Friday, November 11, 2016

An Inside Look at Bee Venom therapy

Bee-venom therapy, which involves being intentionally stung by honeybees, is being used to treat everything from joint pain to carpal tunnel syndrome. But is it safe? Sarah Cristobal investigates.

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Everyone talks about going under the knife, but what about going under the stinger? This past April, Gwyneth Paltrow told The New York Times that she had experimented with apitherapy—which is defined as harvesting the products of the honeybee hive including venom, honey, pollen, and propolis for medical uses—and instantly sent the Internet abuzz. Willingly being stung by live bees in order to benefit from the venom's anti-inflammatory peptides and proteins seemed extreme even for the Goop founder, but surprisingly the treatment has been gaining traction among those who want a nontraditional fix for joint-pain relief.

"I usually treat patients for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and carpal tunnel," says Frederique Keller, an acupuncturist and third-generation apitherapist in Northport, New York. "Seven or eight out of 10 get some form of apitherapy, though not necessarily bee-venom therapy. The venom naturally stimulates the body's production of the [anti-inflammatory hormone] cortisone. It also contains peptide 401, which is 100 times more effective in the body than a cortisone shot [from a doctor]. It's huge."

Keller, who is also the president of the American Apitherapy Society, which boasts more than 7,000 members, gives herself seven stings roughly three times a week for issues with knee and shoulder pain. (She says that the number of stings vary from person to person depending on their ailments and immune system.) The process of administering the stings is a bit like a game of Operation. "I take the bee out of a little box and gently pick her up with tweezers behind the head or the thorax," she says. "Then I decide where to sting, and then the bee stings—you don't have to force her—and delivers that .01 microgram of venom within the first minute to five minutes." An initial two-hour consultation costs $225, while follow-up appointments are $95 each...

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