Chimpanzees Use Medicinal Plants to Heal Themselves, Study Finds

Chimpanzees’ Use of Medicinal Plants Discovered in Uganda

A groundbreaking study has found that chimpanzees in Uganda’s Budongo Forest use certain plants as medicine to treat their illnesses. This rare discovery shows that chimpanzees use plants specifically for their healing properties, not just as food.

Key Findings of the Study

Researchers identified 13 plant species that the chimpanzees use for self-medication. This finding is crucial for chimpanzee conservation and could help develop new human drugs.

Chimpanzees Treat Illnesses with Plants

Chimpanzees were observed using plants to treat wounds, infections, and other ailments. For example, they used plants with anti-inflammatory properties for injuries, suggesting they may understand the healing properties of these plants.

Research Methodology

The study, led by Elodie Freymann from the University of Oxford, combined behavioural data, health monitoring, and pharmacological testing. Over eight months, scientists watched the feeding habits of two chimpanzee groups in Budongo Forest, collected plant samples, and tested their medicinal properties.

Health Monitoring and Results

Researchers monitored the health of the chimpanzees by analyzing their feces and urine. They found that sick individuals often consumed plants with healing properties.

Importance of the Findings

Erin Wessling, a chimpanzee expert not involved in the study, said this research shows the importance of understanding how animals interact with their environment. It also highlights the need to protect these medicinal plants for chimpanzee conservation.


This study adds to the growing evidence that primates use plants to self-medicate, emphasizing the importance of preserving their natural habitats.


Freymann E, Carvalho S, Garbe LA, Dwi Ghazhelia D, Hobaiter C, Huffman MA, et al. (2024). Pharmacological and behavioral investigation of putative self-medicative plants in Budongo chimpanzee diets. PLOS ONE, 19(6), e0305219. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0305219