In her five-year study at Kanyawara research station, located on the edge of Kibale, [Sabrina] Krief found that chimps carefully select and consume plants like mululuza, which have little nutritive value. These plants, however, have medical properties that help the chimps to overcome malaria and diarrhoea, as well as to expel worms from their intestines, Krief said.
She also found that traditional healers in the area use the same plants. In some cases, the chimps ate the bark of certain trees, which helped them to overcome parasites that cause diarrhoea. “It was stunning to see that the traditional healers use the same plants to treat the diseases,” she said. “The studies on great apes, which are the closest relatives to humans, will help us to discover plants with medicinal properties.”
How much of this is instinct and how much learned behavior? Is knowledge of these plants passed from generation to generation? What about other animals who use vegetation to cope with physical ailments? I haven’t seen much research on this subject before, and I’m curious.
[allAfrica.com: Chimps, healers use same herbs]