bee on a flower

Q. I’m a nurse in a rural hospital. Some of the mountain folk I care for tell me that a bee sting every two years or so will significantly decrease arthritis inflammation and pain. They attribute this remedy to the Chinese who came to this area a hundred years ago to work on the railroads and in the logging industry.

A. “Apitherapy,” or bee venom therapy, for arthritis goes way back in time. There are reports that it was used in ancient Egypt and China. Hippocrates (460-377 BC) is purported to have written about bee stings for painful joints.

Doctors in this country used bee venom therapy to treat arthritis during the first part of the 20th century. Hospital pharmacies even stocked venom for injections. After World War II, this approach fell out of favor because it was considered unscientific.

Proponents claim that honeybee stings can alleviate the pain of tendonitis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and postherpetic neuralgia. This nerve pain lingers after a shingles attack and can be excruciating. The American Apitherapy Society can provide more information (

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Skitch
    Minneapolis, MN

    I was stung about twelve to fifteen times this past weekend at our northern Wisconsin lake place when I stepped into a yellowjacket nest otherwise undetectable on the ground where we stack our dock sections. Of course that part was horrible; thankfully the lake was right there for me to jump into, or this could have been critical. I think I probably went into mild shock for a while, but overall it was tolerable with enough chardonnay!

    At any rate, when I was cleaning my glasses the next morning, usually a process that reminds me of the pain I have from stiffness in my hands and fingers (bummer as a music teacher and piano person), I noticed right away how my hands weren’t hurting while rubbing those lenses clean. Then realized back pain, lower leg pain: GONE. I’m a young sixty-four. Can’t say I’ll be looking for the bee’s next sting anytime soon, but this has been a remarkable experience. I’ll say I’ve had some chills (probably the endorfin or adrenal spike) between Sunday and today, but it’s good to see that I’m not just imagining this pain relief experience.

  2. Barry
    Blackfoot, Idaho

    I first started having arthritic knees when I was about 22. They would act up & feel like they were catching any time I bent them. This is about the same time I got married. My new Father in law kept bees, primarily for the purpose of treating his own arthritis. I figured, “Hey, why not try it?” So I did. The first time I stung my knees, the arthritis went away for almost 2 years. I’m now 38.

    About every 2 to three years my knees act up and when they do, I sting them & they’re fine again for another couple of years. When I sting them they swell up and itch for a few days, but I’ll take that over joint pain every time I go up and down the stairs, or having to resort to a cane (even though canes can be hightly stylish). 2 weeks ago I was shoveling and doing yardwork and my knees both started to grab.

    My father in Law doesn’t have bees anymore. But on my way home from work yesterday, there was a bee in my car! How Serendipitous! I was so excited, i guzzled the bottle of water I had with me & used the bottle to catch her. I Stung my knees last night & while they’re itchy and a little swollen right now, the joint pain is gone & probably will be for another 2 years. I don’t care what “studies” do or don’t show. It works for me every time.

  3. Kunigal Shivakumar
    Greensboro, NC

    Is there any Bee Venom therapist in North Carolina? I would like try this for my knee pain.

  4. Canuta.

    Hello! At this point excluding commit suicide, I am ready to do just about anything to aliviate my osteoarthritis pain.

    I’ll to the country to get sting by a “Bee!”

    Mucho love,

  5. Urban J

    Bee venom of medical grade, have shown very good results both in studies and by several of my friends using that to ease/treat arthritis. Check studies here:

  6. markryan

    my cousin came from overseas and we have a 1 week drinking of alcohol and eating of pork and fatty foods..then my bother got this arthritis..he’s feet get swollen he could hardly walk and it was in pain/ Since then He took medicines for 2 months of no cure. The meds could only damage the liver. Then came my herbalist uncle and inform him that the bee sting is the cure. Without hesitation he ask our other uncle who does sapping the coconut for coconut wine . he captures bees and stings it on my brothers swollen feet and to the toes.. after a week the swollen was gone also the arthritis was gone.. the pain on his feet no more. now he cant eat port and foods that are not allowed to be eaten when you have arthritis .. He can now enjoy the wine and beers…

  7. SweetDoug

    I’ll add my 2¢ here.
    I’ve had arthritis in my big right toe for years, starting in my early 40’s from an injury I sustained in high school, where a bench fell on my toe.
    This summer, I had some yellow jackets in the house. They disappeared, but what happened was, they just dropped onto the floor. Well, guess who stepped on one.
    Yup. Right on the foot, under the middle toe.
    A day later, my big toe was not aching, and it’s not ached for several months. It’s just now coming back. I’m going to do this again next spring when the little buggers come out again.
    Can’t argue with the correlation.

    • Dan

      It sound more like gout than arthritis.

  8. Kathy Mc

    In Colo. 1997 I got honey bees to help with my pain with fibromyalgia.

    I moved to CA and over the internet I connected with a person in Canada to sell me a vial of bee serum with Dr. prescription.. IT WORKED… that was 1999.

    I need to do it again. can anyone help me get a hold of these products again?

  9. John G

    I have arthritis in my finger and joint, how do I get a bee to sting my finger?

  10. GGordon

    My dad was a bee farmer from age 17 to 82. All of his siblings suffered from bad arthritis. When he died at age 82 his hands looked better than mine do at at 43. Getting stung was a regular part of our childhood since we had over 200 hives on the property at all times. I never remember suffering from injury pain for very long back then and we were rough and tumble type of kids. I also remember people coming to the farm for stings. They’d sit on the rock benches and dad would catch bees and sting them.
    Yesterday was my re-commitment to sting therapy. I took on to the tip of my finger on the right hand and two to the knuckles on my left hand. I grabbed them with gloved fingers and directed the sting to where I needed it.

  11. Jenny

    There was a show on Discovery Health (I think that’s the channel) and a lady was nearly killed by a bee swarm attack on her farm. She was in the hospital for 3 weeks on kidney machines, breathing tube, etc. She was in her 60s, and said the only positive thing from the incident is that she’s completely free of arthritis pain now, after suffering from that for years. She said jokingly that she doesn’t recommend trying to be stung by a huge swarm just to cure arthritis though! I looked on the web and it seems apitherapy really does work, by injections, so luckily it doesn’t require being stung directly by the bees.

  12. Casey

    Read your column this morning regarding bee stings relieving arthritus pain. (Palm Beach Post July 30/08)
    Thought I’d share our story.
    On vacation one night while in the quaint fishing village of Parati, Brazil we ‘over enjoyed’ thier wonderful traditional drink Capahrina (a mixture of local sugar cane rum, sugar, lime and lots of ice). We awoke the next morning with the absolute worse hangovers we’d ever experienced. I’m not talking the little headache and upset tummy kind…I mean the sledgehammer head hitting and gonna barf kind. The kind you know is going to last ALL day…maybe 2 days. But we had early morning plans so left the hotel to find coffee at dawn.
    No luck with coffee at that hour and we were heading back (stumbling back is more like it) to the hotel when we were suddenly attacked by a small swarm of bees. My husband was stung 12 times and I was stung 8. We finally evaded the swarm by running back into our hotel.
    Back in our room we immediately decided to change our plans and leave the village as we were now afraid about walking around outside there. So we packed our bags and checked out. It was about an hour after we’d awakened at this point.
    As we drove away from the hotel it hit us…our hangovers were GONE. Completely gone. Other then the pain of the bee stings we both felt GREAT. We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our day…WITHOUT any Capahrinas (:

  13. KL

    I was stung 6 times by yellow jackets – 5 times on my left leg. I have osteoarthritis in my left knee, and the pain has been gone since I was stung. I’m hoping that it will last! I would definitely choose bee stings over yellow jackets if I were to experiment – they are much less painful!

  14. Ann T

    When I was about 10 years old I had severe pain in both knees. Doctors believed it to be arthritis (even in such a young child) and treated me with painkillers–without success. My parents, who were from Ukraine, took me to a beekeeper friend. Over two summers I was stung behind the knees several times during the course of each summer. The arthritis type pains were gone for many years and only started to come back in my mid-forties.
    I’m seriously thinking of doing this again.

  15. harv nelson

    Yellowjacket stings in my legs seem to lessen pain in my knees for a long time. For my hands, just washing dishes works better than Aspirin or ibuprofen.

  16. Lynn Peters

    I was stung by a wasp at the base of my thumb,which completely relieved the arthritis pain I’d had there for years! The relief lasted for about 2 weeks. I had never heard of this before and wondered if any research had been done re bee venom and pain and swelling.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.