Dr. Lisa: I met my next guest several years ago and had lunch because we shared a mutual patient that we were treating. So, we wanted to learn a little bit about what the other person was doing. At the time, I was practicing mainly acupuncture, and that was considered pretty mainstream in contrast to what this individual does, which I love. It’s very unique and I think very important. Today, we have Dr. Theo Cherbuliez, who is a psychiatrist and apitherapist. He is also the former president and vice president of the American Apitherapy Society. He has travelled to 5 continents to learn and teach about apitherapy. He has 4 beehives here in Maine. Thank you for coming in today.
Dr. Theo: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Lisa: I think the first question people are going to ask is, “What is apitherapy?”
Dr. Theo: Apitherapy is the medicinal use of bee products, and there are 2 general ways of thinking of apitherapy. One is the traditional way, and that has been going on for maybe 2,000 years or so. The western way, which uses mostly derivatives of the products, extracts, different parts of the products … I am of the traditional school. Mainly, I use the live products. I don’t kill the honey by irradiating it. I don’t extract venom. Apitoxin, the extract, is very powerful, but I am not intere- … I’m interested to stay with live products; that is products made by live entities. They have very interesting qualities. One is you cannot know exactly the composition of the product. If you cannot know it, surprise, the germs cannot know it either. We do not create resistance without product.
Dr. Lisa: Is this something that you came to be interested in earlier in your career?
Dr. Theo: Well, that’s a very interesting question, and it took me time to realize what I’m going to tell you. I was looking … I’m a psychiatrist, and I work primarily with families, which means that if I work with one person, that person’s family is, so to speak, under the couch doing the sessions. I wanted to have a model for psychotherapy, and the model would be 2 individuals that are completely separate from one another, have no relationship, have very few points in common. They meet for a limited time, and they have a relationship in which each one knows very little about the other. Then, they separate. During the time they were together, it was beneficial and novel for both.
I could know very little about how the bees think. The bees could know very little. It should be beneficial. We start from completely different. We’ll end up completely different. What I did not realize is as an adolescent in the Swiss Alps, I befriended a beekeeper. I was not interested in bees. I was interested in the old man. I was his servant, so to speak, in the 2 months of the summer. I loved working with him. So, my love for the man determined my choice, and I did realize that several years later.
Dr. Lisa: So, you had a hive when you started working with the man who was a beekeeper, and you started having your own hives. Was it roughly around the same time that you …
Dr. Theo: No, no. In Switzerland, I had no hives. I had no interest in bees. I was interested … He was also a winemaker, so I worked with the … I did what he asked me to do. It didn’t matter where I was, what I did. I wanted to be with him. Okay. It’s many years later, in this country, that I had the idea of I wanted a model for psychotherapy. It was very important for me to realize that I know very little about the person I treat. I have no business knowing more.
So, I have designed a way of approaching people in therapy, which is very particular to me, where the patient will decide what we talk about. The patient will decide on the reality of things. I have a thought about you. Is that thought valid? The patients says “yes” or “no.” “No” is generally more instructive than a “yes” because I said, “Tell me what’s wrong with my picture. It doesn’t apply to you. How did I get the wrong picture?”
Now, it’s particularly important, if we think of that part of apitherapy that is bee venom therapy, I don’t use the extracts. I use the bees. Now, every bee sting causes pain. The pain is the least important and least interesting of what happens. Every sting, I will now rephrase it, gives the opportunity to have a number of perceptions. We are studying them. We are teaching the patients to figure out where they need to be stung, how many bees they want. After a while, they say, “I think today I want 8.”
Now, we never start with 8. We started 1, and you tell me whether you want the second and where. I remember that person I was treating, she had thoracic arthritis … 30 joints involved. She was in misery. I was working at her big toe. I had given 2 stings to that toe over 20 minutes. She said, “You know, for the first time in years, I can feel that I have a toe on that foot.” She added something that really touched me, “Doctor, this toe,” her middle toe, “is jealous of this toe.” So, I said, “Ask your toe where the toe wants to be stung.” She said, “Here and here.” She showed me with her finger where to sting. That’s what we did.
She had learned … and she guided me so I know how to travel, but she knows where to go. That’s my basic philosophy in treatment. So, compliance has nothing to do with what I do. I don’t treat you. You are the World’s expert on who you are. I am in this room, the representative of apitherapy or psychiatry, whichever. The 2 experts make a team. The team will treat you. It’s fantastic.
Dr. Lisa: It is fantastic. I think that when you and I had a mutual patient and I was doing acupuncture, I really … It’s very similar. With acupuncture, you put needles in certain places because there’s a certain constellation of symptoms. But, ultimately, there is feedback from the patient as to whether those that are the right places to put the needs, whether they’re getting better. There is something that happens. It’s somewhat intangible. We can’t really quite understand it. But, you keep moving forward despite not completely understanding it.
Dr. Theo: Well, look. I made, with a colleague, a study, which we called “The First 5 Minutes.” We took interviews, and we looked at what I call the unit of communications … words, intonation, body gesture. After a few month of studies, we changed the title, “The First 2 Minutes,” from 5 to 2. In one of these, I was able to identify 16 units of communications in 120 seconds. Our average was 4 or 3. That was an extreme, and it took me 6 months to discover the 16. It was all on computer, all classified and etc. So, if we have every minute that I’m with someone, an average of 3 units of communication. How many do I pick up in an hour? Five percent, it’s already very rich, and ten percent, it’s overwhelming. The rest is not my business. I was not ready to receive it.
Dr. Lisa: Is that why psychotherapy or apitherapy takes time?
Dr. Theo: It takes time. It takes attention, and it takes work. You want to work with me, we’re in business. You don’t want to work with me, you’re very lucky because there’s a lot of people you can see who do not want you to work. They want you to accept what they offer. I don’t.
Dr. Lisa: The goal of the Dr. Lisa radio hour is to help make connections between the health of the individual and the health of the community. The goal of Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes is to deepen our appreciation for the natural World. Here to speak with us today is Ted Carter.
Ted: When I was in gradeschool, I was first exposed to sports events and had to participate. I was not very good. We had baseball out in the field, and I always wanted to play outfield because I would disappear. I’d get stuck way, way out, and nobody wanted me close anyway because I wasn’t very good at baseball. So, I would disappear through these tall hedges and go into this magical place, this old Victorian house with lots of colorful tulips and just walk around the gardens. I was just dumbstruck by how beautiful and peaceful it was. The lilacs were blooming, and I would smell the lilacs, and all of a sudden I’d hear, “Carter, get the ball!” So, I’d have to dash back through, out of this magical place, to find the ball in a frenzy and get it back.
In high school, I remember going … walking home during these … We used to have these hour breaks where you’d go and you’d do your homework in a breakroom. I would go home and work in my greenhouse. I was just so happy there. Then, I had to go back to school, of course, and finish out the day. But, I think that what we have to realize, that this is the seduction of nature. Nature has a gentle, but powerful communication. I, to this very day, will go to my office and the landscape is right outside my office door, and I just walk out there when I need to take a little break, and listen to the birds, and look at my own landscaping, and just kind of clear my head a little bit. So, nature has a gentle way of calling us, and it has a powerful way of communicating with us. Land and landscape can do that.
I’m Ted Carter. If you’d like to contact me, I can be reached at tedcarterdesign.com.
Dr. Lisa: The Dr. Lisa radio hour and podcast understands the importance of the health of the body, mind, and spirit. Here to talk about the health of the body is Travis Beaulieu of Premier Sports, a division of Black Bear Medical.
Travis: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee? So, that’s a bit extreme for most of us, but it’s a good motto for life. Let’s keep in mind the more we take care of our bodies, the more able we are to attack life. As any good coach will tell you, you can’t attack without a plan. At Black Bear Medical, let us help you make that plan. We’ll help you find products that will help increase your performance on a daily basis, help you prevent injury, and help you recover from injury if need be.
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Dr. Lisa: You’re talking about apitherapy, and bee venom, and the use of … Essentially, it’s bee stings that you’re talking about. You’re actually stinging a person.
Dr. Theo: Absolutely.
Dr. Lisa: I mean, this … You’re right. That … Even just overcoming that fear of the pain, that in itself is work.
Dr. Theo: Well, I can sting you and you will practically not feel it. The techniques, we distinguish a regular sting, a mini sting, and micro sting. With the micro sting, which I learned from Japan, you take the stinging apparatus from the bee. You take it out of the bee, and you sting the person with that and tweezers. If I show you, you prepare the skin, for instance, with hot towels or with these glasses. What you call them?
Dr. Lisa: Like, cupping?
Dr. Theo: Cupping!
Dr. Lisa: Cupping glasses.
Dr. Theo: Exactly, cupping. So, skin prepared by cupping is ideal because it’s very soft. So, the patient … The administrator does like that. I have it done on myself if I felt just the very light touch of his hand. I saw him operating on someone else, and I counted 105 applications with one stinging apparatus. I ask him, “How does he know it’s finished?” He gave me his answer, “I feel it.” Now, I checked the first 5 and the last 5. They all had that little reddish quality, which says the skin did receive venom. Now, if you think that a bee has an average, 150 micrograms of venom. If you divide that by 105, it’s a little more than 1 microgram per sting. You can sting an infant. This infant would not be in pain. So, you’re afraid of stuff. Start with that.
Then, we go to mini, in which I put a bee, and I’m ready to remove the sting as soon as you tell me to remove it. We count the seconds. If you’re really afraid, I’ll pull it and remove it. So, you decide. You’re afraid, good. Tell me. I will need the fright. I will never tell you, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry.” Because if I tell you, “Don’t worry,” it means, “Shut up. I don’t want to hear your worry.” No. As someone said, “Oh, you, Cherbuliez. You want your patients to suffer.” I said, “Right on. I want them to bring the pain.” Not their reaction to the pain, not their solution. The solution to their pain is aggression. You hurt me, bang. I will not tell you I’m in pain. I will tell you how bad you are. When I’m enraged, I don’t suffer.
Socially speaking, it’s a very useful reaction because we are not in front of a wall. We should do our stuff and not stick with our pains. So, it’s essential to be able to transfer. But, if you’re stuffed with pain and can’t get out of the vicious cycle, then I come in. That’s true for psychiatry. It’s true for apitherapy that the patient will always design. Now, I can say, “I suggest to do it this way, that way, that ways. I think we should meet once, twice a week.” Depending on what the situation is, I go faster or slower.
What if they have an allergic reaction? I’ve had, in 45 or 50 years of bee stings, I have had, I don’t know, 100 or 200 allergic reactions. I consider that disharmony in the patient’s life. Now, I have epinephrine on the table at my right hand. I’m ready. I’ve never used it. Charles Mraz, a beekeeper from Vermont who, for some 75 years, stung hundreds of people … He’s the father of bee venom therapy in this country … taught me that he had never used epinephrine. I have never used epinephrine.
What I do when a patient starts having a reaction, I put him on the couch to be able to sit in front of him and intensely relate to him. If he doesn’t feel well, I ask him, “Tell me what happens and where it happens. Speak. Continue telling. Speak. I will not let you go until you feel like going.” Now, that’s an emergency. Interestingly, if I had to stay with a patient, fate has always arranged that I had no other patients knocking on the door. Why? You believe in good fate, you are served. I believe in whatever.
Dr. Lisa: Well, I hope that when I am 86, and I’m assuming that I’m going to get to 86, who knows, that I continue to be as interested in things as you are. How do people find out about apitherapy or about the work you’re doing, Dr. Cherbuliez?
Dr. Theo: I heard about you. It should look on the web, my name. I think. I haven’t looked myself. But, I’ve been told there is more about apitherapy than about psychiatry, which is fine by me. Whatever they want to tell, they tell.
Dr. Lisa: I appreciate your taking the time to come in and talk to us about apitherapy, and also about psychiatry, and about the things that you’ve learned over your continuing to lengthen life. It’s very thought provoking. I encourage people to learn more. We’ve been speaking with Dr. Theo Cherbuliez of the American Apitherapy Society, also a psychiatrist based here in Maine out of South Freeport. Thanks for coming in today.
Dr. Theo: Thank you for the very pleasant time you allow me to have with you.
Dr. Lisa: You have been listening to the Dr. Lisa radio hour and podcast, show number 132, “Bees.” Our guests have included Christy Hemenway and Dr. Theo Cherbuliez. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit doctorlisa.org. The Dr. Lisa radio hour and podcast is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Dr. Lisa Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram under bountiful1, and read my take on health and wellbeing on the Bountiful Blog.
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The Dr. Lisa radio hour and podcast is recorded in the studio of Maine Magazine at 75 Market Street, Portland, Maine. Our executive producers are Kevin Thomas, Susan Grisanti, and Dr. Lisa Belisle. Our assistant producer is Leanne Ouimet. Audio production and original music by John C. McCain. Our online producer is Kelly Clinton. The Dr. Lisa radio hour and podcast is available for download free on iTunes. See the Dr. Lisa website or Facebook page for details.