Insects As Food And Medicines

It is anticipated that, by 2050 9.7 billion people will inhabit planet earth (United Nations, 2015). As of today, 795 million people do not have enough food for healthy living (http://www.foodaidfoundation.org/world-hunger-statistics.html). With farming land scarce, oceans already overfished, climate change and water shortages sufficient food and herbal production will be a huge challenge. How are we going to feed and medicate future generations? and ourselves?

Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security is a freely available publication (Wageningen University and Research Center, Netherlands, 2013) which discusses insects as food source.

Insects have one of the largest biomasses (biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms) amongst land-dwelling animals. More than one million species of insects have been documented and studied by scientists and it is estimated that at any one time, there are 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive!

It seems to me there is a huge opportunity to explore how we might utilise this prospect.

The ingestion of insects is called entomophagy (Greek: entomon = insect, phagein = to eat). Insects have always been part of the human food chain, but not every culture embraces it. In China, insects have been eaten for over 2,000 years. It comes as no surprise that they are used as medicines as well. Here are some commonly used animals in Chinese herbal medicines:

• Di Long (Pheretima) – Earthworms are considered invertebrates, which are part of the insect animal kingdom. Raw materials for our granules are sourced in Thailand where they are farmed, cleaned, dry fried and then grounded.

• Di Bie Chong (Eupolyphaga) – Wingless, flightless cockroaches that are used as raw materials for the production of our granules are sourced in the Shan Dong province of China. They are collected in the wild, dry fried and grounded.

• Shui Zhi (Hirudo) – The leech to produce our granules is sourced in Thailand, where it’s farmed, cleaned, dry-fried and grounded.

• Chan Tui Cicadae (Periostracum) – Sources of raw materials to make our granules come from various regions in China, they are collected in the wild, cleaned and grounded.

• Quan Xie (Scorpio) – Scorpions are related to spiders and are not considered an insect but an Arachnid. It’s a commonly used non-mammal product. Raw materials are sourced in Hu Bei province of Central China. They are farmed, boiled in water, cleaned, dried and grounded.

All these substances are salty in taste and go to the blood level due to their affinity with the salty flavor of the blood. Di Long, Di Bie Chong and Shui Zhi also break up and drive out blood stasis, while Chan Tui and Quan Xie disperse and extinguish wind.

Di Dang Tang (Shang Han Lun Lines 124, 125, 237; Taiyang and Yangming chapter), Da Huang Zhe Chong Wan (Jin Gui Yao Lue Line 6.18; Deficiency taxation chapter) and Xia Yu Xue Tang (Jin Gui Yao Lue 21.6; Postpartum chapter) are at least three classical formulas containing insects and addressing various types of blood stasis.

Looking at my patient demographic today, I can easily detect a tendency for individuals to consume their qi and blood, which over a period will cause stagnation and stasis patterns, and hence a potential need for insects. These treatments can be made more complex by the fact that vegetarianism in Australia (Roy Morgan, 2016) is on the rise and around 2.1 million people no longer eat meat (and insects are animals).

Whether we are considering insects as a food source or a medicinal substance, with the growing population, lifestyles that strain our health and well-being the need for evolutionary and progressive thinking is incredibly important. This example of exploring insects and their fate is a way to express my deep concern for the state of the planet.

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