Honey-bee venom may be as effective as standard drug therapy for treating enlarged prostate, a common, but benign, condition in older men, suggests an animal study published online in Experimental Biology and Medicine.
A month of bee-venom injections significantly suppressed symptoms of enlarged prostate, termed benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), in rats compared with untreated rats.
Bee venom appeared to reduce inflammation and correct the imbalance between prostate-cell growth and cell death, which is associated with the development of BPH, the researchers said. Honeybee venom contains anti-inflammatory compounds, including melittin, an important protein believed to have anticancer properties, according to the study.
Prostate enlargement occurs in most aging men and can cause bothersome urinary symptoms. BPH isn’t tied to prostate cancer.
Experiments in South Korea involved four groups of male rats. Three groups were castrated to stop the production of male sex hormones and then given daily injections of testosterone into muscle tissue to induce BPH. One of the groups also received bee venom, and another got finasteride, a drug used to treat BPH. A fourth group of uncastrated controls was given placebo injections.
After four weeks, prostate-gland weight was significantly higher in the BPH-induced rats than controls, indicating testosterone had enlarged the prostate, the researchers said. Prostate weight in rats treated only with testosterone was almost 1.8 times as high as in control rats. But prostate weight in rats given bee venom or finasteride was 1.1 and 1.3 times as high, respectively. Enzymes and inflammatory proteins linked to the development of BPH were also reduced in the rats treated with bee venom and finasteride.
Prostate tissue in the rats treated with either bee venom or finasteride appeared normal. Tissue from rats only given testosterone exhibited cellular abnormalities typically associated with BPH, the study found.
Bee venom is used in traditional medicine to treat conditions like arthritis, but its effect on BPH wasn’t known, researchers said.
Caveat: Venom was tested on rats with induced BPH. The risk of adverse events in reaction to bee venom wasn’t mentioned.