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Insects that Heal

Using Insects as Medical Cures

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Pest Control is the managing or elimination of insects, rodents, and wildlife that have become pests of humans. For insects, pest control generally means killing and discarding of single pests or whole insect populations. But what if those pesty creatures could be put to good use instead of being killed and discarded?

In ancient cultures, insects were used as medicine, and today, scientists are rediscovering many of these natural cures as well as new ones derived from insects or their output. From proven lab results to medicines and supplements sold in countries less regulated than the U.S. to the ancient arts, following are some proven and some legendary means in which insects were or are used to cure a variety of human ills.

Insect Cure Research

  • Stitches – As far back as 3,000 years ago, the mandibles of soldier ants have been used as stitches. The ant, most commonly carpenter, leaf-cutting, or army ants, were held so as to open their jaws. The mouth was then placed around the wound to be stitched and the mouth allowed to close. The ant's body was then pinched away, leaving the head to clamp the wound shut.

  • Wound healing – In ancient times, red ant droppings were sprinkled on wounds to help them heal. The crushed droppings were eaten to help cure diarrhea. Additionally, maggots and honey have been used to heal chronic and post-surgical wounds instead of conventional dressings.

  • Wound cleaning – Maggots eat dead tissue which can clean open wounds. According to Entomon.net/Dreamcatcher Global, "about 5,000 laboratory grown microorganism-free maggots get delivered to hospitals across the United States every week."

  • Flu – FDA recently approved the flu vaccine, Flublok, derived from the fall armyworm moth.

  • Rheumatism/Arthritis – The venom of the devil-tree ant (Pseudomyrmex triplarinus) and bee-generated resin have been shown to contain anti-inflammatory proteins that could provide relief for arthritis. A U.S. patent is pending on the chemical. Products containing the bee resin (propolis) are sold in the U.S. as a supplement for reducing pain and inflammation.

  • Cancer – Compounds derived from blister beetles have been shown in the lab to be effective in treating certain cancers in cell cultures, and have been used to treat warts. Additionally, a scorpion venom extract has been shown to be able to detect and spotlight cancer cells under a special light used during surgery.

  • Toothache – In ancient times, dead mice, hippo teeth, and wolf ashes were used to treat toothaches, today's scientists have found that teeth coated with an adhesive substance secreted by mussels can rebuild an enamel-like layer. The substance may prove to be a beneficial ingredient for sensitive-teeth toothpaste.

  • AntibioticsTermite feces, house fly larvae extracts, blowfly peptides, and bee-generated resin may be even more effective than antibiotics in killing fungi and bacteria

  • Lowered Cholesterol/Anticoagulants – Insect skeletons could provide compounds that would help lower cholesterol and thin the blood.

  • Longer Life? – Male silkworm extracts have been shown to extend the lives of fruit flies … possibly humans too?

  • Headache pain to lockjaw and snakebitesCentipedes are dried, ground to a paste, then applied to the area of pain.

  • Anti-aging – Extracts of the Chinese Black Mountain Ant are mixed with a drink (often wine or beer) and consumed. The extracts are currently being studied for its potential against cancer.

  • Ulcers and anemiaTermite mounds are dug up – with termites inside – and ground into a paste which is applied to the affected area or mixed with water and drunk.

  • Fever reducer and stomach calmer – The larvae of the Jatropha Leaf Miner is a major agricultural pest which has been boiled then mashed into a paste and applied to the affected area.

  • Headache painGrasshoppers are dried and ground into a powder, then mixed with water and ash to form a paste that is applied to the forehead.

  • Bronchitis, pneumonia, convulsions, hemorrhages, and frequent urination – Pupae of the Bombyx mori silkworms are boiled and eaten, and larvae excrement consumed to reduce cholera symptoms.

  • Burns – Honey may help to relieve and heal burns; it has also been combined with beeswax to relieve psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and diaper rash.

Whether each specific insect-derived cure is lab tested, ancient arts, or old wives tale, there is distinct benefit to the overall study and use of insects in medicine. Perhaps, as is stated in Bugs as Drugs, combining the healing insects with conventional treatment may prove to be of greatest benefit.

References and Resources

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