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Can bee venom be used to relieve osetoarthritis pain?

Q) Can you tell me about bee venom being used to relieve pain from osteoarthritis?
Philip Braunstein, via email (Spring 2013)

A) Ah! This makes me think of a patient of mine who had psoriatic arthritis. He had a swollen toe which prevented him from playing golf, a big handicap for him. He came for about 3 years and I tried injections and a variety of tablets, with some small but not great success. Then he stopped coming to my clinic and I thought he had voted with his feet and gone to see a much more important rheumatologist nearby. However, after about 18 months he came back, looking fit and tanned. He had been in Malaysia, in the jungle, and had been bitten by a scorpion. ‘That did the trick’, he told me. Feeling daunted by this, I was determined to seek out evidence for this as a treatment and blow me if I didn’t find, in a book of old remedies, the recommendation that the patient should ‘arrange to be stung by bees’! So, there you are. Very anecdotal but our ancestors certainly thought this was an appropriate treatment for arthritis. And now clinical trials with bee venom extracts are underway in Korea and will be reported in due course.


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