An Alhambra acupuncturist may have his license suspended or revoked for using bee stingers to treat his patients. Xin Sheng “Tom” Zhou has been performing this procedure for four years, but it wasn't until July 23 that a formal charge was filed by The California Department of Consumer Affairs Acupuncture Board, reports the Pasadena Star-News.
On Monday he spoke before state regulators at a hearing in Downtown. Outside, about two dozen of Zhou’s patients showed up to lend support to the acupuncturist. "Before I wasn't able to move my legs very well, I couldn't walk, so it's helped me a lot," Judy Rodarte told ABC7.
While the board recognizes bee venom as a potential treatment—it falls under the "herbs, plant, animal, and mineral products" category—it objects to the use of bee stingers as a delivery method. The board says that the venom should only be delivered topically or orally. Zhou, however, uses live bees to sting his patients. The board cited this as "gross negligence," and accused Zhou of "repeated negligent acts" for performing these procedures without an allergy kit on site.
A 2012 research paper from the Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt said that bee venom "contains at least 18 pharmacologically active components" and "produces a complex cascade of reactions in the human body." This includes sulfur, which may induce the adrenal gland into producing cortisol, an anti-inflammatory agent. The study added that "bee venom is very safe for human treatments." According to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), some studies suggest that bee venom is effective as a treatment for arthritis. It is also purported to be used to treat tendonitis, hay fever, gout, and shingles, said the BIDMC. There is no consensus on the effectiveness of bee sting therapy, however, and the procedure is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Up to about three percent of the population get severe allergic reactions to insect stings, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Insect stings account for approximately 40 deaths a year in the United States.
Zhou's clinic produced a YouTube video that touches on the history and purpose of bee sting therapy. On the clinic's Facebook page, the practice expressed gratitude for those who have voiced their support. “We hope to win this fight for the sake to continue this treatment for those who need it. Bee stinging is not for everyone, it is for that 1% that don't have a cure, and are fighting to live,” said one posting.
Zhou and the clinic were not available for comment when the Source called.
An earlier version of this article did not mention that bee venom, while allowed by The California Department of Consumer Affairs, is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.