Do ants coated in black garlic and rose oil appeal to you? How about deep-fried tarantula or chocolate-covered crickets?
Celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, and Justin Timberlake swear by the merits of eating bugs. But if that concept is too hard to swallow (literally), you might be willing to gulp down capsules containing powdered scorpion, cockroach, centipede, leech, and cicada if it will save your life from a heart attack.
And judging by the results of a new study, that’s just what extracts of these creepy crawlies will do…
At the American Heart Association conference in Chicago last November, Yuejin Yang, a Chinese doctor and scientist, gave a most unusual presentation– at least it was to those trained in Western medicine.
Eyebrows were not only raised by the insect cocktail he detailed, but by its dramatically positive effects.
Dipti Itchhaporia M.D., immediate past president of the American College of Cardiology, said, “Listening in the audience was like, wow, really? That sounds interesting, tell me more.”
Approved in China Since 1996
Researchers undertook a clinical trial that was randomized, double blind, and placebo-controlled, thus presenting the highest level of scientific evidence. It included 3,797 patients with STEMI – a severe heart attack from total blockage of the coronary artery – who underwent treatment at 124 hospitals across China.
On top of conventional therapies such as drugs and stents, half the patients were given tongxinluo (TXL), which not only contains the above insects but also herbs including panax ginseng, frankincense, sandalwood, and rosewood. The purpose of the formula is to tonify Qi and activate blood according to the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It’s been approved for use in China for the treatment of angina and stroke since 1996.
Researchers gave the other half a placebo which was specially manufactured to look, smell, and taste identical to the active supplement. The results were remarkable.
Dramatic Reduction in Heart Attacks and Death
After 30 days, compared to the placebo group, the TXL group had a 36 percent lower rate of major adverse cardiovascular or cerebrovascular events (MACCE), cardiac death was 30 percent lower, and no repeat heart attack occurred, compared to nine in the placebo group.
Stroke occurred in four patients in the TXL group compared to nine in the placebo group.
At one year, rates of MACCE, cardiac death, repeat heart attack, and stroke were also significantly—and in some cases, dramatically—reduced in patients who had the good fortune to be randomized to TXL during the trial.
The reaction to the trial among orthodox medical practitioners combined admiration with sheer bewilderment.
Western Bias Against TCM
Dr. Itchhaporia explained, saying, “It’s intriguing. The magnitude of the effect seems surprising, and so I guess I’m going to hold off my excitement until I know if we can reproduce this. I think we need to get more evidence that this works.”
Dr. Kenneth Mahaffey, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Stanford University, called the results “interesting” but wants to see additional data.
Cardiologist Dr. Sidney Smith, of the University of North Carolina, said, “Results were impressive… But we need to understand more.”
To be fair, a conference presentation is not the same as reading a published, peer reviewed study that contains full details of how the study was conducted. But there’s no question there’s an inherent bias among Western trained medical experts to TCM, as expressed by Dr. Itchhaporia, who said, “I sort of got stuck when I heard the word ‘insects.'”
Albert Ferro, Professor of Cardiovascular Clinical Pharmacology at King’s College London, summed this up best, saying, “We in the West do tend to have a much more skeptical attitude to TCM than the Chinese do. They learn about traditional medicines and Western medicine in parallel, and they practice both, and they don’t really have an issue with that at all, whereas we do tend to focus on the fact that a lot of these things aren’t well validated scientifically.
“We don’t know what the active moiety is. It’s all a mixture, here, of herbs and insects, and what is it in all of that that’s doing the good stuff? We do have that intrinsic bias in the West when we’re presented with TCMs.”
I couldn’t agree more about conventional medicine’s bias against any natural medical tradition, whether it’s folk medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Homeopathic medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine. Most conventional doctors have gone hook-line-and-sinker into the pharmaceutical industry solution to health problems. Unfortunately, as you well know, prescription drugs for many ailments have significant limitations—especially dangerous side effects that can be just as bad or even worse than the condition that they’re treating.
If you’re interested in benefiting from TXL or many of the prescription or over-the-counter remedies in Traditional Chinese Medicine, you’ll need to find a TCM doctor or center. Fortunately, there are a number of these located around the nation.
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) website has a national directory of all acupuncturists and TCM practitioners that hold NCCAOM certification. You can find it on their website https://www.nccaom.org/find-a-practitioner-directory/.