Charles Mraz, 94, Advocate of Therapeutic Bee Sting, Dies (Published 1999) (2023)

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By Karen Freeman

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Charles Mraz, an inventive beekeeper who since the 1930's had been the country's leading evangelist for the therapeutic use of bee stings, a still unproven treatment, died on Monday at his home in Middlebury, Vt. He was 94.

Mr. Mraz was widely known among beekeepers for developing a hardy strain of bees well suited to survive in the chilly Champlain Valley in Vermont and for figuring out how to get cranky bees safely out of the way so honey could be harvested more easily.

But many thousands of people with chronic diseases knew him for his campaign to have bee venom and other bee products accepted as medical therapies in the United States -- a quest that began when he deliberately bared his own arthritic knees for bee stings. His proselytizing prompted people from all over the world to seek his advice on treatment.

''Letters mailed to The Bee Man, Middlebury, Vt., would make it to his house,'' said Mitchell Kurker, his son-in-law.

A federally supervised clinical trial of the safety of such treatments is only now being undertaken.

For decades, many sick people made pilgrimages to Middlebury for bee sting therapy, for which Mr. Mraz never charged. He would pluck bee after bee from a jar, holding each one with forceps as it sank its stinger into the visitor's skin, then crushing the mortally wounded bee.

Mr. Mraz was convinced that the venom in bee stings could relieve the symptoms of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis by, among other things, triggering an anti-inflammatory response. Though that idea is not accepted by a vast majority of doctors, many people with such diseases heard his message and came to believe that it offered them hope.

Now the treatment could be moving closer to respectability. In a few weeks, the first clinical study of bee venom injections under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration will begin at Georgetown University. The research is sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, based in Cherry Hill, N.J. The yearlong study will examine safety; if the treatment clears that hurdle, the next step will be to find out whether it works.

Mr. Mraz tried to encourage research during the decades he promoted bee sting therapy. He was a founding member and a director of the American Apitherapy Society, which was set up in 1998 to promote research and education. And he helped any researcher who asked.

''He used a technique developed at Cornell in the 1960's to collect sterile venom,'' said Roger Morse, a retired professor of apiculture at Cornell who was a friend of Mr. Mraz for 50 years but disagreed with him about whether bee venom has medicinal properties. ''He would collect and supply venom free of charge to anyone who was doing research with it, no matter what kind of research was being done. He was a very unusual man who wanted to help society -- both preacher and practitioner.''

Mr. Mraz was enthralled by bees at an early age. He was born on July 26, 1905, in Queens and set up his first beehives at age 14, while he still lived in the city. After working for other beekeepers in the Finger Lakes region of New York, he moved to Middlebury in 1928 and started Champlain Valley Apiaries in 1931.

His beekeeping business became one of the largest in New England. At one point, he had a thousand bee colonies, each with a population of 30,000 to 60,000. He ran the business for more than 60 years, until he turned it over to his son William.

He discovered that the fumes of carbolic acid would prompt the bees to take cover in the bottom of the hive, leaving their honey unprotected. ''That was a very significant advance,'' said Kirk Webster, owner of Champlain Valley Bees and Queens in Middlebury. ''It enabled one person to harvest much more honey than possible before.''

That technique is now widely used, and it brought Mr. Mraz an award from the American Beekeeping Federation in 1992.

The strain of bees developed by Mr. Mraz were disease-resistant and adapted to the local climate. ''That's become almost the native bee of the Champlain Valley,'' Mr. Webster said. ''They produce a very light clover honey, the standard for very light honeys in the United States.''

He also designed new kinds of equipment for processing honey, Dr. Morse said.

His passion for what came to be called apitherapy came when painful arthritis threatened his ability to do the heavy work around an apiary.

Mr. Mraz described the episode in his book, ''Health and the Honeybee,'' which was published in 1995 by Honeybee Health Products, owned by his daughter Michelle Mraz and her husband, Mr. Kurker.

He had heard about bee sting therapy as a folk remedy in many cultures but initially considered that ''an old wives' tale,'' Mr. Kurker said. But the pain drove him to try bee stings on both knees.

'' 'I wonder if there is anything to that damned nonsense about bee stings for arthritis,' '' Mr. Mraz thought, according to his book.

The next day, he wrote, the pain was gone. ''I couldn't believe it,'' he said. ''There wasn't a trace of pain or stiffness in my knees.''

His second patient was not long in coming. A neighbor had arthritic hands that were bringing tears to his eyes during the twice-a-day milking on his dairy farm, and Mr. Mraz offered to help, he wrote. After a regimen of bee stings over several weeks, the dairy farmer's hands opened and closed easily and were no longer swollen, Mr. Mraz said.

He said he had become more confident about the bee sting technique when he found out that a doctor in midtown Manhattan, Dr. Bodog F. Beck, was using the same therapy. Mr. Mraz visited Dr. Beck's office, which had a beehive on the windowsill. The bees flew to Central Park for pollen, Mr. Mraz said, and Dr. Beck used them to sting patients.

As an expert on beekeeping techniques, Mr. Mraz lectured and consulted all over the world, especially in Mexico, and he frequently published in industry journals. At the same time, he spread the word about bee venom therapy, undeterred by the resistance he encountered.

''Most people would look at me as if I was some kind of nut,'' he wrote. Mr. Mraz also promoted what he contended were the medicinal effects of honey, pollen, royal jelly and a bee resin called propolis.

He considered stings from living bees superior to injections of purified bee venom, although he would provide the venom to researchers if they wished. Some multiple sclerosis patients treat themselves with dozens of stings a day.

''Michelle remembers growing up with a jar of bees always on the table ready to go,'' Mr. Kurker said. ''He'd treat people and send them away with a jar of bees so they could treat themselves.''

Besides Michelle Mraz, of Burlington, Vt., Mr. Mraz is survived by his wife, Pamela. His first wife, Letitia, died in 1948, and his second wife, Margaret, died in 1992. Other survivors include his daughters, Marna Ehreck of Shelburne, Vt., and Laurie Zwaan of Exeter, N.H.; his sons, William, of Middlebury, and Charles, of Destin, Fla.; 13 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren.

While Mr. Mraz started cutting down on his work at his apiary in the 1980's, he remained an active proponent and practitioner of apitherapy for the rest of his life.

''People were still coming to see him for treatment,'' Mr. Kurker said. ''Somebody came to the house on the morning he died for bee stings.''

FAQs

Is bee sting therapy legitimate? ›

Likely Effective for

A series of bee venom shots under the skin (bee venom immunotherapy) seems to be effective for reducing reactions to bee stings in people with severe allergy to bee stings. Bee venom immunotherapy provides 98% to 99% protection from reactions to bee stings.

Is bee venom FDA approved? ›

INTRAMUSCULAR: For reducing the severity of allergic reactions to bee stings: Healthcare providers give bee venom as a shot (by injection) to "desensitize" people who are allergic to bee stings. Purified bee venom for under-the-skin injection is an FDA approved product.

How much does bee venom therapy cost? ›

01 microgram of venom within the first minute to five minutes." An initial two-hour consultation costs $225, while follow-up appointments are $95 each.

What is bee sting therapy used for? ›

Bee venom therapy (BVT) is the medicinal application of BV from honeybees into the human body for the treatment of some diseases, such as rheumatism arthritis [7]. This strategy has been used in alternative medicine for more than 5000 years.

Does bee sting cure arthritis? ›

The results of a 2020 meta-analysis are more promising. This study analyzed the results of several randomized controlled trials investigating bee venom therapy for a range of diseases, including arthritis. The researchers concluded that bee venom therapy might be beneficial in treating inflammatory forms of arthritis.

Does bee venom reduce inflammation? ›

Bee venom has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and may benefit the health of your skin and immune system. It may also improve certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain.

Does bee venom cure Lyme disease? ›

Their Lyme symptoms worsened. Conclusion: Bee Venom Therapy has made a significant difference in the quality of life of all Lyme patients treated with Bee Venom. BVT combined with a detox protocol is a safe treatment for Lyme patients. BVT is also effective in conjunction with antibiotic treatments.

How long does bee venom stay in your system? ›

The majority of the time, the symptoms of bee sting serum sickness will improve on their own within 48 hours. As the chemical from the bee toxin is filtered out of your body, the sickness will begin to go away.

Does bee venom work for wrinkles? ›

Our findings suggest that bee venom plays an important role in the improvement of skin wrinkles, and it is used in the cosmetics industry as an antiwrinkle agent. Bee-venom serum provided greater efficacy in terms of total wrinkle area, total wrinkle count, and average wrinkle depth in subjects with photodamaged skin.

Does vitamin C help bee stings? ›

Thus it is recommended that for best results, people obtaining bee stings for therapeutic reasons take 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C and a tablet containing multiple B vitamins about one hour prior to receiving BVT. Items that you may want to have on hand when giving, or receiving, bee venom therapy.

How much is a gram of bee venom worth? ›

Bee venom prices vary widely, from $30.00 US (sometimes even much lower) up to $300.00 US per grams! However, if the bee venom is of high quality, bee venom price can vary; it depends upon manufacturers expenses, cost of production, analysis price, packaging, and dealer's commission and so on.

What is bee venom made of? ›

Bee venom is a complex mixture of compounds, which include proteins, peptides, amino acids, phospholipids, sugars, biogenic amines, volatile compounds, pheromones, and a high quantity of water (>80%) (44–46).

Does bee venom therapy help MS? ›

Conclusions: In this trial, treatment with bee venom in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis did not reduce disease activity, disability, or fatigue and did not improve quality of life.

Is Beehive air therapy real? ›

Beehive Apitherapy

Beehive air inhalation has proven to be very effective against respiratory illnesses, but the most effective has turned out to be the fight against immune disorders, such as allergies, susceptibility to infections, or chronic sinusitis.

What type of treatment is beneficial for bee sting? ›

Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to ease redness, itching or swelling. If itching or swelling is bothersome, take an oral antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine. Avoid scratching the sting area. This will worsen itching and swelling and increase your risk of infection.

Do bee stings help back pain? ›

Bee venom acupuncture (BVA) is an effective treatment for chronic low back pain (CLBP) through the pharmacological effects of bee venom and the simultaneous stimulation of acupoints.

Can a yellow jacket sting help arthritis? ›

Some proponents claim that honeybee stings can alleviate the pain of arthritis, shingles or tendinitis. Yellow jackets can be dangerous, however, and should not be used.

What is in royal jelly? ›

Composition. Royal jelly is 67% water, 12.5% protein, 11% simple sugars (monosaccharides), 6% fatty acids and 3.5% 10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid (10-HDA).

Do beekeepers live longer? ›

Beekeeping has always been called a “sweet cause”. Here we don't talk about the life of beekeepers, but the beekeepers have generally been proven to have a longer life, and the beekeepers are listed as The top of all longevity professions is based on facts.

Is Epsom salt good for bee stings? ›

Epsom Salt

This is great news for a bee sting! The anti-inflammatory properties in Epsom salt calm down the area, helping to ease the pain and reduce the swelling. Epsom salt can also help in drawing out the stinger as it forces impurities from the body.

Does manuka honey help with bee stings? ›

Manuka Honey products provide two-fold relief from Insect Stings and Bites.

Does Lyme disease go away? ›

Although most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with a 2- to 4-week course of oral antibiotics, patients can sometimes have symptoms of pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking that last for more than 6 months after they finish treatment. This condition is called ”Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS).

What is Lyme disease caused by? ›

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and rarely, Borrelia mayonii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.

When was the cure for bee stings invented? ›

In 1957, the USSR Ministry of Health sanctioned use of bee venom to treat certain ailments by approval of Nikolay Artemov's "Instruction for Bee Sting Venom Apitherapy".

Can a bee sting affect your heart? ›

Bee venom can also directly cause adverse reactions. Here we report the case of a patient who, ∼3 weeks after multiple bee stings, developed a prolonged heart block, syncope and cardiac arrest. This required a temporary pacemaker to be implanted, which was later replaced with a permanent pacemaker.

Why does toothpaste help bee stings? ›

There's no real scientific evidence that toothpaste can help bee stings. However, people claim that the alkaline toothpaste (high pH) neutralizes the acidic honey bee venom (low pH). If this is true, however, toothpaste won't work on wasp venom, which is alkaline.

Can a bee sting cause low blood pressure? ›

Shortness of breath and chest pain may result. Low blood pressure can occur, which can result in weakness, fainting and in severe cases, death. Treatment varies depending on the reaction type. The stinger of honey bees may remain in the skin and continue to release venom from the venom sack.

Is bee venom better than Botox? ›

In the long run, Botox is beneficial for anti-aging because it treats both the symptom (e.g. wrinkles) and the cause (repeated muscle movement). Botox relaxes the muscle that caused the wrinkles in the first place. While bee venom emulates this, it is only temporary, and not as powerful.

Do bee stings make you look younger? ›

Being stung by a bee to make you look younger? It may not sound appealing, but the poison is being hailed as miracle anti-ageing treatment. Scientists have discovered it can boost collagen - which gives skin its youthful elasticity and make it less susceptible to sun damage.

Does bee venom make your skin younger? ›

Bee venom increases collagen production

So, less MMP action means firmer, younger-looking skin. Bee venom can also stimulate collagen production. Clinical trials have found that it increases collagen protein synthesis – the process that creates collagen fibres – by encouraging the growth of new skin cells.

Can you put arnica on a bee sting? ›

The best are Arnica gel, St. John's Wort oil and Echinacea tincture. Just slap any or all three of those right on top of the sting every half hour for several hours. You can also make a little paste with baking soda and water and put the paste right over the sting.

Why are bee stings so painful? ›

First, when bees sting they release a chemical called melittin into their victim. This venom immediately triggers pain receptors, causing a burning sensation. Second, because a bee's stinger is in fact barbed like a jagged sword, when it penetrates the victim's skin it actually dislodges from the bee, remaining there.

Why do bee stings itch for days? ›

The stinger is what releases a venom that destroys the red blood cells and skin mast cells. In response, the body activates the pain receptor cells and produces histamines, which cause pain, itching, and swelling.

Why bee venom is costly? ›

Ailments which usually do not respond to traditional western medicine, are treated using bee venom treatment. Nearly 10000 bee stings make as little as one gram of bee venom, therefore bee venoms are expensive almost seven times more valuable than gold.

Can you extract bee venom without killing the bee? ›

Since their stingers do not penetrate any strata (any material), they can fly away without losing their stingers (which would kill them). So, this extracting method doesn't kill the bees.

How much is honey bee venom worth? ›

“Bee venom can sell for more than $120 per gram, as it's extremely valuable to cosmetics companies and researchers, and it only takes about an hour to get the venom from the hive.

What does bee venom do to your blood? ›

Ordinarily, bee venom is not toxic and will only cause local pain and swelling. The allergic reaction comes when the immune system is oversensitized to the venom and produces antibodies to it. Histamines and other substances are released into the bloodstream, causing blood vessels to dilate and tissues to swell.

Can bee stings cause kidney problems? ›

Acute kidney injury can be observed in patients suffering from bee stings and this is due to multiple factors, such as intravascular hemolysis, rhabdomyolysis, hypotension, and direct toxicity of the venom components to the renal tubules1,2.

Can you get a blood clot from a bee sting? ›

Vascular thrombosis is considered both in rare and systemic reactions. The wild bee venom induces the secretion of many inflammatory mediators, including histamine, phospholipase A1, and thromboxane, leading to vasoconstriction and thrombosis.

Is Beehive air therapy real? ›

Beehive Apitherapy

Beehive air inhalation has proven to be very effective against respiratory illnesses, but the most effective has turned out to be the fight against immune disorders, such as allergies, susceptibility to infections, or chronic sinusitis.

Does bee venom work for wrinkles? ›

Our findings suggest that bee venom plays an important role in the improvement of skin wrinkles, and it is used in the cosmetics industry as an antiwrinkle agent. Bee-venom serum provided greater efficacy in terms of total wrinkle area, total wrinkle count, and average wrinkle depth in subjects with photodamaged skin.

Does bee venom cure Lyme disease? ›

Their Lyme symptoms worsened. Conclusion: Bee Venom Therapy has made a significant difference in the quality of life of all Lyme patients treated with Bee Venom. BVT combined with a detox protocol is a safe treatment for Lyme patients. BVT is also effective in conjunction with antibiotic treatments.

What is in bee venom that helps arthritis? ›

Bee venom seemed to prevent arthritis with the help of hormones called glucocorticoids. These hormones help regulate inflammation. The use of bee venom, with the help of glucocorticoids, might slow the progression of inflammatory arthritis.

Do Beekeepers live longer? ›

Beekeeping has always been called a “sweet cause”. Here we don't talk about the life of beekeepers, but the beekeepers have generally been proven to have a longer life, and the beekeepers are listed as The top of all longevity professions is based on facts.

What is Beehive air therapy? ›

Apitherapy is a therapy that uses beehives and bee products including honey, propolis and royal jelly to strengthen the immune system and health. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to use apitherapy in their daily lives. Inhaling the air from beehives has positive effects on psychophysical wellbeing.

What is a bee bed? ›

Bee beds are sleeping chambers directly over bee hives. The warmth from the bees, vibrations and buzzing are said to be both healing & calming.

Is bee venom better than Botox? ›

In the long run, Botox is beneficial for anti-aging because it treats both the symptom (e.g. wrinkles) and the cause (repeated muscle movement). Botox relaxes the muscle that caused the wrinkles in the first place. While bee venom emulates this, it is only temporary, and not as powerful.

Do bee stings make you look younger? ›

Being stung by a bee to make you look younger? It may not sound appealing, but the poison is being hailed as miracle anti-ageing treatment. Scientists have discovered it can boost collagen - which gives skin its youthful elasticity and make it less susceptible to sun damage.

Does bee venom make your skin younger? ›

Bee venom increases collagen production

So, less MMP action means firmer, younger-looking skin. Bee venom can also stimulate collagen production. Clinical trials have found that it increases collagen protein synthesis – the process that creates collagen fibres – by encouraging the growth of new skin cells.

Does Lyme disease go away? ›

Although most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with a 2- to 4-week course of oral antibiotics, patients can sometimes have symptoms of pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking that last for more than 6 months after they finish treatment. This condition is called ”Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS).

What is Lyme disease caused by? ›

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and rarely, Borrelia mayonii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.

When was the cure for bee stings invented? ›

In 1957, the USSR Ministry of Health sanctioned use of bee venom to treat certain ailments by approval of Nikolay Artemov's "Instruction for Bee Sting Venom Apitherapy".

How long does bee venom stay in your system? ›

The majority of the time, the symptoms of bee sting serum sickness will improve on their own within 48 hours. As the chemical from the bee toxin is filtered out of your body, the sickness will begin to go away.

Can a yellow jacket sting help arthritis? ›

Some proponents claim that honeybee stings can alleviate the pain of arthritis, shingles or tendinitis. Yellow jackets can be dangerous, however, and should not be used.

Do bee stings help back pain? ›

Bee venom acupuncture (BVA) is an effective treatment for chronic low back pain (CLBP) through the pharmacological effects of bee venom and the simultaneous stimulation of acupoints.

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