When it comes to bombyx mori or silkworm, we all know that it is the silk moth larvae or caterpillars, which are grown mainly for the production of bombyx mori cocoon and silkworm silk. However, you may not know the fact that sometimes silkworm are also grown for medicinal purpose. Medicinally it is called Jiang Can in mandarin. This herb has a very good medicinal value for the treatments of infantile convulsions, sore throat, submandibular lymphadenitis, facial paralysis, skin itching and other symptoms. Owing to its enormous health benefits, it has long been noticed and listed in the Shennong Bencao Jing (Shennong’s Root and Herbal Classic), the oldest existing Chinese pharmacopoeia.
What is bombyx mori medicinally?
Actually it means the dried hardened larvae of Bombyx mori Linnaeus., an animal in the family Bombycidae. This herb is a special medicinal because of its special manufacturing process – it is produced by naturally or artificially infecting Beauveria bassiana (Bals.) Vuillant when they are 4 to 5 years old. Due to its surface is densely covered with white mycelium and conidia, it is also named Bai Jiang Can (literally white stiff silkworm). In addition, because this insect is raised only in silk farm and mainly feeds on mulberry tree leaves, it is also known as Bombyx Batryticatus and mulberry tree silkworm. The life cycle of bombyx mori, from Larva or caterpillar to moth, is so short but it brings us so much benefits. This is a lovely and honorable insect.
Main chemical constituents are protein and fat, multiple amino acids, and trace elements of iron, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, and others. And the white powder on its surface contains ammonium oxalate.
Bombyx mori extract benefits
In terms of skin care, there are a few Chinese herbs, like Bai Zhi (Angelica Dahurica), that are known for skin rejuvenation. As a matter of fact, bombyx mori is one of them that can make your skin look younger too. According to the information in Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic, it is able to get rid of dark spots and then get you the clear and fair complexion. No wonder nowadays girls love to use it to make DIY facial mask for treating melasma. And modern medical study also found that silkworm contained amino acids, vitamin E, and active element of mercerization, which could adjust hormone secretion, scavenge free radical, and then remove the melasma caused by endocrine disorders and the age pigment and other facial pigmentation due to anti-lipid peroxidation. What’s more, it also has other cosmetic effects, including accelerating the cell metabolism, improving skin microcirculation, eliminating skin dullness and sunburn, and increasing skin elasticity. By the way, bombyx mori l extract has been used as an aphrodisiac supplement in China to boost the sexual drive of men.
Modern silkworm’s pharmacological actions
1. Its aqueous-alcoholic extracts have hypnotic, anticonvulsant effects on mice and rabbits;
2. Its extracts have a strong anticoagulant effect in vitro and in vivo;
3. Silkworm powder has a good hypoglycemic effect;
4. Vitro experiments showed that it had a mild inhibitory effect on Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa;
5. Its alcohol extraction can inhibit the breathing of human hepatoma cells. So, it can be used in the treatment of rectal-tumor type polyps.
Selected silkworm herbal remedies
From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, it is salty and pungent in flavor and neutral in properties. It goes to three meridians of liver, lung and stomach. Chief functions are dispelling the wind pathogen to arrest convulsion, reducing phlegm and resolving masses. Basic uses and indications include convulsions, sore throat, itchy skin, submandibular lymphadenitis, and facial palsy. Recommended dosage is from 5 to 9 grams.
1. Qian Zheng San. From Yang Shi Jia Cang Fang (Prescriptions Kept in the Yang Family), this formula treats facial paralysis caused by stroke. Other two herbal ingredients are Bai Fu Zi (Typhonium Rhizome) and Quan Xie (Scorpion).
2. Jiang Can Wan. From Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence), this prescription cures paralysis of the limbs and slurred speech. Other three herbs are Wu Tou (Radix Aconiti Carmichaeli), Mo Yao (Myrrh) and Wu Gong (Centipede).
3. Bai Jiang Can San. From Complete Record of Holy Benevolence, it combines it with Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger Rhizome) for the treatment of swollen body and clenched teeth due to tetanus.
4. Bai Jiang Can San. From Shi Yi De Xiao Fang (Effective Prescriptions of Well Known Doctors), this recipe deals with lacrimation induced by irritation of the wind. The rest major herbs are Gan Cao (Licorice Root), Xi Xin (Chinese Wild Ginger), Xuan Fu Hua (Inula Flower), Jing Jie (Schizonepeta Stem), and so on.
5. Jiang Can San. From Pu Ji Fang (Prescriptions of Universal Relief), it helps stop a toothache caused by wind obstruction. The rest two herbs are Gao Ben (Lovage Root) and Angelica Dahurica.
Bombyx mori side effects and contraindications
Taking Bombyx mori orally may cause allergic reactions – appear acne-like rash and allergic rash. But fortunately they would disappear soon after stopping the medication. And some other patients would suffer from dry mouth, nausea, decreased appetite, drowsiness and other reactions. As silkworm has anticoagulant activity, care should be taken in people with thrombocytopenia, coagulation disorders and bleeding tendency. What’s more, both medicinal silkworm and pupae include ammonium oxalate, which can enter the body and then decompose into ammonia. So, use it with caution in patients with hepatic coma.