It has been known for a long time thanks to us beekeepers that even a bee sting can sometimes be useful. Because beekeepers have suffered less often than other people from gout or rheumatism, the medical practitioners began to examine the influence of the bee sting on the human organism. Their findings are still surprisingly useful, even at the present time.
The healing effects of bee venom are most visible in gout and rheumatism. Bee venom is also used to heal many other diseases. Ing. Jiří Janča (1924–2005) used bee venom, called also apisin, for example for curing swellings, inflammations and even cysts. He wrote about his healing methods in his more than ten bestselling books.
In 2014, agencies also reported on a completely new apitherapy, with which multiple sclerosis was treated in Romania. Romania was the first EU country to recognize apitherapy as part of scientific medicine and included it in the regular medical education.
On our server we call the bee venom apisin. However, it is also known under the name apitoxin. Bee venom is a colorless, bitter liquid which quickly crystallizes in the air. The bees use it in their sting as their most powerful weapon.
We say deliberately „stings“, because, contrary to popular opinion, the bee does not always sting and die. The sting has little hooks that keep it in the skin. They cause the bee a fatal injury. But when the bee stings something soft, for example a wasp that tries to get into the hive, it does not lose its sting and survives the battle without consequences.
It is a paradox that only the female bees have a sting, while the males, the drones, have none. The queen bee has a sting, but it uses it only in a fight with a rival.
How we get bee venom?
The bee sting does have a certain resistance to possible injury. When collecting bee venom, the sting is treated so gently that the bee is not injured. The bees crawl over a glass plate covered with a plastic film. Between the glass and the film is a thin wire loaded with electric current. The bees are stimulated by the current and trying to fight with their sting. A drop of the poison remains on the film and the bees can easily pull out their sting again.
What contains the bee venom?
Even bee venom matures and changes its consistence with time and owing to the influence of air, similar to royal jelly. Therefore, it is not easy to determine its exact composition. It contains mostly melitin (which damages the blood cells), apamin, which affects the nervous system, and phospholipase, which causes hemolysis – the membrane of the blood cells is damaged and the blood cells die.
All the components of apisin reinforce each other in a so-called synergy. They influence the nervous system and cause rapid paralysis. The poison enters the blood circulation, lowers the blood pressure, breaks down the red blood cells and even affects the respiratory system.
When the bee stings, amyl acetate, a so-called alarm pheromone is released. Once it is noticed by the other bees, they go over to an attack mode and start to be aggressive. It is therefore not a good idea to try to deal with a single bee – the others come soon to help.
A single sting is dangerous only for people with allergies, otherwise it only causes a swelling and some itching and burning. A greater number of stings is very dangerous, though – more than 200 stings can already mean death. If you get more than 500 stings in a single attack, your life is certainly at risk. Smaller vertebrates, including mice, that want to steal some honey, can die after only a few dozen stings.
A single sting can cause an anaphylactic shock to allergy sufferers. A strong allergic reaction results in a massive swelling, shortness of breath and changes of blood pressure. Typically, there is also a change in skin color and general nausea present. It is necessary to call an ambulance immediately and give the allergy sufferer a dose of adrenaline and of a sterile solution, which contracts the veins and relaxes the muscles, as soon as possible. The symptoms disappear relatively quickly.
Best of all is prevention. It doe snot make much sense to be near the hive just before a downpour, because the bees are particularly nervous just then. It is also not advisable to approach the hive wearing a lot of perfume or to move violently. If you wawe frantically around with your hands, the small fighters can be unnecessarily provoked. See also the section „Warning!“.
If you have already been attacked by the bees, there are two effective defenses – either quickly jump into water or run through bushes. The bees lose orientation in a lush environment and you can just run away. However, it does not make sense to flee on a free terrain, because the bees can see your silhouette well. The bees are thus also able to fly much faster. Remember to keep yout mouth closed because a single sting in the tongue can be very problematic.
How to treat a bee sting?
Almost everyone knows some sort of advice how the itching swelling should be effectively treated. We recommend the classic cold compress, a slice of a raw onion, vinegar or honey. An effervescent tablet with calcium is also helpful. To avoid a large swelling, scrape the sting as quickly as possible away with a fingernail in order not to squeeze the venom sac additionally. A pair of straight tweezers is not suitable. Learn more in the article Bee sting – first aid.
What is apisin good for?
Ointment with apisin
If you have already been stung, you can calm down. It could also mean something good for you. First, your immunity will be improved in case you should be stung again in the future. Your skin will no longer react so acutely. Secondly, having been stung, you have in fact receved an apitherapeutic treatment.
Bee venom treats inflammatory pains, has the ability to thin the blood and dissolve accumulated organic compounds at the site of inflammation and wash them out of the body with this blood. It also acts as a powerful analgesic to help with rheumatic pains, especially when the weather changes. On the basis of this experience, ointments with bee venom are produced for external use in local, unspecified, mainly neuralgic pains.1 In medicine, it is used in inflammatory rheumatic processes, inflammation of joints, tendon systems, chronic back pain, trigeminal neuralgia, disorders of the locomotor system, for desensitization treatment, against adverse reactions.2
Bee venom therapy is one form of apitherapy that requires expertise. Treatment with bee stings is always determined by a specialized expert, i.e., an apitherapist, based on the results of initial examinations and allergy tests. Bee venom is applied directly in its natural form, i.e., via bee sting with the stinger to a specific site, or indirectly, for example by massaging skin with a bee venom product or via acupuncture. A simpler, more pleasant, painless, and most used method is the use of ointments with apisin, which, however, have a slightly lower effect. You can learn more about bee venom, its effects, and usage in the article What is Apisin?
1 Czech publication: Ing. Štefan Demeter, CSc.: Apiterapie: Léčení včelími produkty; Vydal Jaroslav Čadra, Olomouc, 2021, str. 129 Back
2 Czech publication: Ing. Štefan Demeter, CSc.: Apiterapie: Léčení včelími produkty; Vydal Jaroslav Čadra, Olomouc, 2021, str. 151 - 152 Back