Wild orangutans use medicinal plants to sooth joint and muscle inflammation. The apes chew leaves of the Dracaena cantleyi plant to create a white lather, which they then rub onto their bodies. Local indigenous people also use the plant for the same purpose.

Orangutans Use Plant Extracts to Treat Pain

Medicine is not exclusively a human invention. Many other animals, from insects to birds to nonhuman primates, have been known to self-medicate with plants and minerals for infections and other conditions. Behavioral ecologist Helen Morrogh-Bernard of the Borneo Nature Foundation has spent decades studying the island’s orangutans and says she has now found evidence they use plants in a previously unseen medicinal way.

During more than 20,000 hours of formal observation, Morrogh-Bernard and her colleagues watched 10 orangutans occasionally chew a particular plant (which is not part of their diet) into a foamy lather and then rub it into their fur. The apes spent up to 45 minutes at a time massaging the concoction onto their upper arms or… Continue Reading (2 minute read)

6 thoughts on “Wild orangutans use medicinal plants to sooth joint and muscle inflammation. The apes chew leaves of the Dracaena cantleyi plant to create a white lather, which they then rub onto their bodies. Local indigenous people also use the plant for the same purpose.”

  1. 1banana2bananas

    On a school trip many years ago, I saw indigenous people use that plant but never knew what its name was. Thanks!

    Better known but still fun fact: orangutan literally means *forest people*. From Bahasa: orang – people and hutan – forest.

  2. butterbean1968

    This is similar behaviour to our cattle who seek out willow trees to strip and chew the bark,which I believe to be a natural aspirin.

  3. WorldTheAround

    I wonder if the indigenous people learned to this from the apes

  4. kitub100

    Since you taught me something today, here, have my free award.

  5. TheGoddessAnoia7

    There’s also evidence of chimpanzees and gorillas practicing simple medicine, such as eating certain plants to help get rid of parasites

  6. mechapoitier

    I remember reading about how people who work near orangutans have to make sure the apes don’t watch what they do. They’ve been known to steal tractors and boats from mimicry.

    People are saying the learning may have gone the other way with this, but they learn damn fast.

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