Around age 50 most men will develop a benign enlargement of the prostate gland that causes urinary symptoms such as getting up at night to urinate, dribbling after urination, frequency of urination, urgency of urination, and rarely urinary retention. About three of four men in their 60s have the condition, and it affects more than 90 percent of those over the age of 80. The cause is not known but may be a result of hormonal changes in middle aged men. The treatment consists of watchful waiting if the symptoms aren’t impacting a man’s quality of life, medication or minimally invasive surgery, such as microwave, lasers, and the new treatment, UroLift, which uses pins to open the obstructing prostate tissue. Now bee venom is being evaluated as a treatment option.
Bee venom has long been used in folk medicine to treat immune-related diseases, such as arthritis. In recent decades, researchers have been exploring its use in fighting many conditions, including cancer. Researchers in South Korea have found still another use for the venom: A study found that the venom from honey bees may be as effective in treating enlarged prostates as conventional drugs.
An animal study was conducted with rats. One group was treated with bee venom, and the second was treated with the drug finasteride (Proscar), which is commonly used to treat enlarged prostate. The third group got no additional treatment. A fourth group of uncastrated rats received placebo shots and served as a control.
Researchers found that the prostates of rats castrated and then given testosterone were significantly larger — 1.8 times — than the control rats. But the prostates of rats given either bee venom or finasteride were much smaller: When compared to control rats, the rats given bee venom were only 1.1 times larger, and those treated with finasteride were 1.3 times larger.
The research was published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine.