Six bizarre uses for creatures in healing remedies

By Marilynn McLachlan

Bees to heal disease, cockroach soup, or doctor fish? Photos / Thinkstock
Bees to heal disease, cockroach soup, or doctor fish? Photos / Thinkstock

Can snails numb pain? Yes they can, according to promising results from Australian researchers who are developing an experimental drug made from snail venom. The carnivorous cone snail's venom is said to be 100 times more potent than morphine. While this particular remedy has not yet been tested on humans, the sometimes bizarre use of insects, fish and animals to help cure various ailments has a long history.

Here are six of the most popular treatments - some are still in use today.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

1. Leeches to suck blood

Leeches have been used since ancient times to remove blood from patients in order treat a range of ailments, ranging from shingles to osteoarthritis.

After a decline in use during the 1960s, they made a comeback in the 1980s when microsurgeries became more common place and it was discovered that they assist in healing. While it is illegal to import leeches into New Zealand because of bio-security restrictions, a New Zealand species is available for purchase.

2. Bees to heal disease

Another ancient remedy, Apitherapy - the medicinal use of honey bee products - has claimed to heal a long line of ailments, including arthritis, herpes and cancer. Web MD reports that studies have shown it is effective for bee sting allergies, and possibly effective for burns, nighttime coughs, herpes and recovery after mouth surgery.

3. Biting fish for skin conditions

Ichthyotherapy is the use of fish, such as Doctor Fish or Nibble Fish, to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis. Patients take a "fish bath" where they stand in water and some 250-400 fish are added to the pool. The fish nibble away at the skin. One trial of 67 patients found that most were more satisfied with the treatment than any other they had tried.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

4. Maggots for wound healing

Healing using maggots, or Maggot Debridement Therapy, is the process of putting live, disinfected maggots onto tissue wounds or non-healing skin. It is believed that the maggots clean out the dead tissue within the wound. Popular in the 1930s and 1940s, it saw a resurgence in the early 2000s as superbugs became antibiotic resistant.

5. Ants to stitch wounds

Sutures have been used for thousands of years to close wounds and promote healing. In South Africa and South America large ants - called soldier ants - could bind a wound together. Squeezing the two sides of the wound together, the ant will use its pincers to bite hard. Snapping off the body of the ant will leave the suture in place.

6. Cockroaches to heal

Louis Armstrong claimed that his mother served him cockroach soup to heal colds and sore throats and today cockroaches are gaining popularity with cockroach powder being used to treat everything from gastroenteritis to pulmonary tuberculosis. Such claims are making cockroach farming big business in China.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

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