When insects are discussed in the Torah, they are usually portrayed negatively. In Parshat Bo, we learn that locusts were one of the ten plagues brought upon Egypt. During the eighth plague, locusts descended on Egypt, devouring all the crops, destroying all the vegetation and literally casting a shadow over the land as they swarmed the sky. Later on in Parshat Shemini, we learn that almost all bugs are not kosher, as they are viewed to be dirty and unclean.
I am one of those weird people who has always loved bugs. Not only can bugs be pretty cute, but they’re also really important. Bees, for example, pollinate flowers and give us honey, while other insects have powerful venoms that have been known to cure different ailments. We also have microorganisms, or tiny insects, living on or in us every day. So why do most people think bugs are gross when in reality they could actually be our secret wonder drug?
Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” And he wasn’t really exaggerating: we depend on the flowers and plants that bees pollinate to survive, and bee honey is said to have the ability to heal wounds, kill bacteria, and cure colds. Recently Washington University in St. Louis did a study on bee venom and HIV patients. The bee venom was able to kill the HIV virus without harming the surrounding cells. Bees and other insects might be the cures for many of the common diseases that scientists have been overlooking.
Chinese medicine uses all types of insects just as it uses herbs. Centipedes, earthworms, and scorpions are just a few types of insects used as Chinese medicinals. They are used for problems following a stroke, help to treat bell’s palsy, kidney stones, and reduce the numbness and tingling from diabetes. However, almost all of the bugs being used in Chinese medicinals are for serious conditions, so if you tell your practitioner that you keep kosher, they will make sure not to put them in your formula. Insects and their venoms have helped people in China with life-threatening conditions for years, and more research might need to be done to see what else they can cure.
Microorganisms are also vital to our health. We will never see them or feel them, but we need them. A lot of the microorganisms are destroyed by the food we eat and others are flushed out by antibiotics. This destroys our gut flora (the collection of these microorganisms in our digestive tracts) and leaves us with ailments such as stomachaches, colds and candida.
To ensure that we stay healthy, we need to take probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria and fungi that help repopulate your gut flora, which makes you happy and strengthens your immune system. I recommend probiotics to all of my patients, no matter what their condition is. We have all eaten something in our lives that we wish we hadn’t and probiotics will protect our stomachs from our mistakes.
So, while the Torah may not have too many positive things to say about bugs, we know they are essential to our health, environment and the advancement of science. Consider taking a probiotic every day, and the next time you see you a creepy crawler or a bumblebee buzzing by, contemplate the health benefits this insect can and is providing us.