We have been told not to stir up a hornet’s nest since a child. This is quite self-explanatory that it is so silly to beg for trouble when you just can’t afford the consequence of that behavior. Sometimes, but not always, poking a wasp nest makes sense since this thing is more than just the residences of these insects. From the eyes of a well-trained Chinese herbalist, it is known as Lu Feng Fang and a good medicine that can be used for so many conditions, such as sexual impotence, ringworm, breast cancer, toothache, and so on. Actually this herb has long been used for medicinal purpose, and the history can be dated back to the China’s first herbal medicine monograph – Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Agriculture God’s Canon of Materia Medica). However, currently it is hard to tell which nest is the authentic one medicinally since it involves so many alias, various species, and various shapes and sizes.
What is wasp nest?
It mainly refers to the nests of Polistes mandarinus Saussure, which is an insect in the family Vespidae. But sometimes the nests of Polistes olivaceus (DeGeer), Polistes japonicus Saussure, or Parapolybia varia Fabricius, etc. are also used medicinally too. Other names include Nidus Vespae, Honeycomb, Hornet Nest, and so on. It is produced all over China, especially in the south. It is usually collected during autumn and winter. And the following steps are drying in the sun, or slightly steaming, removing dead wasps and wasp nest eggs, and then drying in the sun. It is used raw or fried.
Female Polistes mandarinus Saussure is black, 20 to 25mm long. Triangle head is with 1 pair of compound eyes and 3 ocelli. Antennae are 1 pair. Tawny stripes are on face, vertex, occiput, clypeus, palate, and cheeks; Punctum is on chest; And 2 yellow vertical lines are on the trailing edgeprothorax and back and mesonotum. Wings are 2 pairs and the fore ones are bigger than the hind ones. Propodeum is black and with 4 vertical brown lines. Abdominal patterns are hammer-shaped. The center of each abdominal segment is with black vertical lines. And it has a barb at the end of it tail. Slender brown feet are 3 pairs. It often droops and stretches its 6 feet when it is flying. Wasp nests are usually found on porch, air conditioner, above front door, attic, eaves, chimney, in window frame, high in tree, and so on.
Main chemical constituents are a toxic volatile “honeycomb oil”, beeswax, resin, a variety of carbohydrates, vitamins, inorganic salt, calcium, iron, protein, moisture, and so on.
Wasp nest health benefits
Traditionally wasps nest is mainly used to diminish inflammation, relieve pain, and cure impotence. And many TCM masters have given it very high evaluations. Zhu Liang Chun, one of the most prestigious contemporary TCM doctors in mainland China, ever mentioned it in his work of Zhu Liang-Chun Yong Yao Jing Yan Ji (A collection of Zhu Liangchun’s Experience in the Use of Drugs) and said that it could cure thin clear leucorrhea, impotence, and chronic cough. Besides, Huang Sanyuan, a professor from Taiwan, claimed that hornet’s nest is better than penicillin on antibacterial effect.
Modern pharmacological actions of hornets’ nest
1. Its extracts by alcohol, ether and acetone can promote blood clotting. Among them, the acetone extract has the strongest effect, which is superior to a variety of hemostatic available on the market;
2. Its alcohol, ether and acetone extracts can enhance the movement of the heart, low the blood pressure temporally, and promote diuresis;
3. Its extract, by subcutaneous injection or oral administration, showed significant inhibition on croton oil induced ear edema in mice;
4. Its water extract by gavage can significantly inhibit mice’s writhing response induced by the intraperitoneal injection of acetic acid;
5. Its water extract by hypodermic injection can reduce the normal body temperature in mice. And it works in a similar way as crude saponins from Bupleuri Radix and aspirin;
6. The honeycomb volatile oil can still kill tapeworm. However, using it as anthelmintic is inadvisable since its high toxicity could cause acute nephritis.
Selected honeycomb herbal remedies
From the Chinese Materia Medica, we are informed that honeycomb is slightly sweet in flavor and neutral and mildly toxic in properties. And it goes to three meridians of liver, stomach, and kidney. Major functions are expelling wind and alleviating wind, counteracting toxic substances and diminishing swelling, and killing parasites to relieve itching. Main indications and medicinal uses include wind-warm impediment pain, pain in carious teeth, carbuncle-abscess, malignant sores, scrofula, sore throat and glossalgia, anal fistula, rubella itching, and stubborn psoriasis. Recommended honeycomb dosage is from 5 to 10 grams in decoction or from 2 to 5 grams in powder.
1. According to Yao Seng Yuan Ji Yan Fang (YAO Seng-yuan’s Collection of effective recipes), it is used with Chan Tui (Cicada Moulting) for endless itching due to wind pathogen dwelling in the skin.
2. According to Feng Fang Gao from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief), it is formulated with She Tui (Periostracum Serpentis), Xuan Shen (radix scrophulariae), Huang Qi (Astragalus), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), etc. to treat heads with ulcerative scrofuloderma.
3. According to Shi Bian Liang Fang (Convenient and Effective Prescriptions that Contain few Herbs), it is charred and taken with wine to cure wind-heat toothache that radiates to head and face.
4. According to Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions), it is blended with lard oil to treat hymenopterism.
5. According to Tang Yao Jing Yan Fang (Tangyao’s Empirical Formulas), it is applied with vegetable oil to treat hemorrhoid and anal fistula.
Wasp nest side effects and contraindications
Is wasp nest good or bad medicinally? It really depends how you use it since it is with small toxicity. Improper use may lead to poisoning and the poisoning symptoms in early stage are loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and followed by headache, back pain, swelling of the face and limbs, oliguria and so on. And honeycomb oil induced acute nephritis was ever reported in experimental animals. TCM wise, use it with caution when the patients are with qi-blood deficiency.