Bee venom and its beneficial and biological effects
Bee venom is a clear product of the bee`s organism, a secretion produced by the sting apparatus whose biological purpose is to protect the bee society from enemies. At the tip of the backside honeybees have an organ for protection – an apparatus consisting of a sting, two venom glands and a venom reservoir. A part of the sting is indented in order to prevent the sting from getting out of the skin. The sting remains in the skin, and the bee dies in several hours. If you want to reduce the venom effect, you should immediately remove the sting from the skin.
Young bees, 17-18 days old, secrete the largest quantities of venom! Bee venom – apitoxin (Greek: “apis” – bee and “toxikon” – venom) is a thick, colorless liquid of a characteristic honey smell and bitter taste. In air, it solidifies quickly and loses its effects. It is easily dissolved in water.
The beneficial effects of bee venom have been known since ancient times. Hippocrates and Galenus used bee venom to treat certain diseases. The founder of modern apitherapy (honey treatment, in general) was prof. M.I. Lukomski (1864) from Saint Petersburg, who studied the possibility of treating rheumatism and neuralgia with bee stings. In the 2nd half of the 20th century, the number of proponents of bee venom treatment increased, and thus apitherapy obtained its status in medicine.
Bee venom protects the capillaries, increases the blood flow towards the diseased organ and alleviates the pain. Clinical doctors also point out that bee venom beneficially affects the hemopoietic system: it increases the quantity of hemoglobin; it increases the number of white blood cells, both locally and generally. Bee venom has a positive effect on heart musculature: it reduces blood pressure; it affects the exchange of matter. It has a positive effect on the general condition of a patient: it increases the patient`s general tone and ability to work, it improves sleep and appetite. Bee venom is especially efficient when rheumatic and allergy diseases are concerned.
Gathering bee venom is achieved by exposing bees to a low voltage electrical current. A mirror with charged electrodes is placed in front of the bees. When the bees land on the mirror, they get excited by the electrical current, and they react by “stinging” the glass and releasing the venom. Bees remain unharmed, and the venom, streaking down the mirror, is collected and additionally processed. The purpose of bee venom is not only to directly affect the aggressor, but to provoke an “alarm reaction” in order to mobilize the activity of worker bees, in the case of the danger at hand. This is achieved by secreting easily volatile substances in the venom that quickly reach the smell cells of the bees and abruptly increase the aggressiveness of the bee society.
Biological effects of bee venom
The well-known properties of bee venom – causing pain, swellings, rubor at the spot of the sting, relate directly to its biological purpose. Its purpose is only to banish the enemy attacking the society`s food, and not kill him, because that would lead to deterioration of hygiene and a normal life of the society. According to many experts, this feature of the venom`s biological role led to evolutionary creation of its toxic characteristics. Mammalian organism, including the human organism reacted on its part to the venom`s effects protectively by mobilizing and reorganizing its hormonal, immunological and nervous factors, in order to maintain vital functions and regulatory capabilities. Thus, according to prof. Artyomov, bee venom attained its pharmacological properties. Some of these properties were used by man in ancient times. When applied, bee venom causes local and general reactions. Local inflammatory reactions occur where the sting had taken place and are manifested by rubor, swelling, increased local temperature.
Local reaction appears instantly. Mucous membrane and conjunctiva have stronger reactions to bee venom, and the inflammation lasts longer.
General symptoms depend on the toxic effects of the venom on the central nervous system. Some people can have a serious allergic reaction to the sting of only one bee, although toxic reactions occur after multiple bee stings – over 100 bees. In small doses, bee venom activates protective mechanisms of the organism and stimulates the functions of the pituitary and adrenal glands.
A general toxic effect of bee venom, melittin, is the destruction of “communication” within the organism, i.e. transmission of nervous impulses. A toxic dose slows down the effects of enzymes which participate in blood coagulation. It further causes the contraction of the smooth and skeletal striated muscles, similarly as the effects of acetylcholine.
It is confirmed that bee venom blocks the transmission of nervous impulses to the heart, through nervus vagus. This property of bee venom in particular, of blocking nervous synapses, opens perspectives on its wider application in medical treatment.
Bee venom increases blood flow in veins! Based on this, bee venom is a good auxiliary means of treating blood pressure, thromboangiitis obliterans, gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, hyperthyroidism, etc.
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