Bee sting therapy causing a buzz in China
Bee sting therapy causing a buzz in China
More than 27,000 people have undergone the painful technique — each session can involve dozens of punctures — at Wang Menglin’s clinic in Beijing, says the bee acupuncturist who makes his living from believers in the concept.
But except for trying to prevent allergic reactions to the stings themselves, there is no orthodox medical evidence that bee venom is effective against illness, and rationalist websites in the West describe so-called “apitherapy” as “quackery.”
“We hold the bee, put it on a point on the body, hold its head, and pinch it until the sting needle emerges,” Wang said at his facility on the outskirts of the capital.
The bee — Wang said he uses an imported Italian variety — dies when it stings.
“We’ve treated patients with dozens of diseases, from arthritis to cancer, all with positive results,” said Wang.
Bee stings can be used to treat “most common diseases of the lower limbs,” he added, and claimed they also work as a preventative measure. But sciencebasedmedicine.org, a US-based website, says that such claims of panaceas and cure-alls are “always a red flag for quackery.”
“There is no scientific evidence to support its use,” it says of “apitherapy,” or treatment with bee products.
One of Wang’s patients said doctors told him he had lung and brain cancer and gave him little over a year to live, but he now believes he has almost doubled his life expectancy and credits bee stings for the change. “From last year up until now, I think I’m getting much stronger,” the patient told AFP.
No clinical studies
But on its website, the American Cancer Society makes clear: “There have been no clinical studies in humans showing that bee venom or other honeybee products are effective in preventing or treating cancer.
“Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.”
It adds that there is a Qur'anic reference to the medicinal properties of the liquid produced by bees, and that Charlemagne (742-814), the first Holy Roman Emperor, is said to have been treated with bee stings.
In the West bee stings have also been used by sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS), an often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system.
But the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the US says on its website: “In spite of long-standing claims about the possible benefits of bee venom for people with MS, a 24-week randomised study showed no reduction in disease activity, disability, or fatigue, and no improvement in quality of life.”
Bee venom is one of the many traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments derived from animals and plants — some of which are blamed for endangering particular wildlife species.
TCM is a major part of China’s health care system and a booming industry which continues to receive significant investment and support from the central government.
Many people in China cannot afford to buy the latest orthodox pharmaceuticals as national health insurance is limited.
Older people — who are more likely to fall ill — also favor traditional remedies because of deep-rooted cultural beliefs in the power of natural, rather than modern, ingredients.
Most hospitals in China have traditional medicine treatments available.
It can be a lucrative field for companies and practitioners — in 2012, the TCM industry in China produced goods worth 516 billion yuan ($84 billion), more than 31 percent of the country’s total medicine output, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements
JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.
Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.
She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines.
“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.
A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions.
“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”
She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said.
“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”
She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells.
“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss.
“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”
She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.
The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health.
“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”
However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors.
She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.
“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.
In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects.
“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.
“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”
With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables.
“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly.
“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.
Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.
“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.