Apitherapy in Iran

Looking back
Since ancient times physicians have prescribed bee hive products like propolis for bone fractures and orange honey for depression and related psychological disorders. One of the most famous Persian physicians to make extensive therapeutic use of bee products was Avicenna, who prescribed honey- or beeswax-based medications. However, few physicians recorded their recommendations or experiences. Of the documents that were produced, most have been destroyed in wars, floods, and earthquakes.

Scientific research on apitherapy in Iran resulted from the efforts of a great mystic man Mr. Azizollah Mohaghegh Modarres Najafi, from Mashhad, the capital of Iran’s North East province. Using the bodies of recently died bees, he prepared an ointment for use in treating patients with joint disorders ranging from simple trauma to arthritis. And on his recommendation, bee venom was used on rheumatic patients at Imam Reza Hospital, at the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences. Professor Mehdi Balali-Mood played a major role in managing the team and persuading health officials to accept the project and provide beehives for the medical team.

However, the project was criticized by academic staffs, who declared bee venom therapy to be unscientific. They also claimed that if the technique had been effective, Pharmaceutical companies would have used it to develop medicines before the Iranian researchers did, and there would have been at least one U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved medication to present to the pharmaceutical markets. Moreover, apitherapists were viewed by most academics as unethical for treating patients with live bee stings. Despite these criticisms and problems, bee venom therapy, using live honeybees, began in 1989 in the department of rheumatology at Imam Reza Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Mohammad Reza Hataf.

After receiving good results from two arthritic patients (one with Rieter syndrome and the other with RA), we launched a pilot study to collect bee venom by means of a new invented electrical shock device and then formulation of two different medications from the venom. One ointment and freeze dried Vials in 4 different dosages from Bee venom which was supposed to be consumed for use by a small number of volunteers with autoimmune diseases. The results of treating two patients were presented at a 1990 regional congress in Ahwaz, the capital of Iran’s South West province, but were rejected by the congressional officials. In 1992 the same results were reported to an international congress on Natural Toxins in Singapore and were accepted for presentation at the opening ceremony.

Looking forward
Since 1992 the use of beehive products, especially bee venom, has been formally presented at congresses, university seminars, and beekeepers’ meetings. As research teams continue to study bee venom therapy, disorders ranging from simple trauma to malignant tumors, and especially MS and arthritis, are being considered for investigation.

It is now common to see pollen, propolis, and royal jelly at exhibitions and in shops selling honey and traditional plant medicines. With the safety of bee products ensured by health officials, the bee industry has grown significantly, particularly the field of packaging. As the industry develops further, new standards will gradually be introduced.

Also under way is a step-by-step effort to convince Iran’s health ministers of the effectiveness of honeybee products, particularly bee venom. In addition, three workshops have been held for medical doctors regarding Bee Venom Therapy. Although as recently as 20 years ago none of Iran’s medical doctors or professors were willing to use even honey to treat their patients, well-known orthopedic physicians are now using organic raw honey in the operating room and as a way of healing wounds and fungi-infected nails.

A recent area of research on honeybee products is the effectiveness of propolis as a virus growth inhibitor in the production of vaccines. In response to public health needs and in reaction to the common use of antibiotics, a new field of university study has been introduced: traditional medicine. We hope that graduates of this course will encourage other health practitioners in Iran to use bee products more and more widely.

Behnam Kaviani-Vahid, Pharm.D.
Tehran, Iran




Diseases and Apitherapy
Over 500 Diseases which
may be treated through
the use of Apitherapy.     

Bee Plants for Human
and Animal Health

Over 150 plants used
as natural drugs for
every living being.


© Copyright 2008 . All rights Reserved.
Designed By Simatarh