All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for May 2003

Relief breaks out in The Hive

MS patients praise the results of the treatment, called apitherapy

May 29, 2003
By Denise Dick
Vindicator Trumbull Staff

The shed next to Floyd Alexander's home buzzes with activity three mornings each week.

The Warren Township man started practicing apitherapy the medical use of honeybee products about five years ago. He and Karen Hughes of Fowler, who also practices the procedure, work out of the shed they call The Hive. Both are certified by the American Apitherapy Society.

Patients filled the waiting room on a recent morning, awaiting their allotment of bee stings, usually 40 to 50.

Donna McGuire of Cleveland, who has multiple sclerosis, is in her second year of apitherapy with Alexander and Hughes.

"Before coming here, I couldn't wiggle my toes," McGuire said. "Now look; I can wiggle them. See that?

"Before coming here, I couldn't really move my legs, and with the medication I was on from the doctor, I would fall down a lot."

Her disease landed her in the hospital, where she was given steroids intravenously at least once a year.

Since starting apitherapy, McGuire said, she hasn't returned to the hospital.

Theory behind treatment

The theory of the treatment is that a honeybee's sting stimulates the body's adrenal glands to produce cortisol, a chemical found naturally in the body that it uses to heal itself. Practitioners ice the area to numb it before administering bees. To ease the pain after a sting, McGuire recommends Preparation H.

"It cools the pain," she said.

An apitherapist removes bees from their hives using instruments called reverse tweezers. The bees are placed on a patient's body, either in the affected area for someone who suffers from an ailment such as arthritis, or along the spine, for someone afflicted with a disease such as MS.

Alexander contends the treatment is useful for any ailment.

"The average is about 40 stings," Alexander said of his 468 patients.

Most MS patients show up each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Alexander said he's seen people who suffer from arthritis get two bee stings and not return for years.

How they started

Doctors diagnosed Alexander, 51, with MS when he was in his late 20s. A neighbor urged him to try apitherapy when traditional medicine wasn't giving him the results he sought.

"They took me to Wellington [Ohio] two hours there and two hours back," Alexander said. "I got two stings in my back. After the first time, I knew it was something I had to do."

That was in 1995. He later earned his certification. He either administers the procedure himself or he and Hughes, who also has MS, perform apitherapy for each other.

"Your tendons loosen up," Alexander said. "I thought, 'I can wiggle my toes.' It's kept me going ever since."

He estimates being stung more than 50,000 times so far.

There is no charge for procedures at The Hive; donations are accepted.

He has patients who come from all over the United States and has seen visitors from other countries. Alexander has been asked to speak about apitherapy at a health conference next month in Belgium and in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Awareness of the local treatment spreads by word of mouth.

Cathy Albaugh of Poland and Jennifer Austin of Liberty, both MS patients, have been coming to Alexander's shed at 4000 Templeton Road three times a week since 1997.

"It gives you more strength," Austin said.

"More strength and more balance," Albaugh added.

Like many, Albaugh was initially apprehensive.

"They're bees!" she said.

But she kept hearing about the procedure from doctors and saw it on television, so she decided to try.

Taking precautions

"It really makes a difference in how you feel," Albaugh said.

Newcomers initially are tested to determine if they have a bad reaction to the bee venom. The Hive is stocked with first aid kits for those who are allergic.

The American Apitherapy Society's Web site cautions that there is a lack of scientific study on the effectiveness of bee stings for MS treatment, but Alexander and his patients swear by it.

"This is something found in nature," Alexander said.

Alexander can be reached at (330) 898-3545.

Copyright © 2003 The Vindicator