what medicines come from insects?
- ConnieLv 71 decade agoFavorite Answer
Probably the most interesting example of using insects in medicine involves the larvae of the blow fly. Military surgeons noticed in World War II that wounds, untreated for several days and infested with maggots, healed better than wounds not infested with the blow fly larvae.
Later they discovered that the larvae (maggots) secreted an excretion called "allontoin," which had a curative effect. Allontoin now is used to treat osteomyelitis, an infectious inflammatory disease.
In other examples, bee venom has been used to treat arthritis and an extract from blister beetles has been used to treat problems of the urogenital system.
There were 21 insects described as medicine in Shennong Pharmacopoeia (100-200AD). This was expanded to 73 insects in Compendium Materia Media published in 1578. Chinese galls (Wubeizi) are perhaps the most common insect-related medicine, used for many sores (Tinea, etc). They are produced by gall- making aphid (Pemphigidae) on Chinese sumac (Anacradiaceae: Rhus).
The most expensive one is probably Dong Chong Tsia Tsiao (winter caterpillar summer grass). The caterpillar fungus consists of larvae of Hepialus armoricanus (Lepidoptera: Hepialidae) infected with an obligate entomopathogenic fungus Cordyceps sinensis (Clavicipitales, Ascomycotina). The pharmacological properties of the caterpillar fungus are similar to these of gingseng. A Chinese medicine book says they are mainly used for weak lungs, coughing and shortness of breath, weak kidney, back pain, impotence etc.
The cicada molts are supposedly good for scrofula and ulcer. Silkworm frass is also used as a medicine for diarrhea.
A cockroach (Eupolyphaga sinesis) is also used as a medicine. It is supposed to help stop bleeding and heal bone fractures, swelling etc.
Apitherapy is now very popular in China, there are now at least three institutes or hospitals famous for apitherapies (Xi'an of Shanxi, Lianyungang of Zhenjiang and Nanjing of Jiangsu). Arthritis is the most popular disease to be treated by bee stings. Recently, apitherapy is also used for both arthritis and for muscular dystrophy in US. Other bee products used for medicine include honey, propolis (used in an alcoholic tonic). Royal jelly is very popular as a health-strengthening food, especially among the "intellectualls" (professors, researchers, etc). Use of pollen as health food is rather recent, perhaps after the Europeans. Queen larvae, mostly by-products of royal jelly production, are also used for making alcoholic tonic.
Ants are used as health food and a medicine, though as usual it is not known what are the active ingredients. There had been an anecdotal report that a village of long-living people (average ~90) attributed their longevity to the habit of frying up ants and eating them. Ant is a major component of a herbal medicine for hepatitis B (Mayi Yigan Ning). This medicine is reported to give a 60% efficiency to convert hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) to serum negative. This compares favorably with the ~30% conversion efficiency using interferon, as reported by medical journals in US. There are also wines and tonic made with ants.
http://www.cyberbee.net/~huang/pub/insect.html (stories on this link kind of interesting)