Bee venom therapy

Bee venom therapy is a kind of apitherapy which involves using bee venom from injections or live bee stings. Apitherapy is the medicinal use of bees or bee products. There is no evidence that bee venom therapy is an effective treatment for people with MS. Bee venom therapy can cause dangerous allergic reactions.

The MS Trust does not offer bee venom therapy and cannot suggest therapists who do.

Traditional apitherapy uses bee products including honey, royal jelly, propolis (a mixture of pollen, tree sap and bee saliva) and bee venom. 

Bee venom may be used for treating allergies to bee stings in a controlled way by allergy specialists. There are also claims that bee venom therapy can be used to treat inflammatory conditions including MS. The process can involve receiving venom in an injection or from live bees. A live bee venom treatment can involve up to 40 stings in a session. 

Bee stings cause inflammation in the form of redness and swelling around the place you have been stung. The theory is that your immune system then sets up an anti-inflammatory response that calms inflammation all through your body as well as at the bee sting site. 

Some people can have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings that can be fatal.  Anyone undergoing or offering this therapy should have antihistamine (anti-allergy) drugs immediately to hand.

What is the evidence for bee venom therapy in MS?

There is little scientific evidence to support bee venom therapy in MS. In 2005 a small clinical trial compared people with MS having the therapy every week with a group that had no treatment. Results were measured using MRI scans, relapse rate, disability, fatigue and quality of life scales. After 24 weeks, there was no difference between the two groups on any of these measures.

In 2008, a review of non-conventional approaches to treating MS found that there was only marginal evidence for bee venom therapy. In 2014, in a review of the evidence, the American Academy of Neurology concluded that bee venom therapy is possibly ineffective for relapses, disability, fatigue, lesion burden and health related quality of life (QoL).

All these studies stressed the potential risks of bee venom therapy including severe allergic reactions.

Find out more

Yadav V, et al.
Summary of evidence-based guideline: complementary medicine in multiple sclerosis: report of the guideline development subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology.
Neurology 2014;82(12):1083-1092.
Summary (link is external)
Namaka M, et al.
Examining the evidence: complementary adjunctive therapies for multiple sclerosis.
Neurological Research 2008;30(7):710-719.
Summary (link is external)
Castro HJ, et al.
A phase I study of the safety of honeybee venom extract as a possible treatment for patients with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.
Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 2005;26(6):470-476.
Summary (link is external)
Wesselius T, et al.
A randomized crossover study of bee sting therapy for multiple sclerosis.
Neurology 2005;6(11):1764-1768.
Summary (link is external)
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