Many people are familiar with acupuncture or at least have heard of it, but believe it or not, a few people tout a form of acupuncture that involves being stung by bees rather than jabbed with needles by a practitioner. Now there’s a report of a woman who has died as a result of receiving bee acupuncture, technically called apitherapy, which Gwyneth Paltrow and a few other celebrities have been singing the praises of.
Woman in Spain dies from bee acupuncture
Researchers in Spain published a case study about the bee acupuncture death in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology. They said the unnamed 55-year-old woman died of an extreme allergic reaction, and they believe she is the first person to die from this type of apitherapy. Bee acupuncture involves placing a living bee on the patient and then squeezing its head until it stings the patient and dies.
According to the case study’s authors, the woman who died following a session had undergone more than 20 other such sessions over the course of two years, and she had never had a serious reaction to any of the other sessions. She had originally sought treatment for tightness in her muscles and stress.
However, when she went for her last session of bee acupuncture, she developed an extreme allergic reaction to the bee sting. According to the study, she started to wheeze and passed out shortly after receiving the last bee sting. She was transported to a local hospital, where she died of organ failure weeks after her final apitherapy session. Doctors determined after she arrived that she had suffered a major stroke caused by an anaphylactic reaction.
Apparently, the clinic where the woman went for her apitherapy session wasn’t even prepared for what happened, as all they could give her there was the steroid methylprednisolone, which was supposed to reduce inflammation. It took about half an hour for the ambulance to even get to the clinic where she was being treated.
Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities tout bee acupuncture
One of the biggest proponents of bee sting therapy is award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who credits it with relieving a variety of different health problems, including everything from arthritis and inflammation to skin problems. She talked up the therapy in an article for The New York Times. Other celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian and Kate Middleton have also endorsed other products utilizing bee venom in beauty treatments, but as is the case with many unusual fads, they may be more trouble than they’re worth.
The problem is that proof of bee acupuncture actually helping any of these health problems is rather limited. Additionally, studies such as this one published in the journal PLOS have revealed serious concerns with bee sting therapy. The study describes adverse responses to bee sting therapy as “frequent” and including everything from minor skin irritations to anaphylaxis and other “life-threatening severe immunological responses.” As in the case of the woman in Spain who died after receiving bee acupuncture, some people who previously had no serious allergic reaction to bee stings have developed an allergic reaction to them after receiving bee sting therapy.