A bee sting is definitely not something pleasant, but one will be surprised to see people queuing up to get stung at the ‘Bee Venom Therapy Centre’ in Kalpetta, the district headquarters of Wayanad, in northern Kerala, between 10 am and 12 noon every Tuesday.
K M Sankarankutty, the head of the Bee Research and Training Institute, under the Kerala Khadi Grama Vyavasaya Board, supervises the proceedings. When you meet him, he will hand you a copy of a pamphlet titled, ‘The Miracle and Wonders of Treatment from Bee Venom’. “Certain compounds in bee venom, namely melittin and adolapin, help reduce inflammation and pain, especially in arthritis patients. Apis cerana indica is the bee species used,” says Sankarankutty.
He takes a bee out of a wooden box and places it on the knee of a patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Thereafter, he gives the insect a small pinch, so that it gets agitated and injects venom into the patient through the needle-like portion of the sting apparatus.
The venom is used to cure rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain, multiple sclerosis, swollen tendons, as well as fibromyositis and enthesitis. The treatment is being offered as per the guidelines provided by the American Apitherapy Society. However, those who cannot avail of bee therapy are pregnant women and patients with hypertension, kidney and heart ailments, as well as mental disorders.
Ancient Egyptians had used the method as a homeopathic remedy for arthritis, says Sankarankuty. A reference to the treatment can also be found in ancient Chinese and Greek medical writings.
“It’s a centuries-old practice which is simple and cost-effective,” says Sankarankutty, who underwent training at the Central Bee Research and Training Institute, Pune, in 1987. “Once patients are convinced of the medicinal uses of bee venom, they will be given training in bee-keeping. Bee-boxes will be provided to them by charging `2,000 per box so that they can undergo the therapy in the comfort of their homes. So, more than the monetary benefit, our aim is to create a society sans arthritis patients.”
Farmer Rajarajan, 53, had been bed-ridden for nine years following a stroke. He tried ayurveda and allopathy, but nothing worked. But right after his first injection of bee venom, he had sensation in his arms and legs. “The following week, I came here walking, to the surprise of many,” he says.
Dr Rajmohan P R, an ayurveda practitioner, based in Meppadi, says that bee venom therapy in arthritis patients could be compared with the practice of ‘Agnikarma’ (thermal cauterisation) in ayurveda. “This method has been effective when patients do not respond to conventional medical care,” he says. “The combination of all the ‘ingredients’ in bee venom could help the body to release natural healing compounds in its own defense. However, a comprehensive research is required to confirm this.”