What is Bee Venom?

on Sunday, 21 April 2013. Posted in Bee Venom Research

Bee venom is a complex composition of enzymes, proteins and amino acids. It is a colorless clear liquid,...

Bee venom is a complex composition of enzymes, proteins and amino acids. It is a colorless clear liquid, with a sweet taste and a little bitter. It is soluble in water, insoluble in alcohol and ammonium sulphate. If is comes in contact with air, it forms, opaque or grayish-white crystals.

What does Bee Venom contain?
Bee venom is hemorrhagic, differing from snake (viper) venom, which is a coagulant. As well as containing: apamine, melittin, phospholipase, hyaluronidase, which have the opposing action of inhibiting the nervous system, and stimulating the heart and the adrenal glands; the venom also contains the mineral substances, volatile organic acids, formic acid, hydrochloric acid, ortho-phosphoric acid. Also present are some antibiotics, an enzyme – phospholipase A, as well as two amino acids rich in sulphur methionine and cystine. Sulphur is the main element in inducing the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, and in protecting the body against infections.

How does it work?
Bee venom therapists apply bee venom to specific points on the surface of the body. Patients are tested for sensitivity before the first treatment, which involves an injection of a minute dose of the venom.

What type of conditions is Bee venom used to treat?
Bee venom simulates the release of cortisone (cortisol) and is therefore effective in the treatment of rheumatic diseases, especially arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS). It can be applied directly or by intramuscular injections.
Other treatments, such as electrotherapy, hormone therapy, can help to eliminate periarticular deformations, improve joint movement and raise the general state of the organism. Two products developed in Bucharest, an ointment - Apireven - and a liniment both have been used successfully in several cases of rheumatoid polyarthritis. The results have shown an important reduction in muscular pain, sciatic pain, nerve pain, neuromialgias and intercostal and bronchial nerve pain.

Research and methods of using Bee venom
Several patients suffering from phlebitis and thrombophlebitis noticed an increase in their skin temperature with a change in the blood circulation. However, good results were shown in all the sciatic nerve cases, and those with nerve and articular pains. In chronic inflammatory nerve affections the results were also very good, with ceasing of pains and a partial recuperation of movement.
When combined with an oral therapy, such as vitamin therapy, good analgesic effects were obtained in cortisone-dependent patients suffering from rheumatoid polyarthritis. The bee venom is applied for 4 –5 days, followed by a 2 - 3 day break. Treatment is then re-commenced again. Using this method no adverse effects were reported.

Bee Venom promotes ulcer cure.
Bee venom which is made up of enzymes, proteins and amino acids has been used successfully to treat patients in a study by the British Journal of Surgery. Fifty-nine patients suffering from wounds and ulcers, of which 90% of them had tried conventional treatment which failed to heal were treated with unprocessed honey.
Following a topical application of the honey, fifty-eight cases showed significant improvement. One case later diagnosed as a Buruli ulcer, failed to respond. The researchers found that wounds that were sterile at the outset remained sterile until healed, whilst infected wounds and ulcers were sterile within one week of applying the honey.

The results of the study concluded that honey produced a remarkable improvement in the formation of healthy skin, it healed wounds much more rapidly and reduced swelling around the margins of the ulcers. We can conclude from this research that using the topical honey application, significantly improved the speed of healing and promotion of healthy skin tissue in patients with ulcers and wounds.

Reference: S.E.E. Efem; (1988) Clinical Observations on the Wound Healing Properties of Honey. British Journal of Surgery, vol/Iss/Pg.3/5 (343-346), ISSN; 0179-0358

How is bee venom collected?
Since the middle 1950s, the electric shock method has been used to stimulate the bees to sting. The collector frame is usually placed at the entrance of the hive and connected to a device which supplies electrical impulses. The collector frame is made from wood or plastic and holds a wire grid. Underneath the wires is a glass sheet which can be covered with a plastic or rubber material to avoid contamination of the venom. During collection, bees come in contact with the wire grid and receive a mild electric shock. They sting the surface of the collector sheet as they see this to be the source of danger. The venom is then deposited between the glass and the protective material where it dries and is later scraped off.

Does venom collection kill bees?
Bee venom can be collected without killing bees. During the 1950s and 1960s, venom collectors used a thick rubber sheet to collect bee stingers. The bees stung in to the rubber sheet after receiving an electric shock and would lose their stingers; as a result they died. Compared to modern methods this collection technique is considered uneconomical. The newer collector devices and methods are safe and do not harm bees. During 30 minutes of collection time a well adjusted collector device will not kill more than 10 bees per hive. This loss is not significant to the population of the bee hive and does not affect the life span of the colony.

What does bee venom look like and how long can it be stored?
Honey bee venom is a colorless liquid. After drying, it is a white powder-like material if protected from oxidation. If it is not protected, oxidation will change the color from white to brownish-yellow. Changes caused by oxidation of certain components of the venom may decrease its healing effect. There are different kinds of venom such as: pure whole dried, whole dried and freeze-dried (lyophilized) bee venom. Pure whole dried bee venom is the purest venom. It is white in color (often it is snow white), not contaminated with foreign materials and colorless when it is used in a solution.
Whole dried bee venom may be contaminated with pollen, feces, dust, nectar or honey. Its color varies from yellow to brownish-yellow which depending on the oxidation of the components. In solution form it also has the same color.

Freeze-dried bee venom is highly processed and purified venom. During the preparation its moisture content and any other contaminants are removed in order to purify and preserve it. Some of the active components may be removed also if an uncontrolled purification method is used. It is widely used in creams, liniments and ointments. In a tablet form, it can be used to prepare venom solution for electrophoresis or ultrasonophoresis applications. It is easy to sterilize with syringe filtration. If bee venom is protected from moisture and light it can be stored for five years or more. It will not lose its toxicity, however its healing effects are reduced by storage. Freeze-drying is perhaps the most effective method of preserving bee venom.

What is bee venom used for?
Bee venom is a rich source of pharmaceutically active components. In twelve European countries, in the drug category, we can find twenty-four products containing bee venom. These products include creams, liniments, ointments, salves or injection forms for treating different human ailments. They are available by prescription or without a prescription in certain countries. 2 Veterinarians successfully used bee venom injection to treat arthritis in horses and dogs. Scientists also use bee venom or its components in their research of the effects of the whole or separated components of the venom.

Can bee venom be taken orally?
In the drug category, limited information is available on the uses of bee venom in a tablet, capsule or drop forms. Nevertheless, there are dozens of products on the European market in the homeopathic category containing Apis
mellifica or Apis Virus (Apiam Virus-- venom sac extract). In this category, bee venom is also mixed with snake and centipede venoms and is taken orally to treat cancer. Bee venom capsules were developed and tested in the Calgary area for the treatment of chronic pain. It should be noted that the results are preliminary and further research is required.

How is bee venom solution (BVS) prepared?
One of the simplest methods of preparing bee venom solution is to dissolve the venom in a previously sterilized, hot, isotonic saline solution and passed it through a microspore filter. The disadvantage of this method is that the hot saline solution may partially destroy the active components of the venom. Consequently, its healing effect cannot be compared to the effectiveness of live bee stings. There are other methods to prepare a more effective venom solution such as by a "cold" preparation method or by using freeze dried bee venom. Thorough study and precise methodology is required to prepare an effective solution which will meet the high standards of pharmaceutical products.

How many injections can be prepared from 1.0 g of bee venom?
The results of past research have shown that the venom sac of the honey bee has about 0.1 mg. of dried weight content. Therefore 10,000 bee venom sacs contain 1.0 g of bee venom. In preparing the 3x initial strength solution, every 1 ml will contain 1.0 mg. of bee venom. Administering 0.1 ml of venom solution to the affected area will be the equivalent of one bee sting. As a result 1.0 g of bee venom can provide 10,000 injections. For the past 30 years, the 3x solution has been considered a homeopathic preparation and proven to be safe in use. The treatment was always conducted by physicians and there was no serious anaphylactic shock or deaths reported. The latest research has indicated that an average venom sac contains about 40-50% more venom than that amount previously mentioned.4 Therefore, about 7,000 injections can be prepared from 1.0 g of bee venom. However, these results have yet to be widely distributed and accepted.

Is bee venom solution as effective as bee stings?
Bee venom has many active components, however, during its collection it may lose its volatile fractions. Presently it is unknown if these fractions play a role in the healing effect. Improper preparation methods may also decrease its effectiveness. Bee venom from an uncontrolled source may be old, oxidized (brownish color) or improperly stored and consequently less effective when used. With a proper preparation method it is possible to make a venom solution which is almost as effective as bee stings. Bee venom solution was successfully used in the treatment of chronic pain, hearing problems, trauma, multiple sclerosis, scars, spondylitis deformants, sporiasis, and all types of arthritis.5,6,7 Some of the advantages of using bee venom solution are: the treatment can be conducted under the supervision of a physician; the dosage and components of the venom are standardized; and the treatment is independent of the seasonal changes of the components and availability of live bees.

Has bee venom solution been reported to be effective in treating multiple sclerosis?
In the early 1980s bee venom solution was believed to be as effective as venom from live bee. Later this statement was modified based on the results and the only bee venom solution available on the U.S. market. Treatments with BVS are being done mainly in private clinics and limited information is available from the practitioners. The MS treatment with live bee stings has only a decade of anecdotal history and BVS even less. The lack of a scientifically controlled study and proper documentation has made it difficult to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.
Multiple sclerosis patients respond in individual ways to live bee sting therapy. Some of them may show improvement within a short time, but others need a longer period.

Have MS and I would like to try BVT. Does BVS or bee sting therapy cause pain?
Bee venom therapy may cause pain, the degree of which depends on the tolerance of the patient. It is possible to lessen the pain by applying ice, a cooler tool or even a cold silver spoon onto the sting site. Bee venom solution may also be mixed with Xylocaine or Lidocaine to desensitize the affected area.

Is there any method to use BVS without injecting it?
Bee venom solution can be administered by electrophoresis or ultrasonophoresis. Both of these methods use the highly diluted BVS (3x initial strength), however ultrasonophoresis requires it to be mixed with an ointment. The venom solution or ointment is then placed onto the affected area and penetrates the body with the assistance of an electric current or ultrasound. Another method uses a bee venom tablet containing a controlled amount of venom which is dissolved in a specific volume of distilled water, thus ensuring its safe and proper concentration. The Chinese are successfully applying these methods for the treatments of bronchial asthma and all types of arthritis conditions.
These methods are safe and painless. They do not require the use of any sophisticated instrumentation other than that which is already in use by medical institutions. Furthermore, these methods ensure the controlled administration of the venom by a physician or therapist. Bee venom solution can be used by acupuncturists as well. During the last three decades the Chinese have combined traditional acupuncture methods with the uses of bee venom solution (KF-1 and KF-2) for the treatment of epilepsy, impotence and all conditions that are treated with live bee stings. One of the methods uses an acupuncture needle that is dipped into the venom solution and administered into acupuncture points. Another method places the venom solution on the acupuncture points and the needle is administered through the solution. All of these techniques have led to the wider and safer application of bee venom solution.

Is it necessary to sterilize the affected area before administering bee stings or BVS?
Some of the most commonly used disinfectants like alcohol or tincture of iodine should not be used for BVT. These disinfectants rapidly destroy the active components of bee venom. In practice, the affected area can be washed with soap and warm water and dried with a towel. Before administering a bee venom injection the affected area can be cleaned with ether or benzine.

How can I use a cream, liniment, ointment or salve containing bee venom for MS?
Bee venom products in this form were developed to treat arthritis, rheumatism, tendonitis, bursitis, joint inflammation, skin diseases, Sudeck-syndrome, etc. There is no scientific or anecdotal evidence for this kind of administration of bee venom for MS conditions.

1. Rose, A. (1994) The Future of Bee Venom Collection: A Man with a Vision, Bee Informed, Vol. 1, No. 5, Nov./Dec., p. 1 & 8
2. Simics, M. (1994) Bee Venom: Exploring the Healing Power, Apitronic Publishing, pp.53-54
3. Kaspar, A.B. (1978) Fractionation of Honey Bee Venom, Proceedings of the North American Apiotherapy Society, Maryland, MD, pp. 67-75
4. Schumacher, M.J. et al. (1990) Quantity, Analysis, and Lethality of European and Africanized Honey Bee Venoms, J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 43(1), pp. 79-86
5. Forestier, F, and M. Palmer (1984) Bee Venom in Rheumatology - An Experiment Performed With 1,600 Cases, Apiacta, 19:19-22
6. Kim, C.M. (1989) Bee Venom Therapy for Arthritis, Rhumatologie, 41, 3, pp. 6 7-72
7. Klinghardt, D.K. (1990) Bee Venom Therapy for Chronic Pain, The Journal of Neurological & Orthopedic Medicine & Surgery, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 195-197
8. Steigerwaldt, F., et al. (1966) Standardized Bee Venom (SBV) Therapy for Arthritis, Indust. Med. Surg., 35:1045-1049
9. Beck, B. F. (1935) Bee Venom Therapy - Bee Venom, Its Nature, and Its Effect on Arthritic and Rheumatoid Conditions, D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., New York
10. Broadman, J. (1962) Bee Venom - The Natural Curative for Arthritis and Rheumatism, G. P. Putman's Sons, New York
11. Malone, F. (1979) Bees Don't Get Arthritis, Academy Books, Rutland, VT, ISBN 0-914960-60-1

Abstracts from The XXIXth International Congress of Apiculture of Apimondia, Bucharest, 1983

Elena Palos; Filofteia Popescu; Use of Bee Venom in Antirheumatic Drugs. (Romania)

© The Internet Health Library 2000

Review of Scientific Literature

Honey Bee Venom

Patopllo, E.A. Epidemiological and clinical study on bee venom allergy among beekeepers. Boll-Ist-Sieroter-Milan. 1988. 67(5-6), p. 386-92. A randomized population of 222 beekeepers from Lombardy (203 males, 19 females, of mean age 42.5 years) was studied to determine the frequency of allergic reactions to bee sting. The results suggest that practice of beekeeping induces a relatively high incidence of allergic reactions, but with a trend to the spontaneous improvement of symptoms and a low incidence of severe reactions.

Reisman, R.E. Livingston, A. Late-onset allergic reactions, including serum sickness, after insect stings. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 1989 Sep. 84(3), p. 331-7. Allergic reactions after insect stings may have a delayed onset, differing from the usual immediate anaphylactic pattern. The observations suggest that after an insect sting, patients may develop delayed onset allergic symptoms that range from typical anaphylaxis to serum sickness and are mediated by venom-specific IgE.

Kam-J. Waron-M. Intraocular pressure in cats is lowered by drops of hornet venom. Comp-Biocben-Physiol [C]. 1989. 92(2), p. 329-31. Nine cats were given an intravenous injection of the Oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis, Vespinae; Hymenoptera) venom sacextract (VSE) and seven cats had the same VSE administered as eye drops. This study shows that the active components of the hornet venom which caused a decrease in the intraocular pressure can cross the cornea and exert a hypotensive effect in the eye.

Alzheimer’s Disease
Ikeda-M. Dewar-D. McCulloch-J.Tl Selective reduction of [1251] apamin binding sites in Alzheimer hippocampus: a Quantitative autoradiographic study. Brain-Res. 1991 Dec 13. S67(l). P Sl-6.JT-[l251] Apamin binding sites were examined using quantitative autoradiography in the hippocampus of 9 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 8 age-matched controls.

Within the hippocampal formation from control subjects, [1251] apamin binding sites were highly concentrated in the subiculum and CAl. In Alzheimer’s disease there was a marked and discrete loss of [1251]apamin binding sites in the subiculum. This reduction of [12SI]aparru'n binding sites in the subiculum correlated with cell density but not neuritic plaque density. These results indicate that an anatomically discrete loss of Ca(2+)-dependent K+ channels within the hippocampal formation occurs in Alzheimer's disease.

Ginsberg-N-J. Dauer-M. Slotta-K-H.T1 Melittin used as a protective agent against x-irradiation. Nature. 1968 Dec 28. 220(174), p. 1334. Hait-W-N. Grais-L. Benz-C. Cadman-E-C.TI Inhibition of growth of leukemic cells by inhibitors of calmodulin: phenothiazines and melittin, Cancer-Chemother-Pharmacol. 1985. 14(3). P 202-5.AB Calmodulin, a ubiquitous calciumbinding protein, has recently been shown to play an important role in cellular proliferation. The calmodulin inhibitors melittin, trifluoperazine, and chlorpromazine inhibited the growth and clonogenicity of human and murine leukemic cells, and their potency reflected their activity as inhibitors of calmodulin. Melittin, which is a far more potent inhibitor of calmodulin activity, was also a more potent inhibitor of cell growth and clonogenicity. The less active phenothiazine metabolite, chlorpromazine sulfoxide, had much less potent cytotoxic activity.

Killion, JJ. Dunn-J-D.Tl. Differential cytolysis of murine spleen, bone-marrow, and leukemia cells by melittin reveals differences in membrane topography. Biocbem-Biophys Res-Commun. 1986 Aug 29. 139(l), p. 222-7. AB L1210 leukemia cells are 2-4 fold more sensitive to the cytolytic effects of melittin, the membrane-active toxin of bee venom, than normal DBA/2 mouse spleen and bone-marrow cells.

Gerst, J.E., Salomon-Y.TI. Inhibition by Melittin and fluphenazine of melanotropin receptor function and adeylate cyclase in M2R melanoma cell membranes. Endocrinology. 1987 Nov.121(5), p. 1766-72.

Multiple Sclerosis
Habermann-E.Tl. Intrathecal apamin selectively facilitates activity in ascending axons of rat spinal cord evoked by stimulation of afferent C fibers in dural nerve. Brain-Res 1983 Nov 28. 280(l), p. 186-9. The results indicate that apamin facilitates synaptic transmission from high-threshold afferent C fibers to secondary neurons.

Renaud-J-F. Desnuelle-C. Serratrice-G. Lazdunski -M. TI. Expression of apamin receptor in muscles of patients with myotonic dystrophy. Nature 1986 Feb 20-26. 319(600S), p. 678-80. Myotonic muscular dystrophy, or Steinert disease, is a dominantly inherited disease of muscle which occurs with a frequency of between 1 in 18,000 and 1 in 7,500 people (refs 1, 2). One of the prominent clinical manifestations is muscle stiffness and difficulty in relaxation of muscles after voluntary contractions. We show here for the first time that muscle membranes of patients with myotonic muscular dystrophy contain the receptor for apamin, a bee venom toxin known to be a specific and high-affinity blocker of one class of Ca2+ activated K+ channels in mammalian muscle. The apamin receptor is completely absent in normal human muscle as well as in muscles of patients with spinal anterior horn disorders.

Somerfield-S-D. Stach-J-L. Mraz-C. Gervais-F. Skamene-E.T. Bee venom melittin blocks neutrophil O2- production. Inflammation. 1986 Jun. 10(2), p. 175-82. Bee venom (BV) is used in folk medicine to treat arthritis. It has anti-inflammatory effects in animal models of rheumatic disease. We have studied the effects of BV on human neutrophil production of superoxide (02-) and hydrogen peroxide, finding potent, nontoxic, dose-dependent production inhibition. Melittin, the major fraction of BV (SO-70%) shows high affinity calmodulin binding (Kd 3 nM). Drugs which bind calmodulin, such as trifluoperazine, inhibit O2-production by human neutrophils. For these reasons, we have investigated the effect of melittin and other BV peptides on O2-production by human peripheral blood leukocytes. We show that melittin inhibited O2- production both pre- and post-stimulation in contrast to other BV fractions which were without effect. Oxygen radicals and their derivatives from inflammatory cells are implicated in the tissue damage occurring during inflammation. The inhibition is due to a direct effect on cells, and not indicator medium, dismutation, toxic or scavenging effects. We propose that melittin may sere as a prototype small (mol wt 1280), cationic, amphipathic, calmodulin-binding, membrane-active, super oxide-production-inhibiting peptide, providing a model for peptides which could have a role in vivo regulation of radical production.

Serkedjieva-J. Anti-influenza virus effect of some propolis constituents and their analogues (esters of substituted cinnamic acids). J-Nat-Prod. 1992 Mar. 55(3), p. 294-302. The anti-viral activity of six synthetic substances, esters of substituted cinnamc acids, identical with or analogous to some of the constituents of the Et2O fraction of propolis was studied in vitro. One of them isopentyl ferulate, inhibited significantly the infectious activity of influenza virus A/Hong Kong (H3N2) in vitro and the production of hemagglutinins in ovo.

Steketee-J-D. Kalivas-P-W.T. Effect of microinjections of apamin into the A10 dopamine region of rats: a behavioral and neurochemical analysis. J-Pharmacol-Exp-Ther. 1990 Aug. 254(2), p. 711-9. Hyperpolarization of dopamine neurons by activation of D2 and gamma-aminobutyric acid B receptors involves an increased conductance of K, ions. Apamin, a blocker of Ca2(+)-activated K+ channels, has been reported to increase activity of dopamine neurons. Increased activity of the mesolimbic dopamine system is associated with increased motor activity. Thus, we investigated the behavioral and neurochemical effects of acute and daily microinjections of apamin into the A10 region of the rat. Apamin increased motor activity in a dose-dependent manner, and this effect was blocked by pretreatment with 0.1 mg/kg haloperidol. In postmortem analysis, 6.0 pmol of apamin significantly increased the levels of dihydroxyphenylacetic acid in the A10 region and of dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and homovanillic acid in the nucleus accumbens, and 2.0 pmol of apamin significantly increased the level of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. In vivo dialysis in the nucleus accumbens of freely moving rats revealed that apamin elevated extracellular dopamine metabolites. Rats receiving daily microinjections of apamin into the A10 region did not exhibit an augmentation in motor activity, suggesting that rats did not become sensitized to chronic treatment. These data are discussed in terms of the role of apamin-sensitive dopamine mechanisms in motor behavior and sensitization of these motor behaviors.

Grange-J-M. Reply: Honey and propolis as possible promoters of the healing of in leprosy [letter; comment]. Lep,-Rev. 1990 Jun. 61(2), p. 195.

Grange-J-M. Davey-R-W. Antibacterial properties of propolis (bee glue). J-R-Soc-Med. 1990 Mar. 83(3). P 159-60. Propolis (bee glue) was found to have antibacterial activity against a range of commonly encountered cocci and Gram-positive rods, including the human tubercle bacillus, but only limited activity against Gram-negative bacilli. These findings confirm previous reports of antimicrobial properties of this material, possibly attributable to its high flavonoid content.

Dobrowolski-J-W. Antibacterial, antifungal, antiamoebic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic studies on propolis bee products. J-Ethnopbarmacol. 1991 Oct. 35(l), p. 77-82.

Krol-W. Scheller-S. Anti-oxidant property of ethanolic extract of propolis (EEP) as evaluated by inhibiting the chemiluminescence oxidation of luminol. Biochem-Int. 1990. 21(4), p. 593-7. Ethanolic extract of propolis (EEP) has remarkable medical properties, including protection of mice against gamma-irradiation. Its anti-oxidative effect has been attributed to its radical scavenging ability. This manuscript demonstrates the ability of increasing amounts of EEP to inhibit luminol-H202 chemiluminescence in vitro and suggests that its anti-oxidative capacity is partly due to its high content of flavonoids.

Scheller-S. Free radical scavenging by ethanol extract of propolis. Int-J-Radiat-Biol. 1990 Mar. 57(3), p. 461-5.