Apitherapy is a therapy that uses the products of the bee, for the treatment of different disorders in humans. In particular, bee venom has always been an interesting element for its properties and versatility. This unusual “drug” is perhaps the first product of animal origin to have been used by man as a medicine. The first evidence dates back to 500 BC, when, in the Hungdi Neijing, Manual of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is mentioned the properties of bee venom. A century later, in Greece, also Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, mentioned bee venom defining it as “arcanum” for its inexplicably beneficial properties. In 300 BC, Aristotle in his Historia animalum, talking about the anatomy of bee, mentioned bee venom and its extraordinary characteristics. Its use also spread in the Roman society, as witnessed by Pliny the Elder who, in his work Historie naturalis, proposes bee venom even as a remedy for baldness. In the Middle Ages bee venom was proposed as a cure for the then common gout. It was only in the XIX century were conducted more in-depth studies about bee venom as a therapeutic tool and the official birth of apitherapy as a direct consequence. In 1888 Austrian Philip Terc, pioneer of apitherapy, wrote “Report about a Peculiar Connection between the Bee Stings and Rheumatism” where he monitored the positive effect of the treatment with bee venom in a sample of patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Since 1920 the work of Dr. Beck, Bee venom therapy, a work that collects all the European knowledge on the subject, was a reference for the worldwide apitherapy and is a source of inspiration for Charles Marz, founder of the American Apitherapy Society.

Chemical composition

Bee venom is composed by 78 different components, of which the main ones are 6 or 7. In bee venom we can find peptides, proteins, biogenic amines and amino acids.


Melittin, about 50-55% of the total, is the predominant ingredient in bee venom. This biologically active peptide has several effects, for example on the circulatory system, lowering coagulation and blood pressure and increasing circulation and capillary permeability; it also has the ability to stimulate smooth muscles, some endocrine glands (pituitary and adrenal glands) and finally affects the central nervous system. These characteristics make Melline an anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. Doses higher than 4 mg/kg sini inflammatory and hemolytic.

Apamin (2-3%) is a peptide with anti-inflammatory and antiserotonin action. It increases defenses, preserves red blood cells, and activates the pituitary and adrenal glands; it stimulates cortisone release. It has neurotoxic effects, useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.

MCD, or 401 peptide, ( 2-3%) is anti-inflammatory and increases defenses by activating the release of histamines, serotonins, heparins and cortisol and stimulates the central nervous system.

Adolapine (1%) has an antipyretic and analgesic function. It decreases inflammation and pain and inhibits the brain enzymes cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase. It has a relatively high toxicity.

It is followed by a series of peptides in varying proportions, such as secapine, terthiapin, procamine and cardiopep , with an as yet undefined role in the physiological action of bee venom.


 Phospholipase A 2 ( 10-12%) phospholipase B(1%) and hyaluronidase (4%) are enzymes that detoxify cells, permeabilizing tissues, a feature that makes them excellent anti rheumatoid agents. Phospholipase enzymes lower coagulation and blood pressure; they are immunomodulators, useful against asthma, Parkinson’s and drug-induced inflammation. These three enzymes are the allergenic component of bee venom and therefore the most harmful.

Biogenic Amines:

among these we find neurotransmitters such as histamine, which causes dilation of blood vessels and consequent increase in circulation, dopamine and norepinephrine which, being present in very low quantities, have physiological effects only on invertebrates.

Amino acids:amino acids present are volatile substances, pheromone that alerts nearby bees to the presence of danger, and mineral substances.

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