Ants might not be an invited guest in the house, but they could soon become a welcome guest in your medicine cabinet, for chemists in China have reported that they have identified substances in a certain species of ants that show promise for fighting arthritis, hepatitis, and other diseases.
For years, ants have been used as a health food or drink ingredient in China to treat a wide range of health conditions, including arthritis and hepatitis.
According to researchers, these health effects are due to anti-inflammatory and pain-killing substances in the ants.
However, the exact chemicals that lead to its alleged medicinal effects are largely unknown.
To examine the medicinal effects, Zhi-Hong Jiang and colleagues analysed extracts from a particular species of Chinese medicinal ant (Polyrhacis lamellidens) commonly used in folk medicine.
The researchers identified at least two polyketides, potent natural products also found in plants, fungi and bacteria that have shown promise in studies by others for fighting arthritis, bacterial infections, and a variety of other diseases.
Their study will be published in the April 25 issue of ACS' Journal of Natural Products.