Primates: Provide herbs or other plants for self-medication
Overall effectiveness category No evidence found (no assessment)
Number of studies: 0
Background information and definitions
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.