honey and pollen, today as apitherapy. The practice dates back to the time of Hippocrates who himself used and advocated the method. Found in bee venom is a protein called melittin, which has proven anti-inflammatory properties but remains under scrutiny for other claimed effects, such as fatigue prevention and multiple sclerosis management.
Despite its continued use, bee venom therapy is not approved by the FDA, not only for its mostly unverified benefits but especially for its risks. According to a 2015 South Korean study, bee venom may cause not only skin irritation but also anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock causes a person’s airways to narrow and makes breathing partially or completely impossible. While rarely used in the U.S., this type of apitherapy is still relatively common in Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America. In modern apitherapy, doctors inject bee venom using a hypodermic needle. The natural method involves exposing the patient to bees until they are stung.