The hidden health benefits of bee stings
A doctor in Gaza is experimenting with bee stings to treat a wide range of ailments.
Many people fear bees because they don't want to get stung, but, despite the discomfort felt, bee stings can actually promote health.
When a bee stinger is activated, it releases more than just venom. An estimated 18 to 20 naturally occuring antibiotics and antivirals can be found in the ensuing concoction, along with anti-inflammatory and pain reduction substances. Bee stings can also trigger reactions in the human body that generate healing properties that would otherwise remain dormant.
Consuming honey is believed to promote general wellbeing and is thought to be effective against "insomnia, anorexia, stomach and intestinal ulcers, constipation, osteoporosis, and laryngitis."
There's been a recent surge in interest around the medicinal purposes of bees, also known as Apitherapy, but humans have sought these therapeutic benefits for millennia.
Thousands of years ago the Egyptians used bee products to address arthritis. More recently, doctors in the US have turned to bees to treat multiple sclerosis and immune system disorders that attack skin or nerves.
In Gaza, as the video above shows, an alternative medicine professional and a team of researchers are cultivating bees to treat health issues ranging from "hair loss to cerebral palsy to cancer."
A lot of research has to be done to determine just how effective apitherapy is, but there's little reason to discount the possibility of widespread health benefits. After all, the majority of medicine used today is derived from naturally occuring substances or is modelled on the properties and behaviors of what can be found in nature. Since bees interact with wildlife, it makes sense that they would develop methods for combatting pathogens, while also picking up beneficial substances.
Of course, not everyone can get stung by a bee. Some people will have harsh allergic reactions.
But at a time when fears of antibiotic resistant super bugs are on the rise, this hidden trove of medicine could help doctors discover new treatments.
Bees already provide humans with copious benefits, mostly by pollinating 30% of the world's crops and 90% of the world's flowers. So protecting them and restoring their ecosystems needs no further justification.
But if it turns out that bees can also treat a range of health problems, then their survival becomes even more important.