by Mihály Simics

Published in the Bee Informed, Winter 1999/2000, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 7-9

There are always heated discussions about contraindications of bee venom therapy (BVT). I have gathered some information on the topic of BVT and pregnancy and present it here for further reference. Almost all books on apitherapy state that bee venom therapy is contraindicated during pregnancy. Unfortunately, most of these books do not give explanations.

Bee venom is very powerful, even in small quantities, and its effect should not be underestimated. In particular instances, even a very small amount can be too much. It is especially powerful when it is extracted from live bees during the summer season, when plentiful pollen sources enable the bees to produce high potency venom.

Therapeutic honeybee venom comes in three basic preparations:
Apis Mellifica (Apis): whole body extract
Apis Virus: venom sac extract
Apis Venenum Purum: whole bee venom (dried venom)

The most detailed observations on the effect of bee venom (Apis Mellifica) come from homeopathic practitioners (See Editors Note). In 1835 in Germany, Rev. Brauns first introduced Apis as a therapy when he treated domestic animals with bee venom using a highly diluted homeopathic formula. The homeopathic proving of Apis was not published until 1853 when the German born homeopath, Dr. Constantine Hering, included it in his American Proving, Vol. 10. A homeopathic proving involves a group of healthy people ingesting a substance and recording their reactions to it. According to homeopathic principles, the dilute homeopathic form counteracts those symptoms. Shortly after Dr. Hering published the proving, homeopathic physicians began to use bee venom and record their observations.

Dr. C. W. Wolf of Berlin, Germany wrote the first book fully dedicated to the use of bee venom as a therapy, Apis Mellifica; or, The Poison of the Honey-Bee, Considered as a Therapeutic Agent. In this short (80 pages) but very detailed book Dr. Wolf describes how to prepare and use Apis and documents his clinical observations. He describes the preparation as follows:

“As soon as Dr. Hering had published the proving of the bee poison in his American Provings, I at once submitted them to the test of experience in an extensive practice. I prepared the drug which I used for this purpose, by pouring half an ounce of alcohol on five living bees and shaking them during the space of eight days, three times a-day, with one hundred vigorous strokes of the arm. From this preparation, which I used as the mother-tincture, I obtained attenuation’s up to the thirties centesimal scale. So far, the effects, which I have obtained with this preparation, have been uniformly satisfactory. It has seemed to me that the lower potencies lose in power as they are kept for a longer period; hence, I consider it safer to prepare them fresh every year. As a general rule, I have found either the third or the thirtieth potency, sufficient.”

Bees produce approximately 0.1 mg dried venom per venom sac. The latest research has measured 0.15 mg venom per venom sac. Based on Dr. Wolf’s preparation method, the amount of bee venom in the Mother Tincture (MT) can be calculated as follows:

1/2 ounce Alcohol (15 ml - three teaspoons)
5 Bees

5 bees (venom sac contents only) = 0.5 mg (5 x 100 micrograms or 5 x 0.1 mg) [0.1 mg is the industry’s accepted standard].
So, there is 0.5 mg of bee venom in 15 ml alcohol. Dr. Wolf attenuated (diluted) his MT on the centesimal scale (CH - 1:100) from 3 to 30 times. This means the amount of bee venom was reduced:
3CH=100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000 or 1/1,000,000th of its original amount.

30 CH=100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100 x 100

Centesimal Potency Dilution Concentration
30 CH or 30 C 1:10(60) 10(-60)

1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of its original amount.

For the sake of simplicity, I have calculated the MT the 3CH potency. The MT was diluted 100 x 100 x 100 - one million times, so the original amount of 0.5 mg (500 microgram) bee venom was reduced in the tincture to 500:1,000,000 = 0.0005 microgram per 15 ml tincture. This gives 0.000033 microgram venom in 1.0 ml (cc) tincture.

This amount of bee venom is 1/303,030.3th of a bee sting. When you apply venom from live bees for therapy, you CANNOT control the amount of venom you give and it is unlikely you will be able to give as small an amount as that administered with the 3CH tincture.

Based on this small amount of bee venom, which can become smaller when it is diluted to higher potency, Dr. Wolf wrote the following observations:

“I have had abundant opportunities of verifying the warning pregnant women should use the drug very cautiously. I am not acquainted with any drug which seems possessed of such reliable virtues regarding the prevention of miscarriage, more particularly during the first half of pregnancy, as Apis. I have often become an involuntary spectator of the power of Apis to effect miscarriage; for I had given it to honest women who did not know that they were pregnant, and where the fact of pregnancy was revealed to them by the subsequent miscarriage, which took place after one or two doses of Apis had been taken. Ever since I have made it a rule not to give Apis to females in whom the existence of pregnancy can be suspected in the remotest degree, until the matter is educed to a certainty, and the conduct of the physician can be determined upon in accordance with existing facts. I am unable to say how far this power inherent in Apis, of producing miscarriage, may be serviceable to females who are prone to miscarriage. I beg the privilege of adding a more general warning to this particular one. The more generally useful a thing is, the more liable is it to abuse. The most important and useful discoveries of homeopathy are abused in this manner by our age given to all sorts of excesses.”

Twenty-one years later Dr. Hering added to the list of symptoms of Apis-bee venom on female sexual organs and pregnancy. In Condensed Materia Medica - Apis Mellifica (1877), Dr. Hering describes the effects of Apis on Female Sexual Organs and Pregnancy as follows:

"Female Sexual Organs:
Sharp, cutting, lancinating pains in ovarian region, extending down thigh; worse right side; numbness in side and limb.
Ovarian tumor.
Feeling of weight, heaviness in ovarian region.
Right ovary enlarged, pain in left pectoral region, cough.
Dropsy of the ovaries (right), or of the uterus.
Great tenderness over the uterine region, with bearing down pain; leucorrhoea and painful urination.
Heat and fullness of uterine region.
Burning or stinging pains in region of uterus or ovaries.
Menorrhagia, with heaviness in the abdomen, faintness, uneasiness, restlessness, yawning; may have red spots on body, stinging like bee-stings.
Suppressed menses, with congested or inflamed ovaries.
Disenorrhoea, with scanty discharge of slimy blood.
Oedema of the labia.
Ovarian tumors.
Leucorrhoea: profuse, acrid, green.
Abortion during the early months.
Mammae: burning, stinging, swelling, hardness and suppuration.
Erysipelas of mammae.
Stinging, burning in scirrhus tumors of the mammae, or in open cancer.
Menorrhagia accompanying pelvic peritonitis.
Ulceration of the navel in the newborn.”

In The Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica (1879), Dr. Hering added to this list of symptoms, taking five full paged to describe the effects of bee venom on female sexual organs, pregnancy, and lactation.

In current homeopathic texts, Apis is contraindicated during pregnancy. In The Family Guide to Homeopathy, Dr. Andrew Lockie writes the following about Apis:

“Warning: because of its action on the kidney, Apis is not recommended in a lower potency than 30C (30CH) during pregnancy.”

In homeopathy, Apis is always contraindicated during pregnancy, even when it is highly diluted.

The most frequently mentioned authors of bee venom therapy (BVT) rarely mention the use of BVT during pregnancy, and I have found few references to add to the homeopathic observations. In, Bee Venom Therapy (1935), Dr. Bodog Beck does not mention contraindication for pregnancy, although he does note that BVT is contraindicated in the treatment of arthritis caused by pregnancy (p. 171). He otherwise totally ignores the topic. Dr. Joseph Broadman also ignores this topic completely and does not mention pregnancy as a contraindication for BVT in his book Bee Venom (1962). Russian and Eastern European authors, however, do state pregnancy as a contraindication, among them the Russian researcher and physician Prof. N. M. Artemov in The Biological Bases of the Therapeutic Use of Bee-Venom.

If used as an immunotherapeutic agent, bee venom (reconstituted dry venom or the previously used whole body extract, made by Venomil - Hollister-Stier and Pharmalgen Bee Venom - ALK Laboratories) may cause spontaneous contraction of the uterine muscles, based on the effect of histamine in the venom, and the physician should therefore consider the benefit-to-risk ratio of the treatment. Immunization treatment begins with administration of a very low dose of bee venom, as low as 1/1,000,000th (3CH) of a bee sting.

These are all the references I could find relating to bee venom therapy and pregnancy. During the Apimondia Conference in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Stefan Stangaciu presented a detailed and expanded list of contraindications for bee venom and other beehive products. This list is extensively detailed and can be found in the Apimondia ’99 Proceedings. My article “Basic Bee Venom Preparations,” available through Dr. Stefan Stangaciu’s apitherapy course on the Internet, explains how bee venom is prepared for therapeutic application.

Editor’s Note: Homeopathy is a therapeutic system developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s. It utilizes highly dilute substances as remedies matched to specific sets of symptoms. The law of similars, “like cures like,” states that any substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can cure those symptoms in an unhealthy person, when given in dilute form. Homeopathic Apis mellifica is made with whole honey bees.


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