In China, patients are swarming to acupuncture clinics to be given a bee sting to treat, cure or prevent life-threatening illnesses. Can bee sting therapy be a cure? There are conflicting opinions on this questionably strange therapy.
At the Wang Menglin’s clinic in Beijing, the bee acupuncturist says more than 27, 000 people have undergone the painful technique. Each session can involve dozens of bee stings -says the therapist -who makes his living from believers in this concept.
“We hold the bee, put it on a point on the body, hold its head, and pinch it until the sting needle emerges”, Mr Wang said at his facility on the outskirts of the capital.
They first test the client so as to prevent allergic reactions to the bee stings themselves. There is no medical evidence that the bee venom is effective against illnesses, and western medicine describes this so-called “apitherapy” as “quackery”.
Mr Wang also said that the bees he uses are from an Italian variety which is imported, and when it stings, the bee dies.
“We have treated patients with dozens of diseases, from arthritis to cancer, all with positive results”, said Mr Wang.
The sting of the bee can be used for treatment of “the most common diseases of the lower limbs”, he added, and he claimed they are also working as a preventative measure. Sciencebasedmedicine.org, a US-based website, says that such claims of panaceas and ‘cure-alls’ are “always a red flag for quackery”. “There is no scientific evidence to support ‘apitherapy’ or treatment with bee products”, the website claims.
A patient of Mr Wang said that the doctors told him he had lung and brain cancer and gave him a little over a year to live, but he now believes he has almost doubled his life expectancy and credits the bee stings for the change. “From last year up until now, I think I am getting much stronger”, the patient said.
Even though some people are claiming cures from the use of bee stings, the American Cancer Society makes a clear statement to the contrary on their website: “There have been no clinical studies in humans showing that bee venom or other honeybee products are effective in preventing or treating cancer”. They continue: “Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences”.
There is a Koranic reference to the medicinal properties of the liquid produced by the bees. Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, is also said to have been treated with bee stings.
Bee stings have also been used by sufferers with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an often disabling the disease that attacks the central nervous system. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the US says on its website: “In spite of long-standing claims about the possible benefits of bee venom for people with MS, a 24-week randomized study showed no reduction in disease activity, disability, or fatigue, and no improvement in quality of life.”
Environmentalists have warned that dwindling the number of bees, which help in the pollinating of crops, could have a serious effect on agriculture production.
Bee venom is one of many Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments derived from plants and animals, some of which are blamed for endangering wildlife species. The older generation in China, who are more likely to fall ill, often favor traditional remedies, due to a deep-rooted cultural belief in the power of nature, rather then to use modern ingredients.
In 2012, the TCM industry in China produced goods worth $84 billion, more then 31 percent of the country’s total medicine output. According to statistics.
Bee sting therapy, can it be a cure? Some say yes, others say no. What do you say?
Written By: Landi Bezuidenhout