Many people are under the impression that scorpions are evil and good for nothing since scorpion bite can lead to death. However, this is not true and here are the scorpion facts for you – scorpion venoms from only 25 species can be deadly and the rest (about 1,500 species) usually only makes human being suffer from mild symptoms, such as pain, numbness, swelling, tingling, burning sensation, and so on. Hence, many scorpion lovers even keep scorpions as pets. What’s more, in the eyes of a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, scorpion, also known as Quan Xie in mandarin, is a double-edged sword, which can kill or save a person depending on the way of using it. A good doctor can tame it and use the most appropriate dose for the treatment of patients with incurable diseases like cancers. Similarly, other poisonous insects, like centipede and snake, are used medicinally in TCM too.
Facts about scorpions
Scorpion is an arthropod animal that is of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. There are around 1,500 types of scorpions throughout the world. And in China there are about 15 species, among which the most widely distributed one is the Buthus martensii Karsch. And the dried body of Buthus martensii is the main medicinal source. It is produced in Henan, Shandong, Hubei, and Anhui. It is usually caught in spring and summer. But the one captured between Qingming and Guyu is generally believed to be with better medicinal properties. After the capture, it needs to soak them with water first to let them spit out the dirt, place them in boiling water or boiling salt water until they become stiff, get them out, keep them in a cool, well-ventilated place, and let dried in the shade.
Buthus martensii is a predatory animal. It is about 6cm in length and consists of two parts – cephalothorax and abdomen. Cephalothorax is short, in 7 sections, and with carapace on back. Cephalosome has 2 pairs of appendages. One pair is very small and the other pair is fairly big pincers. Thorax has 4 pairs of legs, which are divided into 7 sections and with 2 sharp curved claws at the end respectively. Long abdomen is divided into anterior belly and posterior belly. Anterior belly is wide and composed of 7 sections and posterior belly is slender and divided into 5 sections and a barbed tail. Scorpion tail always curves forward over the back. The hook-like scorpion stinger is with poison gland inside. It is ovoviviparous. Scorpion habitats include caves, rock crevices, dead leaves, barks, etc. They hide in the daytime and come out at night to feed on insects, spiders and other small animals.
It contains scorpion poison, which is a protein that resembles neurotoxic poison. Crude venom of the scorpion contains a variety of scorpion venom toxins, including insect neurotoxin, neurotoxins in crustaceans, mammalian neurotoxin, antiepileptic active polypeptides (AEP), analgesic active peptides like tityustoxin Ⅲ, and hyaluronidase. Scorpion hydrolysate contains amino acids like aspartic acid, threonine, serine, glutamic acid, glycine, alanine, cystine, valine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, tyrosine, phenylalanine, lysine, histidine, arginine, and proline. It still contains 29 kinds of inorganic elements, such as sodium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, aluminum, copper, manganese, chlorine, etc. Furthermore, it also contains trimethylamine, betaine, ammonium salts, cholesterol, lecithine, taurine, palmitic acid, linolenic acid, 15-methyl palmitic acid, iso-oleic acids, arachidic acid, etc.
Scorpion facts on health benefits
As a traditional Chinese herb, scorpion has been used medicinally for more than 2,000 years in China. Thanks to the healing properties of scorpion venom, a toxic protein similar to snake neurotoxin, the medicinal uses of scorpions are amazing. It could yield surprising efficacy results in the treatment of nervous system diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, malignant tumors, stubborn viruses, etc. As a matter of fact, ancient physicians in China have discovered the secret of scorpion venom way earlier and believe that it is one of the best medicines for a dozen challenging or difficult-to-diagnose diseases, such as rheumatism, hemiplegia, tetanus, drooping eyelid and mouth, tuberculosis, scrofula, stubborn eczema, cancer, stroke, epilepsy seizures, sores, nephritides, angiosclerosis, hepatitis B, etc. As a result, currently there are over 100 scorpion-based herbal formulas and about 60 Chinese patent medicines, among which the famous ones are Zai Zao Wan, Da Huo Luo Wan, Qi Zhen Dan, Qian Zheng San, Die Da Wan, Jiu Xin Wan, Zhi Teng Wan, Zhong Feng Hui Chun Wan, etc.
Modern medicine has proved that scorpion contains 17 amino acids and 14 trace elements that are essential to human body. Hence, it is also a nutritious food. And the scorpion-based medicinal liquor and dishes are the most popular applications. Long-term use of them is believed to improve health and prevent cancer.
Modern pharmacological actions of scorpion
1) Both its venom and anti-epilepsy peptide (AEP) purified from its venom crude have a significant antiepileptic effect;
2) It has antagonism on convulsions caused by strychnine, nicotine, and Pentylenetetrazole;
3) Scorpion extract inhibits thrombosis and retards coagulation of the blood;
4) Preparations made of its body or tail have significant analgesic effect on animal somatic pain or visceral pain. But the analgesic effect of tail is about five times stronger than that of body;
5) Its water and alcohol extract can inhibit the growth of human hepatoma cells and colon cancer cells.
Sample scorpio recipes on herbal remedies
Chinese Materia Medica says that it is acrid in flavor and neutral and toxic in nature. It goes to liver meridian. Primary functions are expelling wind and relieving convulsion, activating meridians to stop pain, counteracting toxic substances, and eliminating stagnation. Basic scorpion uses and indications include infantile convulsions, twitching spasms, drooping mouth in stroke, hemiplegia, tetanus, rheumatism, stubborn pain or numbness, migraine, aching all over the head, toothache, deafness, boils, scrofula, subcutaneous nodules, snake bites, burns, rubella, and stubborn psoriasis. Recommended dosage is 2 to 5 grams in decoction, 0.5 to 1 grams in pills or powder. In addition, the dose of tail should be one third of that of the body.
1) Zhi Jing San from Jing Yan Fang (Experiential Prescriptions). It is coupled with Wu Gong (centipede) to treat convulsions and spasms caused by various causes.
2) Wu Hu Zhui Feng San from Fang Ji Xue (pharmacology of traditional chinese medical formulae) by Guangzhou Medical College. It is formulated with centipede, Tian Nan Xing (Arisaema), Chan Tui (Cicada Molting), etc. to cure tetanus spasms, convulsions, and opisthotonos.
3) Qian Zheng San from Yang Shi Jia Cang Fang (Yang Family Depository of Formulas). It is combined with Jiang Can (Bombyx Mori), Bai Fu Zi (Typhonium Rhizome), etc. to heal stroke induced drooping eyelid and mouth.
4) Xiao Jin San from Experiential Prescriptions. It is matched with Ma Qian Zi (Nux Vomica), Ban Xia (Pinellia), Wu Ling Zhi (Faeces Trogopterori), etc. to treat tuberculosis of bone and joints, scrofula, galls, and more.
5) Quan Xie Mo Fang from Ren Zhai Zhi Zhi Fang Lun (Renzhai’s Comprehensive Prescriptions). It is equipped with She Xiang (musk) to relieve pain.
Scorpion side effects and contraindications
The main reason for scorpion venom poisoning is twofold: either overdose or allergic reactions. Overdose of scorpions can cause headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and restlessness in mild cases and sudden drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, cyanosis, coma, and finally death due to respiratory paralysis in severe cases. Allergic reactions include systemic rash and wheal on body, accompanied with fever sometimes. In addition, it can also cause proteinuria and neurotoxicity, which are manifested as a painful jaw‐closing masseter, temporalis muscle spasm, and systemic exfoliative dermatitis. Hence, the dosage of scorpion should be strictly controlled, especially in people who have allergies. TCM wise, it shouldn’t be used in the cases of wind formation from blood deficiency and pregnant women.