Woman Dies After Acupuncture Session Using Live Bees

Woman Dies After Acupuncture Session Using Live Bees
An apitherapy practitioner administers a bee sting to the hand of a patient at Cibubur Bee Center on April 15, 2007, in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Dimas Ardian/Getty Images)

A woman in Spain died after a procedure that uses live bee stingers to replace acupuncture needles.

The woman died weeks after an ambulance was called during a session. She ultimately suffered multiple organ failure and a watershed stroke, according to a study by a university hospital in Spain.

The treatment was part of an apitherapy program, a type of treatment that aims to relieve medical conditions through substances found in or produced by bees. There is limited evidence available on the effectiveness of apitherapy treatments, the study mentions.

The unnamed woman attended bee acupuncture sessions for two years before she had a negative reaction. The 55-year-old sought the treatment to relieve severe muscle tension and reduce stress, according to the study.

Bee acupuncture has been touted by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who founded health and lifestyle brand Goop. She described her experience with it in a New York Times article.

“I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy. People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful,” Paltrow said.

A live bee acupuncture doctor described the fascinating way stings are administered to points on the body, via The Telegraph.

“We hold the bee, put it on a point on the body, hold its head, and pinch it until the sting needle emerges,” said Wang Menglin.

The article claimed the therapy is a part of traditional Chinese medicine.

The Spanish study recommends that places giving apitherapy treatments should be equipped with ways to treat such reactions. The woman that died had to wait 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive before she was treated.

The study concludes by not recommending live bee acupuncture at all, also mentioning this is the first known instance of someone dying from bee acupuncture in this way.

“Therefore, the risks of undergoing apitherapy may exceed the presumed benefits, leading us to conclude that this practice is both unsafe and unadvisable,” states the study.

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