Clinical Effectiveness and Adverse Events of Bee Venom Therapy: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

Toxins (Basel). 2020 Aug 29;12(9):558. doi: 10.3390/toxins12090558.


Bee venom has been used to treat many diseases because of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. However, the secretions of bee venom can also cause life-threatening adverse reactions. The objective of this paper was to review the clinical effectiveness of bee venom and adverse events induced by bee venom, regardless of the disease. Four electronic databases were searched in April 2020. The reference lists of the retrieved articles and previous review articles were also hand-searched. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) using any type of bee venom other than live bee stings for the clinical treatment of any disease other than cancer were included. The studies were selected, the data were extracted, and the quality of the studies was assessed by two authors. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias standards. Twelve RCTs were included in this review-three on Parkinson's disease, four on arthralgia, four on musculoskeletal disorders, and one on polycystic ovary syndrome. The types of bee venom used were acupuncture injections, ultrasound gel, and an ointment. Six studies reported adverse events, and skin reactions such as pruritus and swelling were the most common. The large-scale clinical trials of bee venom therapy are needed to verify the statistical difference, and the reporting system for adverse events is also required to increase the safety of bee venom therapy.

Keywords: bee sting; bee venom; bee venom acupuncture; bee venom therapy; efficacy; safety.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't