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Many Medicines, and even a Wine, owes its Effacy to Certain Snake Venom
China: Our new trading partner!!
Have a cup of snake wine this Xmas!
That title has little to do with the contents of this article, but it seems catchy and may amuse the spiders - Google's, that is.
There has been some debate that has come to my ears - well, if there hasn't, there should have been, as to whether one can actually drink snake venom, the stuff that would kill or paralyse you in minutes if the serpent bit you, or it was injected directly into your bloodstream by hypodermic.
First of all, what exactly is snake venom, the substance that one group of snakes use to immobilise prey, or you, if you don't bloody well back off, Charlie! ?
It is a complex broth of proteins, the stuff of all life and the Dr. Atkins diet (before he died of blocked arteries). Alright, he didn't, I'm not going to argue with a mere hubber about it...Dr Who? Get a job with the NHS don't eff around trying to make the food money with Google clicks. You’ll end up on the dole. The composition of said proteins varies from species to species. None of them are nice. Cytotoxin knackers the cells and tissues, and is confined to Adders and Vipers, among a few others. Neurotoxin, which really gets on your nerves and makes Mambas and Cobras, etc., really lethal; lastly, Haemotoxin, which stops your blood clotting, you clot, for letting one of the back-fanged snakes like the Boomslang, among others, bite you in the balls...or the camel foot. (I only found out what that means yesterday; now I can't stop saying it and looking for them on Google and Youtube...sick? I must be). Certain homicidal snakes even have a combination of these horrors, as do other venomous creatures on the planet. I don't know how we survive sometimes, do you?
But these toxins need be in your blood stream, as any mamma snake told her little wrigglers; if you drink them - any of them - the protein will be jumped upon by your strong digestive juices and the finished product - amino acids - flushed down the toilet...Unless!
"He's behind you!!" Panto time is coming up.
There is a precautionary rider here, it's Tom Mix, galloping around your liver and...no, be serious and quit knocking back the bloody Bailey's for a minute (isn't it good, though!?). The trouble with drinking raw snake venom is you may have a lesion anywhere in your mouth, throat or digestive track such as ulcers, bleeding diverticular disease; dental cavities as well, that will allows the venom into the blood stream and you will die...from drinking snake venom. It has happened, you wouldn't be the first. In fact, this is one of the reasons doctors advise you NOT to try to suck the venom from a snake bite, the first aid of choice in any self respecting western movie. "Paas me thet knaafe, young Jimmy, Ahm goin cut heem and suck thet cornswaddled poisin out of heem." OK, I'm limited, I can't talk Texas redneck.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the poor chap who was taking a whizz behind a coolibah tree in the Australian outback when he was bitten in the penis by a Taipan, the world‘s most venomous snake. Luckily, one of the party was a doctor. “Quick, doc. Dundee’s been bit by a taipan, you was saying las‘ night the venom can be sucked out!” “Where,” said the doc. “In the privates,” was the panicked reply. “Let him die,” said the doc.
So only a fool would drink snake venom because no one knows what's going on inside them.
Right? Well, maybe there's a lot of fools around, because snake venom, or the product of pickled snakes, is drunk in many places around the planet, not to mention the fact it is found in many homeopathic medicines - in well diluted doses, or course.
Here's where the race everyone but Dave Cameron looks at with askance, the Chinese, come to the fore. They have been steeping snakes in wine since 771 BC! (no, not the same bottle, you nitwit!). They say the infusion can cure everything from housemaid's knees, to erectile dysfunction (Ahm goin'n get me some o' dat!). As there are some one and a half billion of the little yellow suckers running around, they must be on to something. Unless it's the rhino horn ointment, the dried gorilla hand paste, or the tiger bone soup that's getting those 3-inch majong sticks to stand up every night!
Heck, I just got used to seeing a small worm in my Mescal bottle in Mexico, buggered if I would stand still for Gabon Viper juice in my vodka gimlet! Or a bloody Boomslang in the Bailey's bottle!
But, like the rich, the Chinese are different. Goodness knows how we are going to successfully trade with them. "We give you lots of lice for 20 glass snakes a bag," or, "You have plenty badger's bollocks," "We swap for 6 underage garment sowers for 200 brace." And so on.
But we are digressing here from what is a serious and grave subject.
Most enlightened countries have refused to sell snake wine for two good reasons, one is that no one in Britain would touch the stuff without shrieking and leaving the county, and, two, we are genuinely trying to protect the snakes and other threatened creatures on the planet from satisfying some oriental imbeciles desire to please his wife. Even from humanitarian reasons, hey, we don't want more bloody Chinese running around in polluting cars and burning polluting coal, never mind exploiting 12-year-old kids in sweat-shops.
Get real China!
Snake venom, or zootoxin, is formed from modified saliva in glands near the head of snakes. It is then channelled to hollow teeth, or fangs. In all cases, it is a complex mix of proteins and enzymes.
Depending on the species, it can have several nasty effects: it can dangerously lower blood pressure causing cardiac arrest.
Some can cause bleeding through cell and tissue walls.
Another type will cause the victim to lose control of voluntary and involuntary muscles (breathing, heart action, etc).
It may upset the body's enzyme balance with a variety of problems.
And so on. (see Wikipedia for full details).
Some snakes can deliver venom by spitting up to about 3 meters. Those of the Cobra family employing this frightening tactic may spit up to 50 times and still retain enough venom to bite and kill victim! The venom will cause painful, temporary blindness which can become permanent if eyes not bathed at once; it may also enter wounds on subject.
The viper family, the Croatids, such as rattlesnakes, etc., have the most powerful and best developed envenination equipment with powerful bite, long fangs and voluminous venom delivery. Yet their venom with all its nasty and obvious effects, which causes clotting, depression, vomiting, diarrhoea and swelling, etc., may not be as lethal to man as other species, such as Coral Snakes, delivering less venom, but with higher neurotoxic action causing paralysis, etc..
Immunity against zootoxin can be gained by constant physical exposure. Many non-venomous snakes, such as the King and Rat Snakes, along with animals such as the Badger, Mongoose and Secretary Bird, which commonly feed on venomous snakes, are immune to a greater or lesser degree to the toxin. Snake handlers who often get bitten build immunity.
There is some dispute over whether pigs are immune as they occasionally eat snakes. Some say the venom has little effect because of the thick protective layer of fat covering most pigs which absorbs venom, slowing its entry into vital parts of the animal. Which means this writer may also enjoy a large degree of protection against snake bite! I knew there was something good about being a cuddly tubby hubber!