This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Formica Pharm. Paris. The Ant or Pismire: a small, oblong, reddish or blackish infect, furnished with a sting: the male has four wings, naked or uncovered; the female none.
This infect contains an acid juice; which it sheds on being irritated; with which, by agitation or boiling, it impregnates both water and rectified spirit; less volatile than pure spirit, so as to be concentrable from the spirituous infusion by drawing off a part of the menstruum: not quite so volatile as water, a considerable part of the water arising first with only a flight acidulous impregnation, and the strong acid coming over with the remainder; differing in its properties from all the other known acids; and approaching nearest to those produced from vegetables by fermentation. The ant contains likewise a gross oil, separable by boiling in water, rising to the surface of the aqueous fluid, and similar in its general qualities to the expressed oils of vegetables; as also a subtile oil, which comes over in distillation both with rectified spirit and with water, analogous to the vegetable essential oils, but wanting their pungent taste(a).
The medical qualities of this infect, and its remarkable productions, are not certainly known. It has been generally supposed, that the ants in substance, and infusions and distilled waters of them, have an aphrodisiac virtue; a virtue for which the above analysis does not appear to afford much foundation, though they are (till retained in the aqua magnanimitatis and other like compositions in foreign pharmacopoeias. The infects in their chrysalis state, commonly called ants eggs, (which discover no marks of acidity) are said to be strongly diuretic and carminative: a decoction of a spponful of them in butter-milk has been directed by some to be taken every morning in dropsies. The acid is recommended by Hoffman as one of the best menstrua of iron for medicinal uses.