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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2 (2005), Issue 1, Pages 25-28

Helix and Drugs: Snails for Western Health Care From Antiquity to the Present

58 rue du Maréchal Joffre, 77270, Villeparisis, France

Received 12 October 2004; Accepted 24 December 2004

Copyright © 2005 Bruno Bonnemain. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The land helix, or snail, has been used in medicine since antiquity and prepared according to several formulations. This historical report traces the understanding of their properties from the time of Hippocrates, who proposed the use of snail mucus against protoccle and Pliny who thought that the snail increased the speed of delivery and was “a sovereign remedy to treat pain related to burns, abscesses and other wounds”, Galien recommended snails against hydrops foetails. In the 18th century, various snail “preparations” were also recommended for external use with dermatological disorders and internally for symptoms associated with tuberculosis and nephritis. Surprisingly, the 19th century saw a renewed interest in the pharmaceutical and medical use of snails with numerous indications for snail preparations. This interest in snails did not stop at the end of the 19th century. The 1945 edition of Dorvault devotes an entire paragraph to snails, indicating that the therapeutic usage of snails was still alive at that time. Recently the FDA has also shown an interest in snails. Ziconotide (SNXIII), a synthetic peptide coming from snail venom, has been under FDA review since 1999. Pre-clinical and clinical studies of this new drug are promising.