amulets were once thought to ward off ill health, infertility or bad luck.
Shells have also been ground up for use in potions and for various medicinal
uses throughout history. Today the shell, its living flesh and by products
are being studied and used in many areas of medicine. Some examples:
- The deadly
venoms of some Cone Shells (Conidae) are today being
used to help victims of strokes and heart disease, and to produce
a revolutionary new drug for chronic pain control (Ziconotide
- still awaiting FDA approval)
- An extract
from the hard clam or "Quahog" (Mercenaria mercenaria
L.) is a strong growth inhibitor of cancers in mice. It is called
mercenine, after the clam's scientific name
- Paolin, a
drug made from abalone juice, is an effective inhibitor of penicillin-
resistant strains of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus,
Streptococcus pyogenes, Salmonella typhus and parathyphoid
A & B bacteria.
and processed oyster shells are used as a calcium supplements
both for humans and animals.
juice has been found to have anti-viral properties, and
may be made into a drug eventually.
Names: The Common Mussel,Common bay mussel,blue mussel
- The threads
that some mussels (Mytilidae) use to attach themselves
to rocks, piers, and other hard surfaces are being tested as possible
glue in surgery. (Note:
These are called "byssal" threads, from the Latin word byssus,
which means "fine linen", which is silky, like the fine threads
of many molluscs. Quite often, a Latin or Greek word borrowed
by science in this fashion.)
of the Carrier Shells (Xenophoridae)
is being studied for use as a possible cement for bone fractures.
(Note: The Carrier shells are
the camouflage experts of the mollusc world: they attach all kinds
of objects - shells, rocks, pieces of coral, sponges, bottle caps.
to their shells, so they look like a little pile of trash on the
bottom of the sea - a great way to avoid being eaten!
Shell shown is the Xenophora (Xenophora) mekranensis konoi Habe.
Picture courtesy of: Sharpe
- Powdered mother
of pearl is sold in the markets of the Peruvian Andes to promote
healing of wounds (unproven). (Note:
Mother of pearl is the beautifully iridescent interior of some bivalves,
which the mollusc also uses to surround small, irritating objects which
get inside its mantle, or outer body - forming a pearl!)
medicine in Vietnam has a wior shells: powdered oyster shell is
taken to treat acid indigestion, fatigue and to stop hemorrhage. It
is also sprinkled over open wounds and boils. Cuttlefish bones are used
as a remedy for rickets, a healing agent in the treatment of gastro-intestinal
troubles, a local anti-hemorrhagic (i.e., it stops internal bleeding),
and as an antiseptic is cases of inflammation of the middle ear. The
flat shell of the Abalone, with its iridescent inside, is powdered and
taken orally to improve vision, to remove keratoses (cataracts), and
to improve such conditions as hemeralopia (where you can see at night
well, but hardly at all in the daytime! Powdered pearls from oysters
are used as a topical eye medicine (i.e., you put it right on your eyes!!),
and it has been scientifically proven to have some anti-inflammatory
effects on a painful condition called conjunctivitis, where the surface
of the eye becomes red and sore