When we think about self-medication, we usually visualize humans taking over-the-counter drugs like antihistamines for allergies or Pepto-Bismol for diarrhea.

A new paper in the journal Science suggests we should take a broader view. Many different types of animals have been found to select foods or nest materials that help to reduce parasites. This includes such unlikely behaviors as house sparrows adding cigarette butts to their nests to limit the numbers of mites infesting their young.

Creatures as close to humans as baboons and chimpanzees and as far as butterflies and honeybees appear to be selecting certain foods to reduce parasites and improve health. These examples demonstrate that an animal does not need a complex learning strategy to be able to self-medicate.

[Science, online April 11, 2013]

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  1. DS

    Fascinating. I had heard that dogs eat grass for various reasons. We had a corgi once who would eat ANYTHING but mushrooms, to the point of licking butter off of sauteed mushrooms but refusing the mushroom itself. Yet we had a dachshund who WOULD eat them. I wondered if the corgi had been sick in the past from them or if his mother had “corrected” him when he was a puppy.

  2. cpmt

    It is interesting you talk about this. Recently I was reading an article that a farmer noticed how one of his horses that was sick was eating certain wild herbs and in few days or weeks the horse was cured. Home remedies are very helpful at home when other things don’t work or you don’t want to take strong medications with side effects. I heard on tv one lady said her mother give her cucumber juice to stop nose bleeds. It would be so helpful if someone kept a list of old ways remedies. or reprint some of these old books that long time ago, some folks printed. Thank you so very much for you to keep this website and great information in home remedies and other very interesting health articles.

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