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Amy Schumer Has Lyme Disease — Why Do People Think Bees Can Help?

Abby Moore
Author:
September 10, 2020
Abby Moore
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
By Abby Moore
mbg Nutrition & Health Writer
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Graphic by Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images
September 10, 2020
We carefully vet all products and services featured on mindbodygreen using our commerce guidelines. Our selections are never influenced by the commissions earned from our links.

Amy Schumer announced to the world that she has Lyme disease—and may have had it for some time, without the slightest clue.

The comedian and actress announced her Lyme disease diagnosis on Instagram, of course with a touch of humor. "Anyone get LYME this summer?" Schumer captioned the post. "I have maybe had it for years," she added.

To back up for a second, Lyme disease1 is a common tickborne illness, which leads to fever, headache, fatigue, and rashes—and it can spread to the joints, heart, or nervous system if it's not treated. But even with these symptoms, it's possible (and quite common) to live with Lyme disease for several years without knowing.

Even with antibiotic treatment, a small percentage of people will experience lingering effects, known as post-Lyme disease syndrome2 or post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. In her post, Schumer also asked for advice on the matter—and fans certainly had some buzzworthy advice.

If you scroll through the comments, you'll notice many people mentioned a somewhat controversial treatment plan: bee sting therapy. 

What is bee sting therapy?

Bee sting therapy is a form of apitherapy3, which is an alternative treatment using products from honeybees. Along with bee sting venom, apitherapy can include honey, propolis, bee pollen, beeswax, and royal jelly. 

"This strategy has been used in alternative medicine for more than 5,000 years," one study explains. "It consists of either indirect application, by extracting bee venom (BV)4 with an electric stimulus followed by its injection into the body or directly via bee stings."

To apply bee sting therapy directly, bees are held with a tweezer and placed onto a particular part of the body. After it stings, the bee is removed, but the stinger remains in the body for a short period of time. 

This treatment was recently featured in the Netflix docuseries (Un)Well, so many people around the world were exposed to the idea of apitherapy to help manage symptoms of Lyme disease. In the sixth episode of the show, the founder of The Heal Hive, Brooke Geahan, calls bee venom an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parasitic, and an anti-inflammatory.

She then explains one property of bee venom, called melittin, which supposedly breaks into the cell walls containing the Lyme disease bacteria (B. burgdorferi) and causes them to burst. 

Is bee sting therapy safe or effective?

While research has shown bee venom and melittin may be effective antimicrobial agents against B. burgdorferi5, those studies were conducted in vitro. In other words, they were studied in a controlled environment, outside of a living human's body. So more research is necessary to draw any firm conclusions.

Due to the lack of human testing, many experts aren't huge proponents of the treatment since the risks are extremely high—and potentially deadly. "One of the most important risks to be aware of is the risk of a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, which can result in death if not treated immediately," internist Sunitha D. Posina, M.D., tells Good Housekeeping.

Bottom line.

Despite many fans' recommendations to try bee venom therapy, there's limited evidence the alternative treatment is effective, and it may potentially pose further health risks. 

For now, the actress and mom is currently taking an antibiotic and herbs called Lyme-2 and is feeling optimistic. To close out her Instagram post, Schumer says, "I also want to say that I feel good and am excited to get rid of it."

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