Department of Physiology
Miyazaki Medical College
The history of use of the earthworm as a therapeutic drug source for various diseases extends back for several thousand years in China and other parts of the Far East. However, practical pharmacological studies have not been performed except on lumbrofebrin as an antifebrile (1). In 1983, we reported that very strong and novel fibrinolytic enzymes could be extracted from the earthworm, Lumbricus rubellus (2). These enzymes were fractionated and purified as six novel fibrinolytic enzymes, and named collectively as lumbrokinase. We have also found that earthworm powder contains two kinds of inhibitory substances for the platelet aggregation induced by collagen and ADP. One of these inhibitors of platelet aggregation was identified with adenosine. However, the other was a novel substance of MW 260. The structure of this substance was decided on the basis of NMR, mass spectra and infrared spectra (3). This novel substance also displays a relaxation effect for the canine saphenous vein induced by prostaglandin F in vitro and
an inhibitory effect on the active partial thromboplastin time (APTT). In view of the above-mentioned effects, the earthworm powder appeared to be a potentially very useful agent for thrombosis. We therefore undertook experiments on the oral administration effects against intravascular fibrin clots using earthworm powder in dogs and humans.
An account of the earthworm being employed as a drug was given in the oldest known Chinese book, Shen Nong Ben Cao which is thought to have been published between the first and third century. Chang Xui Chenghe Cheng Lei Ben Cao published in 1229, indicates that the earthworm had already been used for cerebral apoplexy before the book was actually published. This is a very important point, not least because, at the present time, more than 60% of cerebral apoplexy
involves cerebral thrombosis. Clearly, this is very closely connected to the above report. However, despite these ancient descriptions in oriental medial books, detailed pharmacological studies have not yet been undertaken except on lumbrofebrin as an antifebrile (1).
We recently obtained novel fibrinolytic enzymes from the earthworm, Lumbricus rubellus and named them collectively as lumbrokinase (2). We therefore attempted to utilize this earthworm as an oral thrombolytic agent. It is a problem as to whether functional proteins can be absorbed into the circulation from the intestine or not. However, many interesting investigations on the intestinal absorption of enzyme proteins have recently demonstrated that small amounts of enzyme proteins administered orally can be absorbed from the intestinal tract into the circulation (8, 9, 10). In fact, as shown in the present animal experiments, it is possible for orally administered earthworm powder to digest intravascular fibrin clots. Administration of earthworm powder orally to volunteers was therefore carried out. As clearly demonstrated by the present results, oral administration of earthworm powder was able to increase the fibrinolytic activity of the blood. From the data obtained, we believe that the increase in fibrinolytic activity may be due to t-PA-like activator, either that transported across the intestinal membrane or that newly synthesized by endothelial cells. The increase in FDP observed after 24 hours of administration also shows that fibrinolysis occurred within the body. It was unclear whether the increase of FDP demonstrated either fibrinolysis or fibrinogenolysis in the present experiments. However, when the levels of D-D-dimer were measured in some cases following administration of earthworm powder, an increase in D-D-dimer was observed like that for FDP (data not shown). The observed increase of FDP would thus appear to indicate that intravascular fibrin was digested by the administration of earthworm powder. In particular, the FDP levels were very sharply increased on the next day after commencing the administration of earthworm powder, and decreased a few days later. It is interesting to note that higher increases of FDP were observed in older volunteers in than younger volunteers. This suggests that fibrin clots are usually present to a greater or lesser extent in the vascular bed of healthy persons who are more than 30 years old, and can usually be digested by the administration of earthworm powder. In the one case who had been receiving earthworm powder for 3 years before the present experiments, the FDP did not increase and the t-PA antigen level was already high before the experiments. It is concluded that no fibrin deposits were present in this case prior to the experiments due to his long administration of earthworm powder.
One other interesting finding obtained in the present study was that t-PA antigen increased after the administration of earthworm powder. This implies that such administration can release endogenous plasminogen activator. The release of endogenous plasminogen activator seems to be very important in the treatment of patients with thrombosis. When we carried out treatment of patients with cerebral thrombosis by urokinase injection, cases in which the t-PA antigen value was increased after the injection of urokinase showed positive results, whereas cases in which no
increase in t-PA antigen value had been observed showed no effect (11). We are now trying to extract a fraction, which is able to release endogenous plasminogen activator, from earthworm powder.
Streptokinase, urokinase and t-PA are currently in use as thrombolytic agents. Streptokinase is very effective for thrombosis, but it displays an antigenicity in humans, and cannot therefore be
utilized repeatedly. Another known fibrinolytic agent is urokinase extracted from human urine. However, since only very small amounts of urokinase can be extracted in this way, urokinase is very expensive. In Japan, the use of urokinase has therefore been limited to 50,000 international units per person per day by the government. However, if more than 200,000 units of urokinase are needed, no appreciable effect can be expected. Recently, recombinant t-PA has been employed for thrombosis. However, even recombinant t-PA is rather expensive to produce. Also, streptokinase, urokinase and recombinant t-PA can be administered only by intravenous injection, so that fibrinolysic therapy with them needs to be undertaken in the hospital only.
In contrast, earthworm powder can be given orally, which is very convenient for patient use. For this reason, earthworm powder has a potential application as a thrombolytic agent as demonstrated in this paper, and also exerts an inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation, an anticoagulation effect and a relaxation effect for the vascular system, which are all effective for thrombotic therapy. We conclude therefore that earthworm powder represents a very promising agent for the treatment of thrombosis.
A combination of herbs and earthworms, or lumbricus, used for thousands of years in Southeast Asia to tonify the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions of the
central nervous system, thereby supporting digestive function in the stomach and the gastrointestinal tract.
Its tonic properties also make it beneficial support for the liver and other organ systems. In China, Korea, Vietnam and most of Southeast Asia, lumbricus has been used for their therapeutic benefits for thousands of years and referred to as Earth Dragons. In Korea, these earthworms are believed to promote general health and prevent a wide variety of diseases.
Furthermore, the earthworm is a primary ingredient in the traditional Vietnamese remedy known as, Miracle Medicine that can Save Lives in 60 Minutes. Several Vietnamese-based studies have demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of the earthworm for supporting immunity and cardiovascular health. Because it originates from the soil, the earthworm has a dense nutritional content as well as anti-oxidant properties.
Lumbricus Tonic is a multi-agent supplement of which the principal ingredient is lumbricus, earthworm powder in combination with Atractylodes alba, Poria cocos, and Acorus gramineus. This formula is used for supporting digestion and assimilation, liver function, relieving liver congestion, and enhancing hepatic antioxidant and detoxification function.
Ingredients-Proprietary Blend 1500 mg:
Lumbricus (earthworm powder) – Supportive for muscle relaxation and tonification of the sympathetic nervous system, thereby being potentially beneficial for digestion.
Atractylodes alba – Supportive for the functions of the stomach and spleen, (organs responsible for food digestion in Eastern Philosophy) thereby being potentially beneficial for low appetite, poor
digestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and indigestion. Atractylodes has been shown to be of benefit for abdominal distention, pain and gurgling sensations in the abdomen as well as adversely affecting viruses.
Poria cocos – The most widely used herb in Chinese herbalism. Supportive for the spleen, lung, kidney, triple warmer, bladder, heart and gallbladder, Poria cocos is a Yin tonic benefiting fluid metabolism by regulating body fluids. It benefits the circulation of Ch’i in the triple warmer and is
important for the health of the internal organs. It is calming to the nervous system and is considered a heart tonic, lung tonic and plays a role in blood sugar regulation. Acorus Gramineus – Used traditionally as a digestive tonic supporting the circulation of digestive juices, for ringing in the ears, excess phlegm, abdominal bloating, achiness and poor memory.
Other ingredients: Magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide.
Lumbricus Tonic has no known, toxicities, contraindications or interactions.