Could Cobra Venom Replace Opioids in Treating Chronic Pain?

Could Cobra Venom Replace Opioids in Treating Chronic Pain?

The King Cobra’s bite can kill you within 30 minutes, however, the same substance has also been developed into a drug that can ease chronic pain that even the strongest synthetic painkillers can’t touch. And today, along with venoms from an array of other creatures, cobra venom is showing great promise in the fight against a number of deadly diseases.

People have used venoms as medicines for thousands of years; Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and homeopathy, and other traditional systems of medicines have all recognized the potency of venoms and used them to treat pain, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and more. Western medicine got involved in the early 1980s, when the first venom-derived drug Captopril, was approved by the FDA for use in hypertension. Today, there’s been a resurgence of interest among researchers and the pharmaceutical industry owing to advances in the study of these compounds.

The most recent study out of Florida Atlantic University shows the potential of cone snail venom in treating severe malaria.

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Ancient Mistletoe Could Be the Next Alternative Cancer Treatment

Ancient Mistletoe Could Be the Next Alternative Cancer Treatment

Mistletoe, an ancient parasite plant that grows on several species of trees, has been harvested for centuries. Loaded with symbolic traditional meaning, 21st century scientists at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Research Center are studying Viscum album, its latin name, to understand why mistletoe appears to relieve cancer symptoms and fight tumors. But a look back to the recorded history of mistletoe casts a light on the significance of the plants to humanity, at least as far back as the first century A.D.

Mistletoe History — the Druids

On the sixth day after a new moon, a group of Celtic druids, accompanied by two magnificant white bulls, gather around an ancient oak — a “king tree.”  The leafless limbs of the venerable tree are festooned with shaggy green spheres dotted with white berries.

This auspicious day, when mistletoe appears on the sacred oak, is being marked with solemn ceremony — the Ritual of Oak and Mistletoe. This special mistletoe is harvested and hoarded to bless newlyweds, mark new alliances after wars, make medicines, and bring special luck in times of need.

Mistletoe, common to the forests of Gaul and Britain, is gathered for medicines and luck, but the appearance of mistletoe on oak, the chieftain of the trees, only happens a few times over many generations, if that. To harvest the sacred plant, priests climb into the branches carrying blessed blades to sever the greenery from the honored limbs. Others circle the trunk holding linen cloths to keep falling mistletoe boughs from touching the ground. After, to give thanks, the druids sacrifice the white bulls.

The Myth of the Death of Baldur

Scratch a Swede or a Dane and they’ll bleed pagan Norse myths. Scandinavia was the last part of Europe to convert to Christianity — a life-or-death ultimatum from Charlemagne did the trick. But the Norse pantheon and mythology persists in the Viking collective consciousness — the story of the death of Baldur is no exception, and mistletoe plays a featured role.

In Valhalla, home of the gods, Baldur, son of Odin and the good sorceress Frigg, was the most beloved of all. When Baldur began to have alarming dreams of misfortune, Odin disguised himself and travelled to the underworld to consult with a dead seeress who specialized in dreams. When he arrived, the underworld was in a whirlwind of preparations for a feast.

Odin, disguised as a wanderer, woke the seeress witch and asked who would the celebration would honor — she explained that the festivities were in preparation for the arrival of Baldur. She explained how Odin’s beloved son would meet his end, but when the wanderer became distressed, she realized she was talking with Baldur’s father Odin.

The chief of the gods didn’t waste time getting back to Valhalla to tell Frigg, who, upon hearing Odin’s tale, travelled the entire length and breadth of the cosmos to extract an oath from every being and thing; to never harm her son Baldur.

After, rocks and sticks simply bounced off Baldur, as they had all sworn they would never hurt him. But Loki the trickster donned a disguise and approached Frigg with the question, “Did you really get ALL beings to promise never to harm Baldur?”

Frigg replied, “Yes — everything but the innocent mistletoe. How could such a small, gentle thing hurt my son?”

Loki hustled away and made a mistletoe spear. The short story is that he got the blind god Hodr to throw it at Baldur, killing the shining son of Odin. The ensuing pandemonium in Valhalla, the underworld, and on earth, is long and complicated, but importantly, Frigg’s tears of grief fell on the mistletoe and turned into white berries. For some reason she blessed the plant and promised to kiss anyone passing beneath it. Thus our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.

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