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Humans have been using medicinal plants since prehistoric times. They are still used around the world in traditional medicine. For the first time, scientists have discovered that chimpanzees also seek out the fruits of the forest to heal themselves when sick. Researchers from Oxford University in the UK conducted a study of chimpanzee behaviour at the Budongo Central Forest Reserve in Uganda. The researchers tracked a male chimp with an injured hand looking for the leaves of a fern. The fern had properties that may have reduced the swelling in the ape's hand. Another chimpanzee with a parasitic infection sought out the bark of a cat-thorn tree. This may have helped to alleviate the animal's condition.

The research team said there was a strong correlation between the chimpanzees' ailments and injuries and the healing properties in the flora they consumed. The researchers tested plant extracts that were not a normal part of a chimpanzee's diet. They found that 88 per cent of the extracts contained anti-bacterial properties, while 33 per cent of them had anti-inflammatory qualities. Researcher and anthropologist Dr Elodie Freymann said: "Pharmacological results suggest that Budongo chimpanzees consume several species with potent medicinal properties." She said her team's investigations into the primates' behaviour may pave the way for a greater use of natural remedies in our lives.



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