Do Wild Animals Heal Themselves?
Growing scientific evidence indicates that animals indeed have knowledge of natural medicines. In fact, they have access to the world’s largest pharmacy: nature itself.
The emerging science of Zoopharmacognosy studies how animals use leaves, roots, seeds and minerals to treat a variety of ailments. Biologists witnessing animals eating foods not part of their usual diet realize the animals are self-medicating with natural remedies.
Researchers who observed a pregnant African elephant for over a year made an interesting discovery. The elephant kept regular dietary habits throughout her long pregnancy, but the routine changed abruptly towards the end of her term. Heavily pregnant, the elephant set off in search of a shrub that grew 17 miles from her usual food source. The elephant chewed and ate the leaves and bark of the bush, then gave birth a few days later. The elephant, it seemed, had sought out this plant specifically to induce her labor. The same plant also happens to be brewed by Kenyan women to make a labor-inducing tea.
Not only do many animals know which plant they require, they also know exactly which part of the plant they should use and how they should ingest it. The Aspilia shrub produces bristly leaves which the chimpanzees in Tanzania carefully fold up, then roll around their mouths before swallowing whole. The prickly leaves ‘scour’ parasitical worms from the chimps’ intestinal lining.
The same chimps also peel the stems and eat the pith of the Vernonia plant (or bitter leaf). In bio-chemical research, Vernonia was found to have anti-parasitic and anti-microbial properties. Both Vernonia and Aspilia have long been used in Tanzanian folk medicine for stomach upsets and fevers.
It is only the sick chimpanzees that eat the plants. The chimps often grimace as they chew the Vernonia pith, indicating that they are not doing this for fun; healthy animals would find the bitter taste unpalatable.
Wild animals won’t seek out a remedy unless they need it. Scientists studying baboons at the Awash Falls in Ethiopia noted that although the tree Balanites aegyptiaca (Desert date) grew all around the falls, only the baboons living below the falls ate the tree’s fruit. These baboons were exposed to a parasitic worm found in water-snails. Balanites fruit is known to repel the snails. Baboons living above the falls were not in contact with the water-snails and therefore had no need of the medicinal fruit.
Many animals eat minerals like clay or charcoal for their curative properties. Colobus monkeys on the island of Zanzibar have been observed stealing and eating charcoal from human bonfires. The charcoal counteracts toxic phenols produced by the mango and almond leaves which make up their diet.
Some species of South American parrot and macaw are known to eat soil with a high kaolin content. The parrots’ diet contains toxins because of the fruit seeds they eat. The kaolin clay absorbs the toxins and carries them out of the birds’ digestive systems, leaving the parrots unharmed by the poisons. Kaolin has been used for centuries in many cultures as a remedy for human gastrointestinal upset.
Particularly among primates, medicinal skills appear to be taught and learned. Adult females are often seen batting their infant’s hand from a particular leaf or stem as if to say “No, not that one.” Excerpts from www.natural-wonder-pets.com/do-wild-animals-heal-themselves.html
“All the creatures of the woods and hills are a part of His [God’s] great household. He opens His hand and satisfies ‘the desire of every living thing’ (Psalm 145:16).” Child Guidance, 59.