Ants for Arthritis
Last Updated on Saturday, 17 January 2009 06:12
Although ants may be driving you up the wall in your home, and more specifically your kitchen, you may soon be welcoming them into your first-aid kit.
Some might say the day of the herbal remedy as the only alternative healer is over, and that the age of the ant has dawned.
Chinese chemists have identified substances in a certain kind of ant that may soon be used in medicine to fight arthritis and hepatitis along with several other diseases.
This may sound strange to westerners but Chinese have for centuries used ants in health foods and drinks to treat a wide range of ailments, of which arthritis and hepatitis are but two.
It is believed that the healing agents most likely come from anti-inflammatory and analgesic elements found in the ants. What the precise chemicals are, is still largely unknown.
Zhi-Hong Jiang, who headed up the latest research along with his chemist colleagues, examined extracts taken from a Chinese medicinal ant (Polyrhachis lamellidens), which is often made use of in folk medicine.
The research showed some promising results, identifying at least two polyketides - powerful natural substances also present in bacteria, fungi and plants studied for their use in fighting bacterial infections, arthritis, and other ailments.
As if taking over the kitchen is not enough, more medical research shows that another ant, the Polyrhachis vicina, extended rats' lifespans.
This particular ant is used as a drink to boost one’s immune system in Tibet, and has been prized by the royal family in China.
The ant was investigated by senior lecturer at Middlesex University, Dr John Wilkinson.
Mr Wilkinson said, "These ants contain a lot of zinc and zinc has been identified for some time as an immune stimulant and an antioxidant."
"This species of ant seems to act in a similar way on the immune system as ginseng and Vitamin E.
"This is a very exciting time in medicine. Insects have different compounds in them to plants."
"Now it is up to researchers to identify the novel compounds in insects and how they benefit health."
He concluded by saying: "Insects are potentially a vast new area of medicinal research."
One UK drinks manufacturer, InterContinental Brands (ICB) in North Yorkshire, manufactures a high juice drink aptly named Ant, which can be supped instead of the usual health and energy drinks seen in supermarkets.
Spokesperson for the company, Collette Fellows, said: "The vast history of the efficacy of the Chinese ant as a tonic is well documented in China. People here are beginning to understand its benefits."
The non-alcoholic, natural stimulant is not registered as a drug with the Standards for Trading and has already been on the market for years.