Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spiderman, Spiderman. Does Whatever a Spider Can

In honor of Halloween coming up, I figured that this week I will spotlight "creepy crawly" critters and their ability to help us heal.  Enjoy!

Arachnophobia is a very common fear.  Even I get a few goosebumps after seeing this picture:
But would your feelings change if you learned that spiders could help you become bulletproof?  Now, I'm not talking about getting bit by a radioactive spider and suddenly developing "spidey senses" like Spiderman.

There is real medical research that involves spiders and helping people heal.  The best part is, you don't have to get bit by a spider.  In fact, you don't need to interact with the spider at all, instead, it's the spider's web that is the real healer.

The web from spiders have been used in the past as natural adhesive bandages. Again, I got this information from Diana Gabaldon's character, Claire, in Outlander.  (It's amazing what you learn when you read!)  Claire was cleaning out the medical supplies and among a lot of useless things (horse dung, mouse ears, and mummy dust) she came upon some spider webs.

I had considered a large packet of cobwebs for some time, hesitating between the piles.  Both Beaton's Guide and my own dim memories of folk medicine held that spider's web was efficacious in dressing wounds.  While my own inclination was to consider such usage unhygienic in the extreme, my experience with linen bandages by the roadside had shown me the desirability of having something with adhesive as well as absorbent properties for dressings.  At last, I set the cobwebs back in the cupboard, resolving to see whether there might be a way of sterilizing them.  Not boiling, I thought.  Maybe steam would cleanse them without destroying the stickiness? 
(Diana Gabaldon, Outlander 1991.)

But with the advances in research and modern medicine, they've found that spider webs can do more than just protect an open wound.  They can actually be used to grow new skin cells on, both dermal and epidermal layers.  And since spider's silk is known for it's strength, one study tested the skin/silk hybrid and determined that skin merged with the spider's silk can stop bullets fired at a reduced speed.
He might not stop bullets, but he probably stops traffic.
Side note: you don't want to just any spider's webbing.  We've got a couple of dangerous spiders here in the US including the black widow and brown recluse.  This is a video of a brown widow my husband found in the backyard.  (We thought it was a black widow.)  

(That is my dog panting, not my husband)


  1. I heard daddy long legs are the most posionous, but their fangs are way to small to do any damage to hummans, is that true?

  2. That is a very commonly quoted myth. You can read about it here:


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