Q. I was stung on my left leg five times by yellow jackets. I have osteoarthritis in my left knee, and the pain has been gone since I was stung. I'm hoping that it will last!
If I had a choice, though I would definitely pick honeybee stings over yellow jackets as they’re much less painful.
A. You’re not the first person to share such a story with us. Years ago a reader wrote, “While snoozing on the porch I was stung on the finger by a tiny bee. The result: intense pain, and after that a great reduction of arthritis in my arm.”
Early in the 20th century, doctors used bee venom therapy to treat arthritis. Hospital pharmacies even stocked bee venom for these injections. After World War II, though, this approach appeared antiquated and unscientific and was no longer widely used.
Apitherapy, which uses bee stings medicinally, is undergoing a resurgence. Some proponents claim that honeybee stings can alleviate the pain of arthritis, shingles or tendinitis. Yellow jackets can be dangerous, however, and should not be used.
We talked to a number of experts at a meeting of the American Apitherapy Society. Anyone who would like to learn more about bee venom therapy can order a CD of the hour-long radio show. People allergic to bee stings must avoid this approach, since the reaction can be lethal.