Bee venom injection into an acupuncture point reduces arthritis associated edema and nociceptive responses

Pain. 2001 Feb 15;90(3):271-280. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(00)00412-7.


Bee venom (BV) has traditionally been used in Oriental medicine to relieve pain and to treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While several investigators have evaluated the anti-inflammatory effect of BV treatment, the anti-nociceptive effect of BV treatment on inflammatory pain has not been examined. Previous studies in experimental animals suggest that the therapeutic effect of BV on arthritis is dependent on the site of administration. Because of this potential site specificity, the present study was designed to evaluate the anti-nociceptive effect of BV injections into a specific acupoint (Zusanli) compared to a non-acupoint in an animal model of chronic arthritis. Subcutaneous BV treatment (1 mg/kg per day) was found to dramatically inhibit paw edema caused by Freund's adjuvant injection. Furthermore, BV therapy significantly reduced arthritis-induced nociceptive behaviors (i.e. the nociceptive scores for mechanical hyperalgesia and thermal hyperalgesia). These anti-nociceptive/anti-inflammatory effects of BV were observed from 12 days through 21 days post-BV treatment. In addition, BV treatment significantly suppressed adjuvant-induced Fos expression in the lumbar spinal cord at 3 weeks post-adjuvant injection. Finally, injection of BV into the Zusanli acupoint resulted in a significantly greater analgesic effect on arthritic pain as compared to BV injection in to a more distant non-acupoint. The present study demonstrates that BV injection into the Zusanli acupoint has both anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects on Freund's adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats. These findings raise the possibility that BV acupuncture may be a promising alternative medicine therapy for the long-term treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Points*
  • Animals
  • Arthritis / complications*
  • Arthritis / drug therapy
  • Bee Venoms / therapeutic use*
  • Edema / drug therapy*
  • Edema / etiology*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hyperalgesia / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Touch


  • Bee Venoms