Bee Venom and Neurological Diseases | Portland, OR | Lee Dennis, ND

Lee Dennis, ND

Naturopathic Physician


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Mellitin May Offer A New Treatment Option For Neurological Diseases

by Lee Dennis, ND

Posted: August 13, 2014

Wait, what is mellitin? You may not have heard of it, but you've surely felt it's unpleasant effects. That's because mellitin is the main component in bee venom! You heard it right - bee venom. This unlikely candidate may hold some value in treating neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's and ALS. And because of how it works - which I'll describe below - it may help with other illnesses as well.

A recent study has shown that mellitin, the main component of honeybee venom, may have protective affects against oxidative damage in neurons. Oxidative damage occurs when free radicals, also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), cause damage to cellular components. If there is enough damage, this can lead to a process in cells called apoptosis, which is essentially programmed cell death. Some theories as to the cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as those mentioned above maintain that oxidative stress plays a part.

In this study, researchers looked at the effects of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) - a known reactive oxygen species - on certain enzymes in cells that lead to apoptosis, enzymes such as caspase-3. Then they looked at what happened when cells were first pre-treated with mellitin. Not surprisingly, cells treated with hydrogen peroxide had higher levels of enzymes that lead to cell death and lower levels of enzymes that protect a cell from death. In cells pre-treated with mellitin, however, there was a lower amount of enzymes that trigger cell death and more protective enzymes. Bee venom actually seemed to protect the cells!

Since oxidative stress is thought to be behind a number of other illness, this may mean that mellitin could help treat other diseases as well. But, before you go collecting honeybees for a sting party, this doesn't necessarily mean bee venom will be effective. That's because this study was an in vitro study, meaning it was performed in a lab on cells outside of the body. So, this doesn't mean it will necessarily have the same effects in the body. First, we need to get it to the cells that need protection without causing any adverse effects. This is bee venom we're talking about, after all. So, while this preliminary research is interesting, it may be a ways off before we figure out the best way to use bee venom in treating specific diseases.

Bee venom therapy is not a new idea. It has been around for some time and is already recommended by some for conditions such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. But, whether or not bee venom becomes a valued therapy has yet to be seen. For now, however, we can definitely love the honeybees for pollinating and providing tasty honey. In the future, maybe we can love them for their sting as well!


Dee Francis
February 8, 2016 at 1:8 pm

It's interesting how mellitin is supposed to help with neurological diseases. This could be a good option for my dad. He's suffering from oxidative damage, so we're looking an effective treatment for his condition. If bee venom therapy can help with his condition, then we should ask a doctor if he would be a good candidate. Thanks for the information!

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