Bee Sting Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
Nothing to Buzz About

December 27, 2005

Multiple Sclerosis and Bee Sting Therapy

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease that occurs when the insulating material called myelin around nerve cells in the central nervous system is damaged. People with MS may have pain, trouble walking and visual problems.

Several drugs can treat the symptoms of MS, but these medicines are not always effective and the disease can get worse. Therefore, some people with MS turn to alternative therapies for help. One alternative treatment for MS is bee sting therapy. During bee sting therapy (also called apitherapy), a person receives a series of honeybee venom injections under the skin. The venom can be injected with a syringe or by a live honeybee that is placed on the skin. Honeybee venom contains chemicals that reduce inflammation and affect the transmission of signals in nerve cells.

Bee Sting Therapy -- Does it Work?

Although bee sting therapy for MS is increasing in popularity, the effectiveness of the treatment has not been studied experimentally until now. Researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen and Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands have tested how bee sting therapy affects the brain and symptoms in patients with MS.

Patients with MS were randomly assigned to two groups. One group received bee sting therapy for 24 weeks and then was switched to 24 weeks without treatment. The other group first received no treatment for 24 weeks and then switched to 24 weeks of bee sting therapy. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain was performed one month before treatment, immediately before treatment and every six weeks after treatment. Each patient also underwent tests for disability, fatigue and quality of life.

During bee sting therapy, live honeybees (Apis mellifera) were placed over a patient's upper leg until they stung. Patients were stung three times each week. The number of stings was increased gradually until by the end of the therapy, most patients received 20 stings during each therapy session.


When the MRI scans of the brain were examined, bee sting therapy was found to have no effect on the number of brain abnormalities. Also, bee sting therapy did not produce any significant changes in disability, fatigue or quality of life in the patients.

No Buzz for Bee Sting Therapy

The researchers suggest that patients with MS should not use bee venom therapy unless future experiments show that the treatment works.



Bee stings can be life-threatening to people who are allergic to bee venom. A severe allergic reaction can start with coughing, sneezing, swelling, itching and hives. Symptoms can progress to weakness, breathing problems, very low blood pressure, loss of consciousness and shock. People who go into "anaphylactic shock" need immediate medical attention.

References and further information:

  • Wesselius, T., Heersema, D.J., Mostert, J.P., Heerings, M., Admiraal-Behloul, F., Talebian, A., van Buchem, M.A. and De Keyser, J., A randomized crossover study of bee sting therapy for multiple sclerosis, Neurology, 65:1764-1768, 2005.
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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