10 Strange Ingredients You Didn’t Know Are In Your Medicine

“The cure is worse than the disease,” it has been said. Certainly some things (leeches and blood-letting) that were once used to treat disease seem not only outlandish but, well, gross.

In their quest to find cures for illnesses from gastrointestinal distress to cancer, scientists have turned to all manner of substances, from animals and humans.

1. Parasitic Worms

Once inside a host, many parasitic worms secrete glycan, a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule that could be the basis for treating metabolic disorders associated with obesity. Based on this research, scientists even suggest that the  ”relationship between humans and worms is more symbiotic than parasitic,” meaning that small worm infections might actually have benefits — though they do not recommend seeking out parasitic worms and diseases as a form of treatment!

2. Coffee Grounds

The brown sludge left over from brewing coffee is not only good for compost; it has been found to be a rich source of antioxidants. It has possible uses for dietary supplements, especially if you make your coffee using a filter, plunger and espresso-type method.

3. Salad Ingredients

Traces of carrots, parsley and radishes, as well as pine resin, have been detected in six tablets in a small tin box found in an ancient Roman ship that went down around 140 to 130 B.C.E. off the coast of Tuscany. Vegetables have been the source for some modern-day medicaments. A substance in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables shows promise for treating leukemia.

4. Snake Venom

How can a medicine made from deadly snake venom be a cure?

By extracting a compound called eristostatin from the venom of the Asian sand viper, scientists have found a substance to help people fight malignant melanoma, by encouraging the immune system to attack the cancer cells. Another compound, hannalgelsin, is made from king cobra venom and, according to a scientist at Singapore’s National University, can be used as a pain-relieving agent that is “20 and 200 times more effective than morphine.” In addition, it can be taken orally, instead of being injected.

5. Mares’s Urine

The estrogen cream premarin is made from urine collected from mares and often in terrible conditions: The mares are stabled and restrained with urine-collection bags attached to them that restrict their movement and can lead to infection. Animal welfare activists have long expressed concerns about the abuse and mistreatment of mares to manufacturer premarin.

6. Urine From Nuns In Menopause

The fertility drugs menopur and pergonal (used to stimulate ovulation) are — it sounds improbable – derived from the urine of menopausal nuns.

As for how someone got the idea to study the bodily fluids of menopausal nuns? In the 1960s, a nephew of Pope Pius suggested the idea to a physician who invented the drugs on the basis that (back then, when there were more nuns) convents were the “perfect place” to find a number of women in menopause.

7. Rooster Combs

A substance derived from rooster combs could be the reason you can walk again: Hyaluronan acid, which is derived from rooster combs, has been used as a treatment for arthritis, via injections into the knees.

8. Gila Monster Saliva

The natural substance exendin-4 is derived from the saliva of the Gila monster lizard and is used to treat type 2 diabetes. It has also been found to reduce cravings for chocolate and other foods, leading scientists to consider it as a treatment for obesity, compulsive overeating and other eating disorders.

9.  Zombie Caterpillar Fungus

What’s really bad for caterpillars could be good for us: A fungus that turns caterpillars into caterpillars zombies has potential as an anti-inflammatory treatment.

10. Synthetic Stool

Scientists have created a synthetic stool with the appropriate name of RePOOPulate. It’s described as a “super-probiotic” that can be used to treat gastrointestinal infections caused by the toxin-producing bacteria Clostridium difficile. Currently, injections of human fecal matter are used but RePOOPulate is “safer, more stable and adaptable” and has a significantly lower yuck factor.

Perhaps it might be better to say, if it does not kill you, it might possibly cure you?


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Photo from Thinkstock


Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobets3 years ago

Thank you

Carole A.
Carole and A5 years ago

Hummmm Whats the date ? Could it be the 1st of April already ?? lol

Melissa L.
Melissa L5 years ago

Wow yuk! Thank for the info!

Melania Padilla
Melania P5 years ago


Sam M.
Sam E M5 years ago

Interesting, but I could have done without knowing one or two of those.

Vicky P.
Vicky P5 years ago


Sunkamanitu Wicasta
Rev. Nagi Mato5 years ago

Claire J,

I would be very interested in where you found the information of which you speak. " Human beings aren't really designed to live long enough to go into menopause but if we're going to do unnatural things like living past 45 then we have to be prepared to deal with the consequences."

While I don't advocate the use of mare's urine (I personally haven't done the necessary research to say one way or the other), I hardly find "living past 45" to be unnatural and would like to know if you have a plan for when you live past that "dreaded age". Personally, I am 53 and I don't feel 'unnatural' in the least.

Just my opinion.

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I already knew many strange ingredients that arise in medicine. There are highly effective medicines that are made from snake venom.

Claire Jordan
Claire Jordan5 years ago

The use of mares to produce hormone treatments is unneccessary and unjustifiable, but it's foolish to say that menopause is a natural process which shouldn't be treated like a disease. Human beings aren't really designed to live long enough to go into menopause but if we're going to do unnatural things like living past 45 then we have to be prepared to deal with the consequences. Menopause is part of the ageing process, like arthritis and enlarged prostates and dementia and many cancers, and treating it prolongs memory, mental clarity, bone density and libido.

Hanine El-Mir
Hanine El Mir5 years ago

"Urine From Nuns In Menopause" What the hell? Why would a nun even give us her urine? Are we sure we're in the 21st century because this sounds like middle ages to, or a witch preparing a potion.
The other ingredients seem fine for me. Not too shocking.