We know that insects are creepy and that many carry diseases, but did you know that some are actually good for you? Yes, you read correctly – some bugs are actually used for their medicinal benefits. Below you’ll find a handful of bugs that show promise as treatments for arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
South American Jungle Ants
Bio-chemists can’t readily identify some of the chemical components of this little guy, commonly known as the South American “devil ant,” but one thing they do know is that its venom has untold benefits for treating rheumatoid arthritis. While studies are still underway, it’s predicted that this ant’s venom may pave the way for arthritis treatment in the 21st century.
By some evolutionary quirk, grasshoppers ended up with central nervous systems similar to our own. For over 50 years researches have tested new psychoactive drugs on our little green friends in search of cardio-pulmonary and behavioral side-effects. Pre-med students study our hoppy green cousins in order to learn about meiosis, which they hope will lead to an understanding of what causes human cell mutations that leads to cancer.
Several African cultures also use poultices made from the ground up grasshopper as forms of pain relievers, particularly for migraines.
Blister beetles have been used by healers in China and Southeast Asia since ancient times. These beetles get their nicknames from treating skin lesions (or blisters,) and are also commonly known as “Spanish Fly,” which was used as an aphrodisiac (but in reality their toxins attack the human urinary tract system.) When their toxins are diluted, it actually reduces burning sensations commonly associated with urinary tract infections, insect bites, kidney problems, and first and second-degree burns.
Blister beetles are also being studied for their possible role in treating cancerous tumor cells since they secrete a toxin known as cantharidin, which is a powerful protein blocker in the human body.
Termite sand and mustard oil are used to treat Ooru Sthambam, a muscular disorder often mistaken for arthritis in India. Unlike arthritis, Ooru Sthambam does not affect the joints – instead, it causes numbness and decreased circulation in the patient’s upper thigh muscles. Allegedly, a compound comprised of termite sand and mustard oil is the only effective way to treat it.
Maggots have long been recognized for their debridement abilities – that is, the removal of dead tissue in an open wound. Maggot therapy is often used on patients whose wounds fail to respond to antibiotics, or who suffer from flesh-eating bacteria. Maggot therapy is a standard treatment for staph infections and serious burns.
Bee products have been used for quite the while as forms of “alternative” medicines. In fact, it has its own technical term – apitherapy, which literally means “healing with bees.” Bee venom is frequently used by herbalists and homeopaths to treat arthritis, promote healthy immune systems, improve circulation, and decrease inflammation. Bee products are used to treat everything from migraine headaches to erectile dysfunction.
It has recently been discovered that a toxin found in bee venom can destroy HIV while leaving surrounding cells unharmed. Scientists are continuing to perform research in hopes that the bee venom can play a crucial role in the future for preventing the spread of HIV.
So you see, even though insects seem like icky, creepy creatures, not all insects are bad. Some bugs have vital benefits that can help promote human health. Keep that in mind the next time you see one of these pests, before reaching for your phone to call pest control.