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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2 (2005), Issue 1, Pages 79-84
Original Article

An Overview of Bee Venom Acupuncture in the Treatment of Arthritis

1Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Seoul College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
2Department of Meridian and Acupuncture, Seoul College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Received 20 September 2004; Accepted 4 January 2005

Copyright © 2005 Jae-Dong Lee et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Bee venom acupuncture (BVA), as a kind of herbal acupuncture, exerts not only pharmacological actions from the bioactive compounds isolated from bee venom but also a mechanical function from acupuncture stimulation. BVA is growing in popularity, especially in Korea, and is used primarily for pain relief in many kinds of diseases. We aimed to summarize and evaluate the available evidence of BVA for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Computerized literature searches for experimental studies and clinical trials of BVA for arthritis were performed on the databases from PUBMED, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. In addition, two leading Korean journals (The Journal of Korean Society for Acupuncture and Moxibustion and The Journal of Korean Oriental Medicine) were searched for relevant studies. The search revealed 67 studies, 15 of which met our criteria. The anti-inflammation and analgesic actions of BVA were proved in various kinds of animal arthritic models. Two randomized controlled trials and three uncontrolled clinical trials showed that BVA was effective in the treatment of arthritis. It is highly likely that the effectiveness of BVA for arthritis is a promising area of future research. However, there is limited evidence demonstrating the efficacy of BVA in arthritis. Rigorous trials with large sample size and adequate design are needed to define the role of BVA for these indications. In addition, studies on the optimal dosage and concentration of BVA are recommended for future trials.