We all know bugs can be annoying and even destructive, but did you know they can be used for medical purposes? For millennia, bugs have been are used to treat a variety of ailments, from burns to cancer. The practice is called biotherapy; the medical use of living organisms.
Below, we will discuss the most common bugs used for biotherapy, starting with maggots! Some of these “bug drugs” were used as far back as 2500 years ago.
Main Use: Treat wounds
Maggots clean dead tissue thoroughly and kill bacteria, allowing wounds to heal faster. Their secretions act as microbials that enhance growth of the skin, as long as they are in environments that are moist and have a good supply of oxygen. A medical treatment named maggot debridement therapy or MDT was used until the 1940s, before antibiotic and surgical treatment came into being.
Main Use: Treating Blood clots
Leeches are mostly used to fight blood clots as they secrete anticoagulants, a blood thinner. In plastic and reconstructive surgery, they can relieve blood clotting in areas with small blood vessels and also prevent cells from being overloaded with blood to reduce swelling. They can also restore normal blood flow and take out stagnant deoxygenated blood from different parts in the body. In this way, they can prevent heart attacks and stroke.
Leech therapy is also used make you look younger by sucking blood and detoxifying it. Demi Moore used it!
Main Use: Medical remedies for burns, wounds, skin disorders, and arthritis
Bees seem to be one of the most useful insects in medical treatment. Bee secretions, such as honey and venom are frequently used as medical remedies.
Honey has had a huge success rate in treating burns as well as infections and skin disorders. It has osmotic properties that moisturize the wound and prevents maceration. The composition of honey varies depending on the type of bee and flower it pollinates, but they all have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It has a faster healing time than conventional dressing. Combined with beeswax and olive oil, it can also help with skin disorders and reduce the number of skin lesions.
Royal Jelly is another medical compound made from bees, a mixture of sugar lipids, vitamins, and proteins secreted from glands of worker bees. It can be used to treat postmenopausal symptoms, increase immunity, and prevent infectious diseases.
Finally, bee venom has been frequently used for arthiritis as it has anti-inflammatory properties, causing less pain and a lower number of swollen joints. Apipuncture, an acupuncture therapy with a needle with bee venom, is often used for pain regulation.
Along with these common bugs, other bugs are also used, but in less capacity:
Ants- the Polyrhachis Vicina, a specific species of ant, has been used to boost the immune system and increase longevity. This ant has a lot of zinc that is normally used as an antioxidant and immune stimulant, similar to ginseng and Vitamin E. Ant venom has also been used to reduce arthiritis.
Bed Bugs- Acanthis Lecturalia or bed bugs have been used as a homeopathic treatment, acanthia, to deal with problems related to ovaries as well as violent headaches from drinking, constipation, and chills.
Blister beetles: Cantharidin, a derivative of bodies of blister beetles to treat warts and molluscum contagiosum, has been used to battle many cancers including leukemia and prostate cancer by inhibiting cancer growth.
This picture from the Alternative Medicine Review sums up how some common bugs are used for medical purposes really well:
Using bugs for medical treatments is actually viable in countries where conventional medicine isn’t as easily accessible and bugs can be used as an alternate treatment. However, there is still a huge stigma and anxiety against using them. Come back to our website learn more about pests and how to prevent them!