Apes were first to use medicine: study

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London, Apr 1 (UNI) Humans learnt the medicinal properties of soil and plants from fellow primates.

When we look back at the history of medicine, we think of the clever people who have, over thousands of years, devised ingenious ways of allaying human suffering.

chimpanzees chew on many leaves for medicinal purposes but to find the real fathers of the healing arts, which dates back to millions of years.

Consuming a particular kind of soil, as Sabrina Krief and her colleagues at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris reported recently in the journal Naturwissenschaften, increases the potency of ingested plants, such as the leaves of trichilia rubescens, which have anti-malarial properties.

Her team collected earth eaten by chimpanzees, as well as leaves from young T. rubescens trees in the same area. All the soil was rich in the clay mineral kaolinite, the principal component of many anti-diarrhoea medicines.

Clays can bind mycotoxins (fungal toxins), endotoxins (internal toxins secreted by pathogens), man-made toxic chemicals, bacteria and viruses. They also act as an antacid and absorb excess fluids.

The scientists replicated the effects of mastication, gastric and intestinal digestion in the laboratory and were surprised. Before being mixed with the soil, the digested leaves had no significant effects.

However, when the leaves and soil were digested together, the mixture developed clear anti-malarial properties. "This overlapping use by humans and apes is interesting from both evolutionary and conservation perspectives," says Krief quoting in the Telegraph.

"Saving apes and their forests is also important for human health." UNI XC NC HT1408

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