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agkistrodon acutusAgkistrodon acutus

PIT VIPERS

 

The flesh of this Chinese member of the pit viper family is given by Chinese and Unani physicians for a wide range of ailments, particularly muscular problems.

 

The snake's long use in medicine is marked by its presence in many modern symbols of medicine - a snake entwining a staff, taken from Hippocrates. Pit vipers are the snakes employed most often in medicine; at least five species are used. A. acutus, which is native to southeast China, Vietnam and Taiwan, and A. rhodostoma, the Malayan pit viper, are renowned for their short tempers and dangerous venom.

 

PARTS USED

Venom, oil, cooked flesh of headless body, whole body.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Enzymes; ancrod.

 

ACTIONS

Tonic; reduces muscle tension and spasm; relieves pain; prevents bloodclotting.

 

MEDICINAL USE

The main use of venom is to extract antivenin to treat snake bites, from which 30,000 people die each year. In Unani medicine, viper flesh is given to strengthen eyesight, ease muscular pains, and improve intelligence, and the venom is prescribed as a slow-acting but longlasting painkiller to relieve chronic pain such as sciatica. Chinese medicine favours local A. acutus to treat spasms, tremors, seizures, joint stiffness and weakness, cramps, and facial paralysis. Ancrod is extracted pharmaceutically from enzymes in A. rhodostoma venom and given in orthodox medicine to discourage the formation of blood clots that may cause stroke or heart attack.

 

PREPARATIONS

Unani: cooked flesh of headless body, or a paste of snake ash with honey for eyesight.

Chinese: powdered dried snake.

Orthodox: injections.

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