Monkeys have invented a medicine against wounds and are using it successfully

Scientists believe that people learned to make medicine hundreds of thousands of years ago. There is no exact date, but the discovery of healing herbs must have happened by chance: our wounded ancestors may have suffered pain, eaten random plants and discovered their pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Monkeys are our close relatives, so they often surprise us with their mental abilities. We already know that they can communicate with each other using sounds and gestures, and are also able to create and use various tools. Recently, scientists observed an orangutan named Rakus and were surprised to discover that he independently began to use a medicinal plant to treat a wound on his face. It seems monkeys are smarter than we previously thought.

Monkeys have invented a medicine against wounds and are using it successfully. Scientists have observed for the first time how an orangutan isolated a wound using a plant. Photo source: Science Alert. Photo.

Medicinal plant for wounds

According to the scientific journal Scientific Reports, the skill of self-healing wounds with the help of plants was noticed in the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) named Rakus. This is a 30-year-old male who lives in Indonesia's Gunung Leser National Park. In June 2022, he got into a fight with another male and received an open wound in the eye area. A few days later, park staff noticed that he was trying to heal the wound with the help of a medicinal plant. This discovery became known only recently.

The orangutan chose the leaves of the Fibraurea tinctoria vine as a medicine. This plant truly has healing properties: since ancient times, people have used its leaves to treat wounds, diabetes, dysentery and even malaria. The juice of this vine contains substances that kill bacteria and also slow down inflammatory processes.

Medicinal plant for wounds. Leaves of the vine Fibraurea tinctoria and Orangutan Rakus. Image source: Photo.

Leaves of the vine Fibraurea tinctoria and the orangutan Rakus. Image source:

The wounded male plucked the leaves of the plant, chewed them thoroughly, and then smeared his fingers with the resulting juice. He did this until the pulp covered the entire surface of the open wound. The monkey did not apply the plant's sap to other parts of his body, so researchers have no doubt that he did this specifically to treat a wound.

Read also:Stone tools dating back 50,000 years years were not made by people – they were made by monkeys

How smart are orangutans

Researchers believe that the primate realized that the plant had pain-relieving properties, so it applied the paste regularly. There is also a possibility that with the help of this “compress” he protected the wounded area from flies. Insects, by the way, can easily introduce an infection into a wound, so the orangutan did everything right – he can be given a solid A for knowledge of the rules of first aid.

Because Fibraurea tinctoria has a powerful analgesic effect, monkeys may experience immediate pain relief, prompting them to repeat the procedure several times, the authors of the study concluded.

Scientists do not know exactly how the monkey learned to heal the wound . Perhaps she discovered the healing properties of the plant herself. But there is also a possibility that the male acquired this knowledge when he was in a group. It is known that male orangutans first live in a kind of family, and when they mature, they scatter for a solitary life.

Monkeys have invented a medicine against wounds and are using it successfully. How smart are orangutans. Photo.

Video with the orangutan Rakus

The quick-witted male treated the wound for several days until the wound healed. After treatment, he was left with only a barely noticeable scar, and no signs of infection were noticed. National park workers also noticed that during the treatment period the orangutan rested longer than usual.

Mental development of monkeys

Previously, scientists have already noticed that chimpanzee monkeys know how to use medicinal plants. For example, in 2022 we detailed how this species of monkey uses insect “plasters” to treat wounds. This was not an isolated case: researchers noticed how monkeys caught insects and applied them to sore spots dozens of times. In ancient times, even people were treated with the help of insects – they sprinkled the wounds with fly larvae so that they would eat the affected tissue.

Mental development of monkeys. Chimpanzees are very similar to humans even at the genetic level. Photo source: Photo.

Chimpanzees are very similar to humans, even at the genetic level. Photo source:

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The fact that orangutans also have the skill of treating diseases was not yet known to science – the results of a new study are the first proof of this. In general, these primates are considered the smartest after humans, and on our website there is even an article about how they communicate. You can also read material about the ability of these monkeys to draw.