Chimpanzees are very regular and preferential consumers of medicinal plants, so some researchers believe that this diet can also have an effect on humans, since we share 98% of their DNA.
In the jungle, there are numerous therapeutic plants capable of combating everything from worm infestations to bacterial infections. Chimpanzees are frequent consumers of these plants and that is exactly why some researchers believe they can also be medicinal for humans, and that this diet can also be applied to our race.
This is, however, the theory behind a research project in Côte d’Ivoire, which aims to track West African plants for possible treatments in human health. To date, compounds have been identified that are able to fight bacterial infections and some herbs that appear to be able to inhibit some cancer developments. All of these findings may lead to new antibiotics, antifungal or cancer treatments.
Constant Ahoua, a botanist and project manager, said “the discovery of new medicines is a long road and that these compounds have only been the first barrier,” he told Quartz. The researcher from the Afrique One-ASPIRE program has studied the primate diet for about a decade and has conducted research in which he examined about 132 extracts of plant species consumed by wild chimpanzees, of which 24 (18%) had an effect against bacteria and 6 (5%) against fungi.
All this study allowed to reveal and prove that the plants consumed by chimpanzees de facto have a strong antimicrobial activity and in the studies, are mentioned two “promising” plants such as T. coronatum and B. mannii, that can be used for future research to apply in human medicine.
But Kelly Chibale of the Drug Discovery and Development Center in South Africa said it was hard to say whether the findings would be adequate for the development of human drugs, at least for now. It will all depend on whether the active compounds discovered are novel and whether they are suitable for pharmaceutical processes.
The next step is to test on a laboratory animal.
Chimpanzees are not the only animals that self-medicate, for example, female elephants in Kenya, during pregnancy, look for certain leaves of the tree that help induce labor. Boars in India seek roots also used by humans to fight parasitic worms. Just like domestic animals like cats and dogs eat herbs to induce vomiting.