Bee stings could help treat arthritis and even prevent the painful joint condition from developing as the chemicals found in the bee venom are thought to reduce inflammation, a new study has revealed.

Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil found that the bee venom could control the harmful inflammation of the joints that leads to rheumatoid arthritis. It was found that the venom contains molecules increases the natural hormones in the human body that regulate inflammation.

Lead scientist Dr Suzana Beatriz Veríssimo de Mello believes that the bee venom causes increased levels of anti-inflammatory hormones called glucocorticoids in the human body. Bee venom is complex mixture of substances that are known to induce immune and allergic responses in humans, she says in an article published in the Telegraph newspaper.

The venom, which has been used to treat arthritis for centuries in Latin American countries, could also be used for developing new treatments for arthritis besides helping doctors prevent it. The research was carried out on rabbits that showed resistance to induced arthritis after the action of glucocorticoids.

As part of bee sting therapy, patients are made to endure hundreds of stings by bees in the hope of curing themselves of painful arthritis. There have been reports of this therapy being used for several conditions like asthma and multiple sclerosis.

The research conducted at the University of Sao Paulo is the first time that a scientific explanation has been forthcoming for what has essentially been a treatment based on belief. Of course, health experts believe that it might take several years before clinical applications are found for this therapy.

Scientists believe that it is the failure of an adequate steroid response that causes rheumatoid arthritis in the first place. So, what the bee venom essentially does is to stimulate the body's natural steroids that respond to the auto-immune processes that causes the painful joint disease.

However, to actually turn the symptomatic cure of reducing pain via bee stings into a practical clinical application could take more time as researchers will have to first understand what exactly is behind the bee sting actually inducing the anti-inflammatory hormones within the human body.