A 55-year-old Spanish woman has died after receiving an acupuncture treatment that uses live bee stings instead of needles. Researchers are calling the procedure — infamously touted by Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Middleton, and others — “unsafe and unadvisable.”

According to a new study describing the case published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, the patient had been receiving “apitherapy” treatment every four weeks over a period of two years in order to “improve muscular contractures and stress.”

Though the woman had tolerated her other treatments, this time, she had an adverse reaction to the live bee stings, which caused her to quickly develop wheezing, labored breathing, and loss of consciousness. The apitherapy clinician did not administer adrenaline but did call an ambulance, which took 30 minutes to arrive at the scene. The patient died in a hospital one week later as a result of complications from anaphylaxis.

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“In sensitized persons, venom compounds can act as allergens, causing the release of mast-cell mediators and a spectrum of allergic reactions that can range from mild, local swelling to severe systemic reactions, anaphylactic shock, or even death,” the researchers write. “Furthermore, repeated exposure to the allergen was found to carry a greater risk of severe allergic reactions than in the general population.”

Honey Bee In The Backyard.
A honey bee. (Credit: Jo Zimny Photos, Flickr)

Previous studies have warned against using apitherapy for any reason, despite its popularity among alternative medicine circles. A 2015 study published in the journal PLOS One analyzed 145 other studies about bee venom therapy and concluded it could cause a host of deleterious effects including skin inflammation and, in the worst case, death.

“Adverse events related to bee venom therapy are frequent; therefore, practitioners of bee venom therapy should be cautious when applying it in daily clinical practice, and the practitioner’s education and qualifications regarding the use of bee venom therapy should be ensured,” the researchers write.

While apitherapy is extremely dangerous, painful, and potentially fatal, that hasn’t stopped its fans from getting treatments for various ailments. In 2016, Gwyneth Paltrow told the New York Times she’d experimented with it, because of course she did.

“It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy,” Paltrow said. “People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful.”

Please don’t inject bee venom into your body, no matter what Gwyneth Paltrow says.