Gwyneth Paltrow can’t stay away from the latest health and beauty fads. And so, it came as little surprise to most people when the actress divulged that she’d recently tried out bee sting therapy.
“I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy,” Paltrow told the New York Times. “People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful.”
The holistic practice entails placing a bee onto someone’s skin and then stimulating the bee to sting the person and release the stinger, so that the person could reap the supposed benefits of the main component of bee venom, called melittin.
Bee venom allegedly boosts the immune system and improves circulation, in addition to fighting diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and shingles, according to the American Apitherapy Society. The therapy hasn’t gone mainstream in the United States yet, and is only currently available at a few specialised natural health centres.
However, the medical community is largely sceptical about apitherapy.
New York City dermatologist Valerie Goldburt says that there isn’t actually much scientific evidence to support apitherapy. “As w
ith any therapy, it may work for some people for reasons that aren’t clear, but it certainly hasn’t been cleared by the medical community,” Goldburt said.
Animal studies have shown that bee venom does have anti-inflammatory properties, says W. Clay Jackson, vice president of the board of the American Academy of Pain Management. But, there have been no randomised controlled trials showing any health benefits in humans, and so he noted that people should not pursue apitherapy as their primary treatment against inflammatory diseases.
Furthermore, apitherapy can be dangerous for certain people. “Many people are allergic to bee venom and also there have been reported side effects, such as hemorrhagic strokes,” Jackson said. “Some people mistakenly assume that because something is natural, it has no side effects, and that is not the case.”
And so, if someone is set on following Paltrow’s advice and getting stung, they should consult with their doctor beforehand — because getting stung by a bee might not be worth the pain.