People in developed countries think insects are unappetizing. Yet, in some cultures, ants are considered a culinary delicacy. In addition, they are highly regarded for their medical applications.
Ants are packed with protein and other nutrients. Under certain circumstances, they may prompt the body to heal itself.
There’s a widespread belief among Asian herbalists that these six-legged animals are invaluable, when it comes to balancing the metabolism. So, when all else fails, it’s time to reach for the bug juice.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have long used ants and other crawling creatures are part of their reperatory. Chinese black mountain ants, in particular, are believed to improve overall health and to increase the lifespan. There’s even modern medical evidence that an extract from ants may someday prove very useful in the battle against cancer.
Black Mountain Ants and Rheumatoid Arthritis
In traditional Chinese medicine, black mountain ants are often used for painful conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. This is because they likely contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s also thought they can modulate the immune system. Ants contain the full complement of B vitamins and other nutrients. They are one of the best-known natural sources of zinc.
People in China treated with ants typically take their medicine as a tincture, or mixed with tea or wine. However, the insects can also be eaten whole.
Black ants, which have been used as medicine in China for 3,000 years, have a very impressive track record. One team of researchers at a college of traditional Chinese medicine conducted a large study on more than 16,000 patients with arthritis. They found that slightly more than 10 percent were cured, while the remainder reported their pain had decreased.
Ant Extracts and Cancer
It’s assumed black ants also have anti-cancer benefits, although clinical studies are lacking. Chinese black mountain ants are widely considered a cure all, as well as an adaptogen, which herbalists classify as a natural substance that helps our bodies adjust to various stress-related situations, whether it be emotional, physical or environment.
In ancient China, the usefulness of black mountain ants in preserving and promoting health made them very popular among the nobility. This is why ant extract is sometimes referred to as the “herb of kings.”
In traditional, as well as in alternative medicine, there is something called the “Doctrine of Signatures.” This means that something found in nature corresponds to a part of the body that it resembles. For instance, a kidney bean will help the kidney and an avocado is said to help promote a healthy pregnancy. If you cut it in half, its shape, with the pit inside, looks a bit like a pregnant woman carrying a child.
How does the Doctrine of Signatures apply to the black mountain ant? The fact that ants can an object many times their body weight indicates that ant extract can strengthen the body.
More scientific attention has been focused on the role of Chinese red ants, known as Formica aquilonia. A team of researchers from Iwate University in Japan found that extracts from these ants were able to kill a cell line of liver cancer in rats. Their conclusion was that red ant extract hold great promise as a potential cancer treatment. These findings, published in 2009, appeared in the Journal of Traditional Medicines.