Get a 'bee' in medicine

Allergic reactions to venom released during beestings can be lethal. Many people who are allergic to the venom carry around something called an epi-pen, which administers a lifesaving dose of epinephrine, should the carrier be stung.

The very same poison that can kill so many people can also be used to treat a host of diseases, among them arthritis, multiple sclerosis, PMS, bursitis, hypertension, asthma, tendonitis and eczema. Bee venom contains about 30 active compounds nearly impossible to duplicate synthetically. Some of the main ingredients of interest are peptides, such as mellitin, apamin, peptide 401, adolapin and protease inhibitors.

One way to treat disease is by consuming the venom mixed with honey. Another way is with bee-sting therapy, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Charles Mraz, perhaps the most reknowned and respected apitherapist practitioner in the United States, is recognized as a pioneer in the area. Mraz wondered if there was anything to the bee sting nonsense he'd heard about in folklore. The arthritis in his knees made it nearly impossible for him to get his heavy workload completed, so he gave it a try. The effects were so spectacular he went on to conduct apitherapy until his death at 94.

Mike Johnston of Madison County Soil and Water Conservation was able to clarify the practice of apitherapy. After a sting, he explained, the body reacts by making cortisone. When cortisone is received from an outside source, such as in a cortisone shot, the body reacts by shutting down its own cortisone production. This is, in effect, counterproductive.

Johnston also was able to offer his own experience with apitherapy. He'd wanted to try being stung to treat warts. He unexpectedly received, in his own words, a direct hit to one of them. Within four days, all of the warts were gone.

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