Friday, August 29, 2014

Using Insects for Medical Healing

In the past it was often believed that insects had healing powers for humans.  With this post, we explore some of the past believes on how insects where used for medical purposes.  Caution, this post may make you a little sick.


Bees used for Medical Healing:

Beekeepers often assert that bee stings are helpful to health. The profession claims to suffer less than the general population from Arthritis, Rheumatism, and Bursitis.

Apiarists assert bee stings keep the limbs supple. While the evidence is still mainly anecdotal, this population does seem to have slightly less incidence of these inflammatory diseases. Doctors certainly use bee and wasp venom to desensitize people who are allergic to the bite of these insects.


Cockroaches for Medical Healing:

Cockroaches are not forgotten in the quest for insect remedies. They have been mentioned as helping cure childhood illnesses. Famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong was fed cockroach soup for colds and sore throats (yuck!).

Through the ages, cockroaches have been thought to cure strokes, tetanus and even indigestion. The insects were often placed in a jar beside the bed of measles sufferers. It was claimed that when the cockroaches died, the illness would be transferred from the sick child to the insects. In Europe powdered cockroaches are still sold as a cure for pleurisy and pericarditis.


Bedbugs for Medical Healing:

Chinese herbalists have used insects in their remedies for centuries. The bedbug has been thought to be effective in curing malaria, snakebite, and eye irritations.

Many of these cures are claimed to be highly efficacious - even today. The Elizabethans also used bedbugs in the treatment of malaria. Ironically there is now a slightly different connection with bedbugs and malaria. In tropical areas, treatment for bedbugs includes the use of insecticides in bedding and mosquito netting. As a result bedbugs are eradicated and malaria bearing mosquitoes are reduced markedly in numbers as well.


Earwigs as Medical Healing:

The Elizabethans had great faith in the use of insects as remedies for "what ailed thee". One cure for deafness was particularly odorous. Dried and powdered Earwigs were mixed with rabbit urine and poured into the ear twice a day.

It is quite obvious that Elizabethan doctors were a creative group. It is difficult to imagine this ghastly concoction having any other effect than to perhaps act on wax built up in the outer ear canal.


Cantharis Used for Medical Healing:

Cantharis or Spanish Fly is used today in herbal remedies to treat cystitis. It has been a treatment for many ailments through the centuries including baldness, scalds and burns.

Greek Healer Hippocrates used it to treat dropsy. Hippocrates- the father of modern medicine- described the use of Cantharis or Spanish Fly in the treatment of dropsy or oedema. The active ingredient Cantharidin is found in the blood of the insects. He also recommended it for inducing abortion.


Ants Used for Medical Healing:

Ants were used centuries ago to suture wounds. The larger soldier ants of some species possess well developed mandibles and these were used in place of stitches.

This practice started in India. Carpenter and Army ants were often used, as these larger breeds of ant have soldiers with very large pincers. These ants were held so that they closed their mandibles over the edges of a wound. When the pincers were clamped tight, the thorax and abdomen would be pinched off leaving behind the head with the wound closed at that point. The practice started in India from at least 3000BC and has spread geographically since then.

What would you do if your doctor suggested using an insect to cure a sickness or wound? Would you try it?

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