Doctors Weigh in on Gwyneth Paltrow's Bee Sting Therapy
As if living like Gwyneth Paltrow wasn't already hard enough. You can now add "getting stung by actual bees on purpose" to your list of ways to channel the goop founder, right below vitamin IV infusions, $700 leggings, and sex dust.
Paltrow recently spoke with the New York Times about her beauty regimen, which includes products from Drunk Elephant, Tata Harper, Shu Uemura, and her new line with Juice Beauty. Oh, and also the occasional dose of bee venom.
"I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy," Paltrow told the 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."
So... what is apitherapy, exactly?
"Apitherapy, while not exactly mainstream, does have its followers, which will no doubt grow considerably after Gwyneth Paltrow said she has experienced benefits from the ancient practice," says Christopher Hobbs, PhD, an herbal medicine expert and director at Rainbow Light.
Although Paltrow was referring to bee venom, apitherapy includes the use of any bee product for therapeutic purposes—including honey, beeswax, bee pollen (which is pollen that's been packed by worker bees), and a bee secretion used to feed larvae called royal jelly.
During a bee sting therapy session, the practitioner picks up honey bees with tweezers and places them on your skin, at which point the bees do exactly what you'd expect them to do. People receiving apitherapy treatment may be stung as many as 80 times(!) in one day.
Are there any risks or side effects?
The American Apitherapy Society claims that apitherapy can help ease symptoms of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, wounds, bacterial diseases, and more. But research on the practice is limited.
While some studies have suggested that bee venom may lessen symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, a 2015 review concluded that adverse reactions to bee venom therapy are "frequent" and warned practitioners to use caution when administering the treatment.
"I do not recommend bee stingsas anti-inflammatory agents to patients," says Gary Goldenberg, MD, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "Many patients are severely allergic to bee stings and may not know it."
In addition to a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, other possible side effects include swelling and infection, says David Stoll, MD, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills.
"Bee stings should be avoided, not used as treatment," as Dr. Goldenberg put it.
So yeah, no thanks, Gwyneth. We'll pass on the venom.