n. Physical therapy that uses bee stings and bee products, particularly bee venom.
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A Middlebury, Conn., beekeeper named Charles Mraz pioneered apitherapy in the U.S. in the 1930s. Beekeepers began experimenting with apitherapy to treat symptoms of a number of ailments, but it was most commonly used to treat arthritis, acute and chronic injuries such as bursitis and tendonitis, to soften scar tissue and to ease symptoms such as muscle spasms and fatigue associated with multiple sclerosis.
—Kim Lamb Gregory, “Stinging endorsement,” Ventura County Star, April 23, 2002
1986 (earliest)
The Beekeepers of Western Connecticut, an association formed in 1984, will offer a free lecture by Charles Mraz, a beekeeper from Middlebury, Vt., at its meeting Thursday At 8 P.M. Mr. Mraz, who suffered from arthritis, will relate his experience with bee-venom therapy, a controversial method of treating the disease. The founder of the North American Apitherapy Society, Mr. Mraz has worked with Dr. Bodog Beck, an early researcher in the therapy, and with Dr. Joseph Brodman, an advocate.
—Eleanor Charles, “Connecticut guide,” The New York Times, January 12, 1986
This word is derived from the Latin term apis, "bee." Apitherapists most often practice bee venom therapy (1986), or BVT, which involves the injection of a venom solution extracted from bees, or from live bee stings. (Either way, the process is called envenomation.) Other types of apitherapy use bee byproducts such as honey, pollen, wax, and royal jelly, the food of the queen bee.

The first citation tells us that bee-based medicine has been used in the U.S. since the 1930s, but the practice goes back at least a couple of thousand years in China, and ancient Greek physicians such as Hippocrates and Galen were also pro-bee. However, it's unclear when the word apitherapy was first used.
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