One thing I do as a trained holistic Naturopathic doctor is to be an open- minded practitioner and listen to other suggestions from diverse corners and further conduct my literature studies to draw my conclusion.
Snail shell powder form was introduced to me by one Prophetess as an effective treatment for burns. I further decided to conduct my literature studies to assess the body of evidence in this ingredient as a naturopathic remedy for skincare.
Snail, has been used in medicine since antiquity and prepared according to several formulations. The 1945 edition of Dorvault( a pharmaceutical reference book in France at that time) devotes an entire paragraph to snails, indicating that the therapeutic usage of snails was still alive at that time. Recently the FDA has also shown an interest in snails. Ziconotide (SNXIII), a synthetic peptide coming from snail venom, has been under FDA review since 1999. Pre-clinical and clinical studies of this new drug are promising.
According to Wikipedia 2013, snails produces visco-elastic slime or mucus which acts both as an adhesive and lubricant and enables the creatures to adhere to, and glide over, all types of surfaces including rough or potentially hostile terrain. Mucus also helps to prevent the creatures from drying out, renders them fairly unattractive as food for predators, and is also thought to help prevent infection and facilitate healing.
A 2008 research by Quave et al also posits that, snails and slugs have been used in Italy for the treatment of medical conditions such as gastritis or stomach ulcer.
One animal study conducted by Andrade et al 2018 analyzed the healing effect of the powdered shell of the snail on wounds of diabetic rats, since in non-diabetic rats the powdered shell presented healing potential. The result demonstrated that the topical application in wounds of diabetic rats presented healing activity, accelerating wound closure, stimulating angiogenesis and being pro-inflammatory in the early and anti-inflammatory stages in the final times of the healing process.
It was concluded that, the topical administration of the powdered shell on wounds of diabetic patients becomes a therapeutic option of low cost, with ease in the administration and access as well.
Interesting, the father of western medicine; Hippocrates is of the opinion that snails crushed relieve inflamed skin some 2 decades ago.
The potential of snail slime was noted by Chilean snail farmers in a report published by Daily Mail 2012. The story asserts that skin lesions healed quickly, with no scars, when they handled snails for the French food market. This observation resulted in the production of ‘Elicina’ a Chilean snail slime-based product. In 2010 ‘Missha’ then launched Super ‘Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream’, claiming that its 70% snail extract ‘soothes regenerates and heals skin’. Snail slime based products are claimed to be the new miracle face-fixer in the U.S where they are used to treat acne, reduce pigmentation and scarring, and combat wrinkles.
Another publication published by the BBC by Aitken R, titled “ Snail slime ‘could mend bones”, reported that Snail products may even have a role in orthopaedics. The story posits that, Researchers at Herriot-Watt University found that the slime of Giant African land snails contains unusual crystals of calcite. Under adverse conditions the snail will retract into its shell and produce significant quantities of this slime which dries and quickly hardens to form the animal’s epiphragm – a protective covering formed across the opening of the shell when the snails go into periods of deep rest. The authors postulated that in the long term their observations could point the way to the development of bone cement based on a natural process involving inorganic crystals in an organic matrix; a biologically compatible material which might contribute to mechanisms of bone healing.
The main idea behind this snails as topical treatments are therefore associated with the chemical and/or physical properties of the slime or mucus that they produce in abundance, particularly when threatened or irritated.
Cream made from Snail Extract
Mechanism of action
The Wikipedia 2013, described how this works in snails. Per description, the mucus producing cells are located in the epithelium of the skin, both on the foot and upper surface of the body. Slugs produce at least two types of mucus; pedal mucus, which is relatively thin and contains about 96-97% water, and a second form which is produced over the entire body. This tends to be more thick and sticky. Both types are hygroscopic.
A research in 1992 by Olsen et al postulates that the slime produced by snail is in the form of highly hygroscopic grains which are stored within the cells in the form of granules coated with a protective water resistant membrane which keeps them dry. These packets only break open after they have been released from the cell, a process which is thought to be mediated by contact with extracellular ATP. At this point the granules very rapidly absorb up to 100 times their initial volume of water to form the familiar mucus or slime trail.
What is Slime?
A 2009 study by Ewoldt et al and a 2012 study by Shirtcliffe et al had this to say: “Slime is a complex material with non-Newtonian properties. In simple terms, the slime acts like a solid glue at rest, but liquefies when an adequate stress (or force) is applied to it – rather like non-drip paint or ketchup. When the applied stress is removed, the slime quickly re-solidifies. This may have important implications for its use as skin or wound treatment but slugs and snails use this property to create ‘pedal waves’ in a process known as adhesive locomotion. By exploiting this ‘yield-heal’ property, the creature can keep one part of its foot stuck to a surface whilst the remainder moves forward”.
Ingredients in Snail Slime
Ewoldt et al 2019 asserts that, the constituents in snail slime varies depending on the species and the formulator. However, a research by Smith et al 2009 found the following compositions;
- complex mix of proteoglycans;
- glycoprotein enzymes;
- hyaluronic acid;
- copper peptides;
- antimicrobial peptides; and metal ions.
A 2007 study also by Werneke et al also found substantial quantities of zinc, iron, copper and manganese. Experimentally it was shown that the addition of iron or copper to dissolved slug glue causes the proteins to precipitate rapidly but the addition of zinc had no effect, suggesting that some metal ions play an important role in gel formation. Based on this, the slime of these complex polymers, may play an important role in the wound healing.
In 1985, Kubota et al research conducted on the African Giant Snail demonstrates that the mucus contains peptides such as mucin which possess antibacterial activity against both Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. These antimicrobial peptides not only act as natural antibiotics, but also stimulate many elements of the immune system, including barrier repair and inflammatory cell recruitment. The antibacterial factor from the body surface of the Giant East African Snail, Achatina fulica, for example, exhibited highly positive antibacterial activity both for the Gram-positive bacteria, Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus and for the Gram-negative bacteria, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but this activity was lost when the material was heated at 75º C for 5 min. The antibacterial factor of the snail mucus was shown to be a glycoprotein with a molecular weight of about 160,000.
Additionally, the Slug slime is also said to contain a local anesthetic and for this reason there are anecdotal accounts of live slugs being used to treat toothache.
These local anaesthetic properties (if confirmed) coupled with the antimicrobial properties and hygroscopic nature of the slime might offer significant benefits in the treatment of minor but painful wounds such as superficial burns in humans.
In the United States a patent has been filed (US2009026349) which describes the possible use of slug slime as a carrier for therapeutic agents in the treatment of burns and skin conditions and also as a protective covering for these and other wounds. Within the patent the inventor described how he had used slug slime on a painful skin rash and subsequently upon self-inflicted burns deliberately produced with a soldering iron. The slime was said to form a protective layer which eliminated pain and stayed in place during showering.
Brieva et al 2008 study provided some credible basis for the possible use of slime in wound management. The authors found that slime from Cryptomphalus aspersa (also known as H. aspersa or the common garden snail) contains antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) and Glutathione-S-Transferase Activity (GST) activities. Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals or reactive oxygen species. SODs act as antioxidants and protect cellular components from being oxidized by reactive oxygen species. The authors also reported that the snail slime stimulated fibroblast proliferation, extracellular matrix assembly and the regulation of metalloproteinase activities and concluded that these effects together provided an array of molecular mechanisms underlying the secretion’s induced cellular regeneration, thereby supporting its possible use in repair of wounded tissues.
Fast-forward in 2012, another study by Cruz et al found that the slime increased migration and increased the expression of cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion molecules in mammalian fibroblast and keratinocyte cells.
However, Steve Thomas review in 2013 posits that some of these properties are analogous to claims made for some modern wound management materials.
Effects on Human
Gabriel et al 2011 study demonstrated that dermatological preparation with snail mucus was employed during the eighteenth century to treat dermatological disorders and symptoms associated with tuberculosis and nephritis. In the nineteenth century there was renewed interest in the pharmaceutical and medical use of snails with more and more preparations. This interest in snails continued into the next century with the acquisition of new analytical data on mucus components. Recently, anecdotal reports of generic skin regeneration properties of the mucus from Helix aspersa have been explored; this has resulted in the commercial production of a topical preparation claimed to have “wound healing” as well as anti-ageing properties. These preparations were tested on burn patients and while they noted that a range of pathogenic bacteria were isolated from the wounds before treatment, this was not followed up with culture of post-treatment specimens.
Another study by Tsoutsos et al 2009, evaluates the efficacy of snail extract in an open wound management protocol for deep partial thickness (PT) facial burns and compares it to moist exposure burn ointment(MEBO). A total of 27 adult patients with deep partial thickness facial burns (group A) were treated by application of a snail extract cream twice daily for a maximum period of 14 days or until full epithelialization. The study demonstrates that the snail extract is a natural, safe and effective alternative treatment in open wound management of partial thickness burns in adults.
Eating Snails and Longevity
Labonne G No 2 investigators have also examined the life expectancy of populations that eat snails. A comparative study has been performed in seven different countries, revealing that there were 20 times fewer deaths related to cardiovascular diseases in Crete compared with the USA. Among the proposed explanations, one can observe that people from Crete eat large quantities of snails. ‘Everyone picks them up in the fields, under stones. They are found during the summer on olive trees. Analyses indicate that these snails are different from others. They are rich in a fatty acid derived from the natural herbs that they eat. The most famous is the so called pourprier’
Snail Extract (Dry Powder)
The Snail Extract was discovered by a Spanish clinical oncologist, Dr. Iglesias, in the late sixties. Dr. Iglesias’ research focused on finding a new substance to be used in the treatment of cancer patients of radiation induced dermatitis and burns. Snails are one of the oldest species known and have survived extreme environmental conditions for more than 600 million years. This fact indicated that there was something special about the snail constitution that allowed their species to endure for so long.
Snail Consumption in nutraceuticals
There are over 40,000 species of snails all over the world. In China, a snail called “White Jade Snail” has been popularly bred and used for many years as a culinary delicacy and as a food supplement. White Jade Snail belongs to the Helicidae Family part of the Gastropoda Class.
Snail meat has a high protein content and is low in fat (only 2%). Snail meat has over 20 different types of body essential amino acids. It also contains calcium, phosphorus, alkaloid, as well as selenium, boron, zinc, and other micro-elements. Because of its nutritional value, nutritionists recommend snail meat for astronauts and athletes.
Chinese people in Southwest China have a tradition of preparing a medicinal dish cooked with snail meat to cure certain diseases and improve their immune system. Another application in a powder form, Snail extract, is an effective medicine for enhancing sexual performance and for nourishing “YANG” for both male and female. Doctors in China recommend the use of snail extract as a food supplement to help prevent cardiac and cerebral vascular diseases, and prolong life.
The Snail Extract has been used in the Cosmetics industry for over 10 years, but never before in a powder form. The Snail Extract Powder contains an extraordinary combination of natural ingredients that allows skin to heal and regenerate. It can be used to treat acne, acne scars, age spots, wrinkles, expression lines and many other skin conditions.
The physical and chemical analysis carried out on the extract powder proved that its contents appear in natural form, and includes the following elements:
- Proteins and Vitamins – Enriches and softens your skin
- Natural Collagen and Elastin – These are the main components of the human skin connective tissue.
- Natural Glycolic Acid – Allows skin to exfoliate, therefore eliminating dead cells that are on the surface of your skin, along with wrinkles and expression lines. Since the Glycolic Acid found on the Snail Extract is not synthetic, it does not irritate your skin.
- Natural Alantoin – Alantoin is what makes the regeneration of your skin possible. It helps in reducing the appearance of scars and stretch marks, and it helps in healing wounds faster; leaving almost no marks.
Cosmetic products are already formulated using the snail extract powder in Europe and South America with great success. IRIS NATURALS INTERNATIONAL is now looking for companies willing to bring this innovative ingredient to cosmetic formulations into the United States.
Some of the many applications for cosmetic use are listed but not limited to the following:
- Hand and face creams and gels
- Body lotions, creams and gels
- Eye and lip serums
- After-sun moisturizers and sun tan lotions
Transition from Therapeutic to Cosmetic
An European Cosmetic Company in collaboration with the renowned cancer institute, the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, developed an innovative line of products containing CAS® (Cryptomphalus aspersa secretion) to assist in the prevention and treatment of radiodermatitis.
Cryptomphalus aspersa is the snail species used in the CAS® product line. Clinical studies showed that acute and chronic radiodermatitis patients experienced significant improvements when treated with products containing CAS®.
FDA Interests in Snails
The FDA has also shown interest in snails. In the 1980s, American investigators from the University of Utah evaluated hundreds of neurotoxins derived from sea snails. These are utilized as they attack their prey or their predators and induce a neuro-muscular blockage. This is why ziconotide (SNXIII), a synthetic peptide derived from snail venom, has been under FDA review since 1999. Pre-clinical and clinical studies of this new drug indicate a powerful anesthetic effect as conducted by Webster et al 2001. The investigators further asserted that during controlled clinical trials, ziconotide reduced pain intensity by 53% (compared with 18% for the placebo), even in patients insensitive to morphine. In 2000, a new neurotoxin, so-called conotoxin TVIIA, was extracted from Conus tulipa, a fish-eating sea snail. A study by Massilia et al 2001, confirmed another peptide, the so-called contryphan-Vn, was extracted from the venom of a Mediterranean snail.
According to Wikipedia 2013, E.coli and other bacteria present in their faeces have a relatively long external and internal survival time. They can be a vector of rat lungworm a disease caused by a parasitic worm Angiostrongylus cantonensis. Normally carried by rats, the molluscs become infected by consuming the infected faeces of carrier rats. The parasite develops further in the slugs and snails and if the infected molluscs are consumed in turn by rats the life cycle is completed.
- cantonensis generally poses relatively little threat to humans as infections are very rare, although they can occur from consumption of undercooked or raw infected slugs and snails either by design or by consuming produce that has not been adequately washed and therefore contains a small slug or a snail. The fresh slime of snails and slugs can also have lungworms, which may be passed on to humans and other animals, although the risks are probably lower with dry slime as outside of hosts the lungworm dies quickly.
Lungworms are dangerous because once ingested they first head to the brain where they can cause meningitis type symptoms, with damage to brain tissue and swelling of the brain before the lungworm dies. Many people show no symptoms at all before the lungworm dies but others are greatly affected. In Sydney in 2011 one baby girl died due to lungworm infection and adults have had severe brain injuries after eating slugs. This small number of cases suggests that the risk of infection is possibly low, although the consequences can be disastrous.
- Snail farming in Italy has increased 325 percent in the last two decades, largely due to cosmetic demands, the Guardian reported in February 2017
- A study published by Kapil et al 2020 affirms that mucin is an animal growth factor that just needs a touch of pasteurization to be application-ready, per a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, authored by Kato et al 2019, it’s clean, sustainable, and supposedly a miracle worker.
- In Ancient Greece, it healed and reduced skin inflammation. In a clinical study of the effects of snail slime on facial burn patients, researchers found that daily application of a snail extract cream for two weeks greatly reduced patients’ pain. But beyond healing burn scars, snail slime became popular due to its skin-enhancing properties.
- The South Korean skin care industry latched onto snail slime and dedicated serious research and development funds to the fledgling treatment.
- South Korean scientists said their tests verified that snail secretion filtrate hydrates the skin, increases suppleness, improves hyperpigmentation, and contains antimicrobial properties that can help keep acne and some types of rosacea at bay.
- “Studies have shown they help stimulate formation of collagen and elastin, as well as restore hydration,” said Charlotte Cho, author of “The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin,” a certified esthetician, and the co-founder of the Korean beauty and lifestyle shop Soko Glam.
- International export of snail slime products was the next step, and the trade pathways were already open because of the aggressive reach of the $7 billion South Korean cosmetic industry.
- According to the South Korean government, their cosmetic industry is the eighth largest in the world. With that kind of clout, it’s no wonder that snail slime products were destined for U.S. drug stores, cosmetic counters, and online outlets.
- Today, Target, Ulta Beauty, CVS Pharmacy, and Amazonsell face and eye creams that contain snail slime.
- “The Mizon Black Snail All-In-One Cream contains a robust 90 percent black snail mucous filtrate, which contains all black snail mucus, plus 20 different plant extracts not featured in Mizon’s classic All-In-One cream,” reportedCharlotte’s Book, an online directory of physicians and practitioners dedicated to all things beautiful.
- “The Black Snail Cream’s soft texture makes it easily spreadable; a small amount will suffice,” the website adds. “It does a heavy-duty job of keeping the skin hydrated all day, but has an extremely lightweight texture. This is perfect for people who need to be using a heavier creambut don’t want to deal with the usual oily texture of a super-hydrating moisturizer. After just several days of use, we found our skin more hydrated and plumped.”
Besides snail-based empirical formulations, a certain measure of true scientific investigation has been performed, especially including the components of the respiratory system including the bronchial tree and trachea. Thus novel avenues are opening up via new information on cardiovascular diseases but also via sea snails for pain treatment, yet another approach. The anesthetic properties of sea Conus neuropeptides are promising, thus paving the way for discoveries of linkages to the nervous system.
Happy New Year!
The writer is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips, scientific herbs and healthy recipes in the world.
DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
The writer is an honorary Professor of Holistic Medicine & Naturopathic Physician-Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine. President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine and currently, LLB law student. Contact: 0241083423/0541234556
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