Woman Dies from Bee Acupuncture Allergic Reaction

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - APRIL 15: An apitherapy practitioner administers a bee sting to the hand of a patient at Cibubur Bee Center on April 15, 2007 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Bee acupuncture or apitherapy, is an alternative healing practice where bee stings are used as treatment for various conditions and diseases. …
Dimas Ardian/Getty Images

An unnamed 55-year-old woman in Spain has died after a fatal apitherapy appointment. This unique form of alternative medicine leverages honeybee products — including venom — to treat all manner of ailments. Unfortunately, the woman may have developed an allergy to bee stings.

In bee acupuncture, a professional squeezes a live honeybee onto someone’s face, prompting it to sting and inject its venom, after which it dies and the process is repeated. This and other apitherapy treatments are used for everything from arthritis to cancer, despite some the medical community’s resistance to its “quackery.” Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow of Goop infamy swears by the treatment, crediting bee venom with helping rid her of an old injury.

This was not the first time there had been complications for the unidentified patient. The woman had already been through two dozen appointments over the years before, apparently without reactions sufficient to dissuade her from continuing the treatment. But during the last visit, she “developed wheezing, dyspnea, and a sudden loss of consciousness immediately after a live bee sting.”

She was rushed to a hospital but later died of multi-organ failure. The case study authors stop short of mocking the treatment outright but do caution that “repeated exposure to the allergen was found to carry a greater risk of severe allergic reactions than in the general population,” so “the risks of undergoing apitherapy may exceed the presumed benefits.” They have concluded that “this practice is both unsafe and unadvisable.”

.