By watching animals in the wild, scientists have learned that animals do indeed self-medicate. Animals use herbal remedies and plant therapy, and it is believed that humans have learned some of these remedies by watching animal behavior in the wild.
When it comes to observing the animal in the wild, there are two criteria that must be met before documenting a study. #1: Is this plant a regular part of the animals diet? #2: Is this plant being used as a medication to combat/control a disease and not as a food?
African great apes have been known as the most common species to use herbal therapy through plants. Chimps, bonobos, and gorillas have been observed, as well. Chimps have been seen swallowing, but not chewing, whole leaves which have no nutritional value. They have also been seen eating noxious plants that they would not normally consume in attempt to purge themselves of an intestinal parasite. This observation has been seen in multiple areas across Africa.
The study of animals using natural remedies is called Zoopharmacognosy.
Cambridge University Press
There is widespread antibiotic/anthelmintic resistance in humans and livestock, and with this issue affecting human health, observing animals in the wild self-meditating can be of help. Self-medication with nature and plants being added to the human diet, along with herbal medicine, can be an alternative insight to the human world.
Reports of elephants, civets, jackals, rhinoceros and bears across Africa have been observed using specific plants as medicine. Tabernanth Biota, a plant in the wild, contains alkaloids which effect the CNS and cardiovascular system. animals have been observed using this plant as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. This plant particular plant is used by secret religious societies in Gabon, and it is believed that the discoverers of this natural substance observed gorillas, bush pigs and porcupines, and learned of the effects by watching the animals' behavior change after ingesting this root. Other animals such as Indian Tigers have been observed eating Carey Arborea, which is not a normal part of their diet. This plant also contains alkaloids, to help rid them of tape worms. Elephants were observed eating Entada Sceffer, for stamina and a possible pain relief, before long walks. Just like domesticated dogs have been observed eating grass on a walk, or in the yard to relieve stomach upset and to induce vomiting and elimination, wild animals all over the world eat plants to relieve their aliments, as well.
Physiological adaptions are not always enough to rid an animal, or even a human being, from disease or sickness. Animals in the wild have been observed partaking in different behavior changes, such as avoiding or limiting contact with parasites and pathogens. They change sleeping spaces or feeding sites. Some animals, such as baboons and monkeys, have been seen changing drinking sites.
Animals in their natural environment self-medicate and somehow naturally know what works and what does not work. Animals are believed to be in touch with their bodies and nature. It is believed that humans watching animals in the wild led to experimentation with the same natural medications. Western science and medicine have drifted away from ancient remedies and treatments, but now the times call for a change. Maybe the next direction of Western medicine will steer more in the naturopathic direction!
Thank you for reading :) Loretta DeStefano