[© Excerpts translated from Apiterapia 101 para todos by Moisés Asís (Miami: Rodes, 2007, pp.76-80)]:
The first time someone used the term “Apitherapy” it was to explain the medical use of bee stings or Apitoxinotherapy.
This historical mention doesn’t mean that other apitherapeutical products have not a very ancient background, on the contrary, medicinal uses of hive products are mentioned in Ebers papyrus (1700 BC), Torah (Pentateuch), The Prophets and other Biblical books, in the works by Aristotle, Pliny, Dioscorides, Galen, Hippocrates, Varro, Avicenna and other ancient scholars to trace all known background on Apitherapy, the therapy on bee products. In the case of apitoxin, diverse uses were known in different centuries and there are references, for example, to the healing of chronic gout suffered by Charlemagne (748 – 814) and the join pain suffered by Ivan IV the Terrible (1530 – 1584) thanks to increasing number of bee stings. However, I want to shortly emphasize the applications of apitoxin from a difficult and transforming period of the history of Medicine: the 19th Century.
In that century historians underline the example of a physician, Ignác Fülöp Semmelweis, pioneer of antisepsis. I remember that one of my first childhood readings was a Semmelweis biography, and I have never forgotten that hero of science who unutterably suffered in trying to convince his colleagues that it was possible to save thousands of women’s lives who had died from puerperal fever. When he started working in 1847 at the obstetrical department of University of Vienna, maternal mortality was 26 %. Semmelweis suggested once and again that the cause for that high mortality was the puerperal sepsis originated from doctors not washing their hands after manipulating corpses. Once and again, academic authorities ignored and rejected his opinion, despite the fact that in 1860 Semmelweis was able to reduce maternal mortality to a low 0.5 % at Vienna General Hospital.
Semmelweis couldn’t overcome the opposition to his solid statements. In 1865, at 47 years old and after several years suffering from an Alzheimer’s-type dementia, his family and friends placed him at the Niederösterreichische Landesirrenaustalt, a private nursing home in Vienna, where he suffered from violence outbursts and two weeks later died from the beatings by psychiatric ward’s staff. A few years later, Dr. Joseph Lister advocated for surgical antisepsis, he praised Semmelweis’s contributions and for that reason Lister is today’s father of antiseptic surgery.
There are many similarities between the life of Doctor Filip Terč, “Father of Modern Apitherapy”, and Semmelweis’s biography. Terč was a teenager when Semmelweis discovered the prophylaxis method and was losing his battle for the truth. As some historical coincidences –already pointed out by Dr. Bodog Beck-, both scientists had same first name in German (Philipp), both ones were physicians and had to face a similar academic dogmatism in Century 19th’s Vienna.
Terč was born on March 30, 1844 in Prapořištĕ (former Braunpusch), a tiny village in Czech region of western Bohemia, in that time Bohemia was a part of Austrian Empire and in 1867 to 1918 a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Terč was the son of Johann Tertsch and Barbara Stepan, and his original family name was Tertsch, according to Plzeň State Archives (tome 12, folio 8).
Dr. Terč suffered from rheumatism and had intense joint pain, and nothing he could do despite he was a prestigious general practitioner in Maribor (Marburg an der Drau), southeastern extreme of the Duchy of Lower Styria, also a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. One day in 1868 a group of bees suddenly stung him and, for his surprise, from then on his pain began to disappear and his limbs recovered more mobility. This personal experience impressed him and started believing that clinical studies in Russia in 1864, by Dr. M.I. Lukomsky on the therapeutical effects of bee stings should have been taken seriously and to be submitted to scientific research.
But only eleven years later he seriously took interest in researching the cause of his amazing cure. A female patient had been treated by different doctors and even by Terč for a severe cranial neuralgia and deafness, and most advanced medical procedures had been fruitless. Then the lady asked Terč for any new procedure, as she felt disappointed for her lack of recovery. Terč remembered his own experience and all his readings on the effect of bee venom, and he applied to her daily bee stings up to 90 bee stings a day, with no improvement in her condition, but stings didn’t also bring any negative effect. One day he applied 15 bee stings on her neck and shoulders and, surprise!, the woman was totally cured from neuralgia and deafness, but for the first time since the start of treatment her face was swollen from the stings.
Terč continued his observations and experiments for the following 10 years and, in 1889, he presented to the University of Vienna is outstanding conclusions about thousands of patients successfully treated, but he faced a hostile and intransigent audience, to the point that Terč decided to leave Vienna out of fear for being interned in a psychiatric ward. The University of Vienna used to publish all conferences given by guest scientists, but Terč’s conference was never published. Contempt suffered in the past by Franz Anton Mesmer, Louis Pasteur, Philipp Semmelweis, and many others, was repeated now with Terč, who took the decision of returning to Maribor in order to continue inconspicuously his treatments with apitoxin.
As a testimonial on his research work, he left several publications as well as a book published in 1910. In his “Report on the Peculiar Connection between Bee Stings and Rheumatism” (1888), Terč describes his treatment of 660 patients suffering from rheumatic arthritis and applied them a total of 39,000 bee stings: 82 % had a perfect cure (544 patients), 15 % had recovery (99) and only 3 % had no relief (17).
After rejection by Austrian scientific authorities to Terč’s scientific research, other physicians in France, England, and Germany followed his methods and corroborated his conclusions. Terč passed away in Maribor (at present a Slovenian city) on October 28, 1917, ignored and rejected by his contemporaries. Even today his name doesn’t appear in any of European medical encyclopedias or in the records of Austrian Academy of Sciences (Oesterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften), University of Vienna or other academic institutions. Only exceptions are Enciklopedija Slovenije (13, 1999) and the Apiculture Museum of Radovljica (Čebelarski Muzej Radovljica).
In 1914, Dr. Alfred Keiter published in Vienna and Leipzig a book describing Dr. Terč’s research works: Rheumatismus and Bienenstichbehandlung; Der heutige Stand derselben mit einem Beitrage von Dr. Philipp Terč. One of Terč’s sons, Dr. Rudolf Tertsch, ophthalmologist in Vienna, published a book in 1912 describing his father’s research, Das Bienengift im Dienste der Medizin, and Terč’s grandson, Dr. Rudolf Tertsch, a doctor in Meerbusch and deceased in 1982, continued the family tradition of applying bee stings to his patients.
Dr. Filip Terč (1844-1917).
In 2006, after an initiative from nonprofit organization Bees for Life – World Apitherapy Network Inc., for the first time March 30 was celebrated in Prapořištĕ as the “World Apitherapy Day”, to honor pioneer scientific research by Dr. Filip Terč, “Father of Modern Apitherapy”, and his professional integrity.
In 1935, in his unequaled book Bee venom therapy, Doctor Bodog F. Beck (1871-1942) for the first time used the term Apitherapy for the bee venom therapy. Dr. Beck was born in Hungary and brought to the United Status the best from European knowledge on Apitherapy and inspired many other people to continue his work, specially Charles Mraz (1905-1999), who promoted the creation of the American Apitherapy Society (www.apitherapy.org) and motivated, altogether with many colleagues from America, Europe, and other latitudes, the present development of Apitherapy as a branch of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.Each day the use of bee venom is more and more widespread for the treatment of a large number of disorders, and dozens of branded apitoxin products are marketed by pharmaceutical industry.
First celebration of World Apitherapy Day on March 30, 2006, in Prapořištĕ. A barn in the background and three contiguous old houses belonged to Filip Terč’s family and here he was born. In the picture the founders of Bees for Life (left to right) Antonio Couto (Portugal), Dr. Moisés Asís (USA), Pedro Pérez (Spain), and Dr. Ştefan Sţângaciu (Romania), with Jan Löffelman (at the center), Kdyně District Mayor.
March 30: World Apitherapy Day
30 de marzo: Dia Mundial de la Apiterapia
Poster by http://www.worldapitherapyday.org and http://www.apitherapynews.comMarch 30: World Apitherapy Day 30 de marzo: Dia Mundial de la Apiterapia Poster by http://www.worldapitherapyday.org and http://www.apitherapynews.com