Terrible medical advice is everywhere. There’s always that crazy friend or wacky infomercial that will tell you that you can cure diseases by binge-eating 7-layer cake. But in some very, very rare cases, the true secret to advancing medical science has been to get even crazier. WARNING: unless your doctor signs off on it, don’t try any of these yourself. Check the doctor’s credentials while you’re at it.
5. Insect Stings Fight Cancer And Prevent Arthritis
Desperate people fighting terrible diseases will often be the target of some crazy potential cures. We imagine that “wasp therapy” will always sound like what your hippie cousin endorsed right up until his face swelled up like a beach ball. However, there actually is some promise here.
Polybia paulista, a wasp found in South America, produces a toxin known as MP1, and clinical evaluations have found that MP1 destroys tumor cells while leaving healthy ones alone. And those tumors do not die a decent death. MP1 creates “gaping holes that allow molecules crucial for cell function to leak out.” Many, many future studies are needed, but anything that selectively targets cancerous cells is of interest to scientists, even if its source makes you swat at the air and flee your picnic.
There’s also (sort of) good news if you have arthritis. More bee-derived drugs are likely hitting shelves soon, as they have demonstrated they can reduce pain and swelling while increasing range of motion. Bee venom therapy has actually been deemed “superior” to conventional medicines when it comes to treating rheumatoid arthritis since a bee’s sting stimulates a natural release of anti-inflammatory chemicals, which in turn staves off arthritis symptoms. Sound disturbing? We agree, but we’ll keep watching to see how this develops.
4. Meth Kills The Flu
Everyone agrees that meth use is one of the worst things to happen to humans in the last 50 years. It damages your brain and heart, it screws up your mental health, and it makes you look like a low-budget zombie. But you know what else is really remarkable? Meth happens to combat the influenza virus, which routinely causes pandemics. The cure is sometimes truly nastier than the disease.
Meth use frequently results in compromised immune systems and increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections, but the flu is a weird exception. Apparently, meth is just so damn toxic that mere contact with the flu virus causes it to wither up and die — and this effect lasts long after the drug is administered. Of course, a drug literally made out of cold medicine should help with a runny nose. Immunologists actually pushing for similar antiviral agents to be synthesized to fight the flu, although the others won’t make your teeth fall out. In the meantime, if you ever miss your yearly flu shot, don’t consider meth.
3. Intestinal Parasites Can Treat Lupus
Hugely important advances in food hygiene, like the five-second rule, have limited our overall exposure to parasites. For the most part, that’s obviously a good thing, because as our online medical degree from the University of College taught us, parasites are gross. But certain parasites are also pivotal to human health. Without exposure to them, the body’s immune system becomes inactive and unstable, resulting in disorders like lupus, Crohn’s, and MS, which have become increasingly common in developed nations.
Immuno-suppressing drugs used to treat those conditions have nasty side effects, like increased opportunistic infections and cancer rates. Beating lupus and the like requires a new approach, and some doctors are getting unexpected help from parasites like the pig whipworm. They call it Helminthic therapy, and it involves administering parasite eggs to patients so that their bodies can go through the normal series of reactions. The worm larvae hatch inside their hosts as normal, or sometimes they’re served in delicious worm egg purees! Yes, delicious pig-whipworm-egg smoothies, just like the future promised.
Clinical trials have been underway for over a decade, but there’s a bureaucratic catch in America. For some crazy reason, the FDA isn’t keen on selling parasites over the counter or signing off on the relevant studies. But Europe’s attitude toward biological specimens harvested from the feces of strangers are a little looser, and the Germans are close to approving an over-the-counter health supplement that will someday be sold right next to Quest bars. Surely it will only be a matter of time until Gwyneth Paltrow is hawking Goop-brand Gutworms.
2. Death Cap Mushrooms Actually Kill Certain Cancers
Death cap mushrooms have that name for a reason. They taste and smell delicious, but they’re responsible for around 90 percent of all mushroom-related fatalities. And yet the noxious fungus might be so toxic that it could be weaponized against certain cancers. Meaning that for once, your cousin with the braided beard who drones on and on about natural medicine and Frisbee golf is actually onto something. (Not about the Frolf, though.)
Alpha-Amanitin, the lethal toxin in the mushroom, doesn’t play any nicer with cancer than it does with your body. So scientists are trying to tweak its wrath to focus on tumors without also annihilating your liver, kidneys, and any other squishy parts that get in its way.
The biggest issue, aside from the fact that we’re talking about mainlining a substance so toxic that it’s dangerous to even touch, is that mushrooms are fickle organisms. It’s difficult to extract the toxin from the mushroom, so a lack of it has brought further research to a standstill. So until a synthetic strain of Alpha-Amanitin can be developed, scientists are stuck slowly wandering around under chestnut trees, far more likely to stumble across men in Birkenstocks who don’t understand personal space than a life-saving deadly mushroom.
1. Arsenic Contamination Cuts Breast Cancer Rates By 50 Percent
Biologists looking at the breast cancer rates of Chilean villagers were startled to find that the majority of them seemed to be somehow resistant to the disease. In fact, older locals had 50 percent lower breast cancer rates when compared with the general population. After poring over diet and lifestyle data, scientists finally figured it must be, quite literally, something in the water. Specifically, arsenic.
Groundwater samples showed the presence of naturally occurring arsenic at a rate 80 times higher than what’s recommended by the World Health Organization, which we are shocked to learn was not “Holy cow no, don’t drink arsenic at all.” The discrepancy was not a coincidence. A later water treatment program, established in 1970, inadvertently led to a spike in breast cancer.
Arsenic is generally a high-risk carcinogen in its own right, but it was also protecting against the most prevalent cancer in women. The fountain of youth was there the whole time; it just happened to be a wee bit deadly. No, this doesn’t mean that you should start chugging the stuff to stave off death, but the FDA has authorized an arsenic-based derivative for leukemia patients.