Action: Primates: Provide herbs or other plants for self-medication
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- No evidence was captured for the effects of providing herbs or other plants to primates for self-medication.
'No evidence' for an action means we have not yet found any studies that directly and quantitatively tested this action during our systematic journal and report searches. Therefore we have been unable to assess whether or not the action is effective or has any harmful impacts. Please get in touch if you know of such a study for this action.
This behaviour; known as zoopharmacognosy, typically involves ingestion or topical application of plants, soils or insects in order to treat and prevent diseases. One of the first documented cases of self-medication was observed in wild chimpanzees (Wrangham 1983), where they were observed folding and swallowing Aspilia spp leaves without chewing them. These leaves have a rough and bristly surface which it is suggested helped the chimpanzees to expell parasitic worms from their digestive systems. Providing potentially medicinal plants as browse or growing in herb gardens may allow primates to self-medicate in captivity.
Wrangham RW. & Nishida T (1983) Aspilia spp. leaves: A puzzle in the feeding behaviour of wild chimpanzees. Primates, 24, 276–282.