Bee Venom Therapy

A historic—though controversial—healing technique for Lyme disease reveals a new facet of the industrious pollinators.
  Honeybees at the end of their life cycle are healers. Illustration: iStock by Getty Images

by Amely Greeven

Brooke Geahan walked through fire to find her calling as an advocate for those lost in the devastating storms of chronic illness. When the longtime New Yorker became deeply ill with Lyme disease, she was a “prisoner” of the illness, which—coupled with multiple chemical sensitivity and mast cell disorder—triggered her body to fall into serious distress at all kinds of everyday environmental assaults, including naturally occurring mold in forests, chemical air fresheners in a taxi cab, mildew at a friend’s home or a few sips of histamine-high wine. It was, she says, “a living hell.” Her savior? The humble honeybee.

Geahan, who was tested physically, emotionally and financially by years of intense, invasive and expensive treatments and supplements, discovered apitherapy—the practice of using honeybee products medicinally.

Most specifically, she was taught a protocol called bee venom therapy (BVT), in which honeybees at the end of their life cycle are applied to the skin almost like living acupuncture needles—ones that release a small dose of venom with a profusion of extraordinary peptides and enzymes into the body. Geahan explains that these components, including the peptide melittin, have a unique (and laboratory-verified) capacity to disarm Lyme’s Borrelia bacteria that’s actively circulating in the bloodstream.

If there is no active form of Lyme present, years-dormant forms (found in the bones, lymph nodes, spinal column and brain) can be coaxed out of hiding by these peptides and made active again. Some people also use the peptides to combat Lyme co-factors like the Epstein-Barr virus, and the rogue mast cells that the immune system overproduces in “80 percent of those I’ve met with chronic tick-borne illnesses,” Geahan says.

Stinging oneself intentionally with bees may sound extreme. Geahan is quick to acknowledge it’s not an easy path, requiring long-term commitment, proper supervision under a medical doctor and significant safety protocols, because unaddressed factors like high-mold environments, autoimmune diseases, dietary triggers, high stress, and alcohol consumption (among other things) can make this treatment extremely risky, potentially unleashing anaphylactic shock-like reactions.

Yet the bees delivered the remedy that began to finally turn her sickness around (not least because it was one she could actually afford). After one month, she knew it was helping; after six months, she’d regained significant normal function—and because the therapy is safe to use consistently, over time the hidden infections began to get peeled away, allowing her body to return to health. Key to her success was that this potent “people’s medicine” empowered her to discover critical issues that had been overlooked, such as undiagnosed celiac disease.

Geahan was excited to “walk away from chronic illness” when she recovered and has been blissfully enjoying life with her new husband. Yet the bees had other ideas: The buzz spread and others asked for help. Geahan created The Heal Hive, a “one-stop shop” of chronic illness coaching that guides sufferers who’ve been accurately diagnosed with Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses or Lyme-triggered Epstein-Barr virus toward recovery using the same multidimensional approach she followed.

Stringent about screening potential clients to ensure doctors haven’t missed other conditions like autoimmune issues, Geahan—who works in-person in Sonoma, LA, and New York, as well as remotely—helps clients to integrate empathetic medical supervision with high-level lab testing, dietary protocols, and, when they’re ready, a carefully dosed protocol of BVT. “If you’re chronically ill, something is going on that’s very complex, and you need a team of people who have your best interest at heart,” she says. With her hive of vetted care, this fiercely devoted Lyme warrior and BVT educator pollinates the most important healing agent of all—hope.