Apitherapy is an alternative therapy that uses products made by honeybees for medicinal purposes. These products include honey, beeswax, royal jelly, pollen, propolis, and bee venom. Apitherapists may use a combination of these products, depending on the condition they are treating.
Throughout history, people have recognized how important bees are, both as pollinators of plants and for the products they make.
The American Apitherapy Society says that honeybee products can treat various conditions, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), shingles, and gout.
This article explains what apitherapy is, what products bees make, and how people use the different honeybee products. It also looks at the benefits of apitherapy and the potential side effects and risks.
Apitherapy is a natural therapy that uses products made by honeybees for medicinal or health benefits. Some people also refer to it as bee therapy.
Apitherapy has had a role in traditional medicine for centuries. The ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Chinese civilizations all used honeybee products to treat injuries and illnesses.
Today, researchers believe that these products promote health by reducing inflammation, improving circulation, and stimulating the immune system.
Most of the products that people use for apitherapy come from one species of honeybee: Apis mellifera. Honeybee products that someone may use for apitherapy include:
Honey is probably the most well-known bee product. In apitherapy, people use honey in its raw form, which means that they have not filtered, processed, or heat-treated it. Honey contains small amounts of protein, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. It also has antifungal and antiviral properties.
Worker bees produce venom to protect themselves and their hives from attack. Bees sting their attackers, injecting them with their venom. Bee venom is a mixture of proteins, amino acids, water, and volatile compounds that cause a painful reaction.
Honeybees secrete nutrient-dense royal jelly to feed their larvae for the first few days of their lives. After that, only the bees that will become queens continue eating royal jelly. Worker bees usually live for 4–6 weeks, while queen bees can live for up to 6 years. Royal jelly is rich in B vitamins, proteins, and antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce the levels of free radicals in the body, which experts think may be responsible for aging.
Pollen, which worker bees collect from plants, is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. Bees pollinate plants while collecting pollen, as they transfer it from one flower to another. They also eat it, and it provides most of their dietary protein.
Propolis is a sticky substance that bees make from plant resins. It is antiseptic and antimicrobial, and honeybees use it to keep the inside of their hives free of bacterial and fungal infections.
Bees make wax to construct their honeycombs and plug the honey cells when they are ready. Bees also mix the wax with propolis to cover any cracks in the hive and protect the bees from infections.
Bees process pollen by mixing it with honey and different enzymes. The pollen ferments and forms beebread, which is both nutrient-rich and easy to digest. It also preserves the nutrients in the food.
People have used apitherapy for centuries, and researchers continue to explore new ways of utilizing these products.
In 2020, an article in the journal
Research suggests that people use apitherapy to treat nerve pain, conditions such as arthritis and MS, and injuries such as wounds or burns.
However, the researchers stress that people receiving this treatment need to persevere with it, as the results may take time.
Apitherapists may suggest using different hive products in combination with other elements, such as essential oils. Each product has its own characteristics and potential health benefits for humans.
Treating wounds and scars
Research in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research shows that honey has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, and antimicrobial properties, as well as heart-healthy qualities.
A person can eat honey or apply it directly to a wound or scar. In an older study from 2010, honey was effective in treating diabetic foot ulcers, although the healing process took up to 3 months.
Treating immune and neurological conditions
People use bee venom to treat a variety of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, MS, arthritis, and nerve pain.
An article in the journal
Boosting health and overall immunity
Royal jelly, honey, bee pollen, and propolis are all rich in nutrients and vitamins, and some also contain proteins. People can benefit from these by taking them as a dietary supplement.
Improving oral hygiene
Reduces hay fever symptoms
Some people find that eating honey made from local wildflowers reduces their hay fever symptoms.
Some people are allergic to bee stings and other bee products. They may have a reaction, which, in some cases, may be life threatening.
Other possible negative side effects of apitherapy include:
Apitherapy uses products from honeybees to promote human health.
Therapists may use these products to ease the symptoms of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s, and autoimmune conditions, such as arthritis.
Anyone considering using apitherapy to treat an existing condition or symptom must talk with a doctor to make sure that there are no possible interactions with their current medication.