No creepy tale this. What do caterpillars, bedbugs, houseflies, grasshoppers, red velvet mites, fireflies, termites and red ants have in common? All these pests have unique healing abilities. For city-dwellers, they may well be a bunch of terrifying creatures, but for Jharkhand tribals, their medicinal value is immense.
The Ho community, which lives in Saranda forests in West Singhbhum are said to be custodians of this traditional knowledge of healing. Septuagenarian Sarpa Mongra, who has vast knowledge of herbs and insects, can identify almost all species.
“I don’t have a single grey hair yet. The credit goes to housefly paste, which has the ability to retain hair colour. Nature’s gift keeps us going,” he said. “Urban people suffer from rheumatism. Red ants, which are found in plenty in deep forests, can cure the disease. We eat red ants with rice but many consume it raw too. Oil added to red ant works wonders for various skin ailments.” He said caterpillars could be used to cure fever, general weakness, digestive disorder, partial baldness and nervous breakdown.
Mongra, however, warns against improper use of these insects. For example, he says, bedbugs are wonderful remedy for piles, urinary disorders and can promote hair growth. However, if one does not know how to extract sap of the insect, it could cause nausea. Mongra is worried that he could well be the last person having such a knowledge as there won’t be much flora or fauna left in coming years.