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Zoopharmacognosy: Chimps Eat Medicinal Plants

Posted Aug 31 2010 10:37pm
What do Aspilia, cocaine and kissing have in common?

Robert M. Sapolsky writes in his book of essays 'The Trouble With Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament' (which I'd highly recommend -- Sapolsky is a FR**KIN genius) about the use of a leaf by chimps studied by Wrangham at Harvard at the Gombe National Park in Tanzania. He and the researchers observed the chimpanzees wadding up the leaves whole, then holding them under their tongue for a while, then swallowing without chewing. The leaves passed through the intestines undigested and intact in the stools. 'Off and on throughout the meal the chimpanzees would make faces: Aspilia apparently was no tasty treat' he wrote in the essay entitled Curious George's Pharmacy.

Sapolsky adds...'Intrigued, Wrangham sent samples of the plant for analysis to Eloy Rodriguez, a biochemist at the University of California in Irvine. Rodriquez discovered that the leaves contain thiarubrine-A, a reddish oil kown to be a potent toxin against fungi, bacteria, and parasite nematodes. Indeed, they noted that the youngest Aspilia leaves, much the preferred kind among the chimpanzees, are far richer in the oil than the older leaves are. And he thought it significant that the apes kept the drug under their tongues before gulping it down: the tongue is dense with minute blood vessels, and so a substance held there can bypass the digestive juices and head straight into the circulation.'

Mucosal Absorption of Biochemicals and Hormones

Philematology is the study and science of kissing... turns out many hormones are instantly generated and conveyed via... KISSING... (scientists found: oxytocin and testosterone go up... for bonding libido, but for grrrrls oxytocin goes down... to ?decrease protective defense modes). Hormones via mucosal absorption in the mouth can be transmitted much like the above chemicals in leaves of Aspilia, sublingually administrated cocaine or nitroglycerin. The lining of the mouth and under the tongue (buccal mucosa) are rich and full of a blood vessels which interface transparently almost with spit. Drugs and chemicals pass easily then enter the blood stream systemically with rapid speed.

Chimps Fix Gut Dysbiosis -- What About You?

'On the basis of his laboratory studies, plus Wrangham's observations, Rodriquez estimated that in each eccentric bout of Aspilia feeding, the chimpanzees consumed j ust enough thiarubrine-A to kill between 70 and 80 percent of the parasites in their digestive tracts, without harming other, useful intestinal bacteria. Wrangham and Rodriguez also noted that Tanzanian tribespeople have long chewed Aspilia leaves to health stomachaches and a variety of other ills. Hence the two coworkers speculated that the chimpanzee were using the plant as medicine.'

What is the surface area of our gut? Though smaller compared with primates, we traded a bigger, energy-guzzling brain for a smaller-gut, the surface area supported is still relatively SPACIOUS AND ENORMOUS.

The gut ecosystem (hat tip to Brent -- thank you for the term buddy!) is in delicate balance. Excessive negative factors can outweigh the positive factors thereby leading to chaos, entropy and dysbiosis... until re-balance is established. Broad spectrum antibiotics are extremely powerful in negatively throwing off this balance. Antibiotics are found in industrially mass produced beef, pork, chicken, seafood and dairy products and the stuff your physicians gives you for grain-induced acne, viral infections (which antibiotics don't work), and any sniffle/cough/bellyache. The main problem with antibiotics is that they wipe out the good bacteria, leaving behind armies of bad bacteria (Klebsiella, H. pylori, C. difficile, Group B Strep , etc), bad fungus (Candida, etc), and potentially bad microbes including parasites which thrive in the new imbalanced ecosystem. A great part of the immune system and neurologic system are centered in the gut. Below the belt? Yes.

When the gut is j*cked up by grains, gluten, high carbs, nutritional depletion, antibiotics, metals, Candida overgrowth, liver flukes, cetera, a HEEEEEYYYGE part of the human ecosystem, immunity and the brain can be seriously derailed.

Go antibiotic-free meat/dairy and G-R-A-S-S-F-E-D.

See prior posts: grassfed beef .

Medicinal leaves... aint no chimp change for belly dispositions.

Animal Nutritional Therapy

Describing plant chemicals, Sapolsky continues ' the endless wars between plants and animals, many plants have evolved leaves laced with secondary plant compounds among which substances are cardiac toxins, hallucinogens, antifertility drugs, and growth inhibitors. Such chemicals have no effect on the plants, but they can be deadly poisonous to any animal foolish enough to eat them. Not to be outdone, animals have evolved counteroffensive patterns of behavior that enable them to eat the plants: they may follow up a poisonous meal by eating something that can detoxify the poison. Rats, for instance, often consume clay after eating highly toxic plants; the clay absorbs the poisons.'

'Animals also appear to correct their own dietary deficiencies. In his famous "cafeteria" studies a half century ago the psychobiologist Curt P. Richter broke up a balanced rat diet into its constituent parts, serving up eleven small trays of proteins, oils, fats, sugars, salt, yeast, water, adn so forth. Remarkably, the rats picked out an efficient diet that, with few calories, made them grow at a rate faster than that of the rats fed normal chow.'

Natural Wormicidal Plants

There are a few medicinal plants that have been used by ancient pharmacopractition ers and temptresses... *haa* Worms, flukes, helminths and other parasites occurred routinely in our evolutionary history up until the recent advent of potent synthetic antibiotics and anti-parasite medications. Have you watched Survivor? On the TV show, many lose weight not only from the semi-intermittent fasting but also from nutritional losses and deficiencies from parasite overgrowth. I've read that several contestants required months of treatment upon returning to civilization.

*** Japanese Apricot, Plum: 'Ume' (Prunus mume -- see Wiki )

Side (unripe ume) and below pictures are courtesy of Dave's Garden and SergetheCongriege . Top picture wiki, dried and preserved umeboshi.

One such plant is a fruit known in Korea, Japan and China as the Asian plum or apricot (Ume, Prunus mume). It can be fermented, dried, pickled and also used as a liquor or vinegar. In Korea, unriped ume is known as maesil and used for over a thousand years for digestion and improve blood alkalinity ( here and here ).

Several trials (see Refs) have shown the anti-worm and antibacterial properties of Prunus mume. One trial showed no improvement in H. pylori urea breath test results (but 11% were noted as eradication (2 cases of responders)), a frequently implicated microaerophilic bacteria in ulcer and gastritis formation, however another trial showed distinct and significant improvement in H. pylori related chronic gastritis with lower H. pylori bacterial load via endoscopic tissue biopsy and reduced active mucosal inflammation and neutrophil infiltration. Endoscopic data is more accurate than breath testing. Both evaluations were human animal studies (e.g. pharmacognosy). In screening activity of 223 species of Chinese medicines (plant, animal, mineral materials), 31 showed anti-wormicidal properties including Prunus mume as effective against the human liver fluke, known as Clonorchis sinensis ( see Wiki ).

Applying Food Science (MEAT SCIENCE)

Food science was part of my experience from undergrad in nutritional science that I enjoyed. Other plums (Prunus domestica L.) have been pureed and studied in beef patties and pork sausages as an 'extender' for both flavor and shelf life. Yes. Plums appear to display potent biological antioxidant effects. Plum puree was shown to decrease TBARS (measure of oxidative capacity, especially associated with polyunsatu rated fatty acids which become rancid easily) compared with controls (J Food Sci 2008 HERE and my fave Meat Science 2010 HERE ). My parents grew up in Taiwan eating a lot of tiny dried SOUR plums and developed quite a habit eating them which my sisters I never adopted... who knew the nutritive value may be as a gut flora enhancer? (Picture below wiki, commerical pickled plum (ume) from China; side picture, what my parents eat, courtesy

References and Further Reading
1. Dietary Supplementation with Probiotic Fermented Tetra-Herbal Combination Enhan ces Immune Activity in Broiler Chicks and Increases Survivability against Salmonella Gallinarum in Experimentally Infected Broiler Chicks.
Jung BG, Ko JH, Lee BJ.
J Vet Med Sci. 2010 Jul 28. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Inhibitory effects of Japanese apricot (Prunus mume Siebold et Zucc.; Ume) on Helicobacter pylori-related chronic gastritis [IN HUMAN SUBJECTS].
Enomoto S, Yanaoka K, Utsunomiya H, Niwa T, Inada K, Deguchi H, Ueda K, Mukoubayashi C, Inoue I, Maekita T, Nakazawa K, Iguchi M, Arii K, Tamai H, Yoshimura N, Fujishiro M, Oka M, Ichinose M.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jul;64(7):714-9.

3. Immune-Enhancing Effect of Fermented Maesil (Prunus mume Siebold & Zucc.) with probiotics against Bordetella bronchiseptica in Mice.
Jung BG, Ko JH, Cho SJ, Koh HB, Yoon SR, Han DU, Lee BJ.
J Vet Med Sci. 2010 Apr 28. [Epub ahead of print]

4. Fruit-juice concentrate of Asian plum inhibits growth signals of vascular smooth muscle cells induced by angiotensin II.
Utsunomiya H, Takekoshi S, Gato N, Utatsu H, Motley ED, Eguchi K, Fitzgerald TG, Mifune M, Frank GD, Eguchi S.
Life Sci. 2002 Dec 27;72(6):659-67.

5. Screening of the wormicidal Chinese raw drugs on Clonorchis sinensis.
Rhee JK, Woo KJ, Baek BK, Ahn BJ.
Am J Chin Med. 1981 Winter;9(4):277-84.
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