Survival Healing: Using Spider Webs on Wounds
An Introduction to Cobwebs
Anyone who has accidentally gone through a cobweb knows they are not only strong but also extremely sticky. Seems like you're still picking bits of silk from behind your left ear the next day.
Spider webs or cobwebs (as they were called when I was young) are one of the most amazing feats of architecture in the world. No other animal—and that includes man—can match what the tiny, oft reviled spider is capable of.
Spiders and their webs are interesting and varied. For example, the Argiope spiders form orb webs made of ultraviolet silk. Tarantulas have silk glands in their feet.
Even species that do not build webs to catch prey use silk in several ways: as wrappers for sperm and for fertilized eggs; as a "safety rope"; for nest-building; and as "parachutes" by the young of some species.
Rumpelstiltskin may have been able to spin straw into gold; but, spiders can spin their body proteins into silk by way of spinnerets.
Spinnerets and Silk Production
Spinnerets are the only appendages on a spider's abdomen. Spiders can have anywhere up to eight spinnerets. Inside each spinneret are many spigots which connect to a single silk gland. Amazingly, there are at least eight types of silk gland and each one produces different silk.
The silk is initially a liquid excreted from the spider's spinnerets. The silk becomes hardened not by exposure to air as it exits the spider's body; but, the hardening is a result of being drawn out of the silk gland. This drawing out changes the internal structure of the protein.
The Physical Qualities of Spider Silk
Spider silk is very strong; it's sturdier than a thread of steel equally thick. However, the webs are also extremely elastic in nature and can stretch to incredible lengths before breaking or losing shape. Webs are spun by female and immature spiders.
Cobwebs and Healing Practices
In addition to being the strongest material on earth by weight, the cobweb has remarkable healing properties. The web itself is incredibly strong; but, extremely easy to remove when the time comes. According to Penn State News, cobwebs were used to dress wounds since recorded history.
Webs were used several hundred years ago as gauze pads to stop an injured person's bleeding. Their healing properties made them popular with the Ancient Greeks and Romans due to the many savage wars they waged against their enemies. Their understanding of infections and bacteria was largely nonexistent but trial-and-error showed the miracle of spider web bandages in preventing common infections and reducing casualty rates on the battlefield.
Using spider silk to heal has long been a staple in the folklore medicine chest. Even Shakespeare was apparently aware of the medicinal qualities of spider silk, as illustrated in his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream when the character named Bottom said this:
“I shall desire you of more acquaintance, good master cobweb,
If I cut my finger, I shall make bold of you."
How are Spider Webs Effective in Healing?
Spider webs have natural antiseptic and antifungal properties that help keep wounds clean and free of infection. In traditional European medicine, cobwebs are used on wounds and cuts to help healing and reduce bleeding. The reason they heal so well and so quickly is because spider webs are rich in vitamin K—the clotting vitamin. The web itself is a biologically neutral material whose silk will not cause an infection as long as clean webs are used.
Warning: When to Use Spider Silk
Spider silk should only be used on wounds in dire scenarios or after talking to your doctor. These application instructions are meant for those in a survival scenario without access to traditional, medically endorsed medication. While evidence supports that spider silk and recombinant spider silk has antibiotic qualities, spider silk is not a medically endorsed treatment for healing wounds.
How to Make a Bandage out of a Cobweb
A dusty cobweb is easy to see but makes for a dirty bandage. Use clean webs instead.
Remove the spider. Be cautious when choosing webs to harvest. If you live in an area that has poisonous spiders, you want to be extremely careful when choosing your webs. The last thing you need is to be bitten by a black widow or brown recluse during a survival situation. The spider's bite could kill you before the loss of blood does. If you can’t see the spider that made the web, look on for a bit, and come back to it only if you can’t find other safer sources. If there are no poisonous spiders where you are - you're golden as far as web hunting goes.
- Pluck out any corpses from the webbing. Try to find a freshly-spun web or one that has no corpses in it. However, if you can't, you don’t want to risk infection from any source, and removing any bodies will take just a few seconds.
- Ball up the web, then stuff it around the wound. You don't want a bandaid effect. Stuff that webbing into the wound and pack it around the edges. You can't get the benefit of its healing properties if it doesn't touch the wound.
- Wrap the wound and webbing in a sterile cloth or another bandage, if you have one. This would not only keep the webbing in place; but, provide a second barrier against infection. If one is not available, at least keep the wound dry.
- When the wound is sufficiently healed, remove the web by applying a little hot water. Even though the webbing has hardened, a little hot water will soften it up and make it easy to remove.
Optional Natural Ingredients to use With Spider Web Bandages
After a battle, the ancient Greek medics would apply vinegar to irrigate wounds, pour honey onto the wound and then use the spider web to keep the honey in the wound. Only after all that was done would they wrap the injury in a sterile cloth bandage and leave it to heal.
I shall desire you of more acquaintance, good master cobweb,
If I cut my finger, I shall make bold of you.— Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare
Modern Medicine and Industry Is Embracing Spider Silk
Science and medicine are discovering how spider webs can heal wounds, act as suturing material and even help regenerate ligaments.
One of the most common injuries these days, especially in the athletic world, is a knee injury called a torn ACL (or ruptured anterior cruciate ligament). According to molecular biologist Randolph Lewis of the University of Wyoming in Laramie, the researchers at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., have found that spider webs could be used as scaffolds for regenerating damaged ligaments. "We're also looking at spider silk in artificial tendons," he said. "Right now we haven't even optimized the silks we've produced yet, and we're in the ballpark of the material properties you'd want for artificial tendons and ligaments," Lewis told LiveScience.
Spider silk could rapidly advance the field of transplants as it triggers little, if any, immune responses which cause rejection of medical implants. The silks are fully bio-compatible and bio-degradable making them ideal for suture threads and other implantable biomaterials which need initially to be strong, before breaking down in the body.
Research into the many medicinal uses of spider silk is ongoing. Bandages are now being created using spider web material woven into the pad so as to speed healing and prevent scarring. The beads found on spider webs contribute to knowledge for a suturing material that could be created with medication built right into the structure.
The web of the golden-silk orb-weaver is being researched for its ability to help mammalian regeneration of the neurons of the retina. So far, this technique has proved very effective and left no scarring.
Bundles of spider silk have also been used to graft severed nerves in large mammals. Nothing else proven to be so effective; and, hope is high that shortly scientists will be able to regenerate severed nerves in humans.
Uses of spider webs are still being researched, but offer promising potential for medicine and industry in years to come.
Would You Use Cobwebs to Stop Bleeding in an Emergency?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.