Bee Venom: Benefits & Side Effects

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Bee venom has become a sought after ingredient in high-end beauty treatments. Some even say that it can cure disease, but it’s important to fully understand the facts before adding this to your health routine.

What is Bee Venom?

Bee venom is a toxin that is produced by bees to protect their hive against threats. However, this venom can also be extracted and used in medical treatments. More recently, it has become a popular ingredient in skin rejuvenation treatments.

The reason that this venom has such powerful effects is that it contains a chemical called melittin, which causes reactions in the skin. The theory is that if your skin thinks it is injured, it will produce collagen, thereby swelling or plumping the area to make it look fuller and smoother.

Close-up of a bee on a fingertip.

A bee sting can cause pain, discomfort and even fatality. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Benefits of Bee Venom

Bee venom has been used for thousands of years to treat pain and inflammation. People believe that it can help with symptoms of multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Western medicine has been inconclusive about its benefits, but research is ongoing.

This extracted venom is said to reduce wrinkles and plump lips when applied to the skin. Some people swear by its effectiveness, while others see limited results.

Is Bee Venom Safe for Humans?

Products containing bee venom should be safe for generally healthy people. Injections by a medical professional are also considered safe.

That being said, people with allergies to bee stings should only use bee venom therapy with a doctor’s approval.  Some report a stinging or burning sensation when using topical beauty products, but this shouldn’t be overly painful, and should pass quickly. If these sensations persist or worsen, discontinue use of the product and seek medical attention.

How is Bee Sting Extracted?

A glass plate with an electric current is inserted into hives, which shocks the bees and causes them to sting. Their venom is then collected on the glass. There is no evidence that the process contributes to hive collapse or a reduction in the numbers of bees, but it takes millions of stings to produce a single drop of venom, and the bees are shocked repeatedly throughout their lifespan.

Bee Venom Myths

Beauty myth: Bee venom creams can temporarily reduce the appearance of wrinkles, but the effect is not permanent. Products tend to be extremely expensive, and not everyone vouches for the results.

Medical myth: There are claims that bee venom can cure HIV, but this is simply not true. Being stung by a bee cannot immediately cure any disease and the use of this venom to treat symptoms of any chronic illness or pain should always be overseen by a medical professional.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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