Dr. Chimp Prescribes…Plants

December 13, 2011

Well well well, look who else knows how to use plants as medicine. Chimps!

An extensive look at what chimpanzees consume each day reveals that many of the plants they consume aren’t for nutrition but are likely ingested for medicinal purpose.

The findings, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, indicate that the origins of medicine go way back, beyond the human species.

From an article in Discovery News

I first read this article, and was rather irritated by the closing lines: “That’s one reason medical research is so important. Scientists can isolate the effective medicinal compounds of such plants while removing their more dangerous agents.”

Pure hubris. Isolating compounds destroys or greatly diminishes their effects. Just say no to Reductionism! Nature is not a machine that can be disassembled!

And what’s this claim about ‘removing dangerous agents’ when every single drug produced by man has negative side effects? But of course, pharmaceutical companies don’t want you eating plants – they’re free (or very cheap)! Do you realize that the pharmaceutical industry is the MOST PROFITABLE INDUSTRY in the United States? More than Wall Street… Check out this infograph on how doctors get paid off to push pills (I don’t even want to know how much money they give to politicians).

And did you know that Americans spend more than $200 Billion every year on prescription drugs – BILLION, that’s $200,000,000,000.00 (I think?!) – when the vast majority of what’s being medicated could be treated with diet and exercise? The top-selling (and heavily advertised) prescription medications treat with heart disease, depression, and diabetes, all treatable with diet and exercise. Which, again, are free, or very cheap.

But I digress.

Chimps know what plants to eat in order to medicate themselves. That’s pretty cool.

If Chimps are eating anti-tumor plants…why aren’t we?!

As Bill Mahr said: “Someone has to stand up and say that the answer isn’t another pill. The answer is spinach.”


P.S. Chimps have much, much lower rates of cancer than humans do.

After my No Complaining Challenge post, a friend posed this question:

My question to Michelle is, with these challenges, how do you make it through them? I have to give up two things I know my body is totally addicted to, Caffeine and sugar, for my health. I’m seeing a neurologist to try to spare myself of migraines. My doctor ordered a special diet to see if perhaps they are food allergies. There is practically nothing I can or am allowed to eat.

I would love some kind of tip, in how you look at your cravings when you get them, and keep yourself on track with your goal…

Thanks doll!

I had so much to say that I split the response into THREE parts! Thanks for inspiring me!

Click here to read Part I; here’s the summary:

First, it gets easier over time!

Second, reframing the situation by rewording my statements helped a lot.

Third, your body is not “totally addicted” to those things.


Part II:

Fourth, I’ve realized that my cravings are distractions/addictions. They show up because I’m looking for something outside of myself to make myself feel better.

Honestly, I think meditation has helped me to control these impulses, and to put more of a gap between their urgency and my ability to make a conscious choice. I know meditation can be daunting; I knew for years that I should be doing it, but it wasn’t until I started taking classes with Cathy Heller and at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center that I felt comfortable forming my own practice.

A friend of mine quit smoking with the mantra: ‘I am not an addict.’ You’re not An Addict. You’re a healthy person. You have control over your choices. What would a healthy person do? They wouldn’t eat something that was going to make them feel horrible afterwards.

Fifth, really sit down and figure out the big WHY behind your choice to change your habits. That’s going to be your main motivation. When I decided I wanted to give up certain foods so my psoriasis would go away, it made the moment-to-moment choices so much easier. Would I rather have clear skin, or would I rather have a cup of coffee?
The side effects become a secondary motivation. Seeing and EXPERIENCING how much better I look and feel when I’m eating healthy adds more motivation, and it starts snowballing. When I gave up intoxicants and crap food I felt healthier, happier, clearer, more energetic, vibrant, and alive. I stopped having mood swings and sad days, even when it was PMS time. By week three random people were complimenting me – even people who had no idea that I was on the cleanse: “Your skin looks great!” “You look radiant!” “You’re glowing!” My acne started going away; my psoriasis cleared up; my wrinkles started to fade (I’m serious – the furrow lines between my brows go away; they’re already practically gone and I’m on day 14 of my current cleanse).

From what I’ve observed in my own body, sugar/caffeine/alcohol seem to dehydrate my skin in a way that I can’t combat, no matter how much water I drink. Or maybe it’s just a subtle poisoning of my cells, I don’t know. Tangentially, there’s a doctor named David Servan-Schreiber who got brain cancer; he says sugar and processed food directly feed cancer. Check out this video.

Sixth, shop at Farmer’s Markets. This has made a huge difference in what I eat. The LA Times has an amazing interactive database that shows you all the Farmer’s Markets in Southern California. I did a one-month challenge with a friend last year during which we only bought food (produce) from Farmer’s Markets (even Trader Joe’s apples are shipped in from New Zealand!!!). Fresh fruits and vegetables simply taste better than what you’re going to find at a conventional store, and there’s more variety – one apple guy that I go to has 10 different kinds of apples that I’ve never heard of. Like Winesap. I learned to taste differences in apple flavors like I can taste the different notes in a wine. If there’s stuff I’ve never seen or cooked before – like sunroot, for example – I ask the vendor what I do with it. Some of them get really excited to share their knowledge. It makes healthy eating more fun and playful, more of a game. Also, by not shopping at conventional grocery stores, I don’t have to be tempted by or reminded of all the crap foods – cookies, ice cream, frozen foods, candy, dairy, etc – that I used to eat.

More to come in Part III!

“People tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as a new drug, a laser, or a high-tech surgical procedure. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lifestyle. What we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and support can be as powerful as drugs and surgery. And they often are.”
– Dean Ornish, M.D.


Saw an article this morning stating that “a new study suggests oxytocin can help mildly autistic children and adults socialize more easily.” Oxytocin is produced naturally in the bodies of mothers and children from things like affectionate touch and breastfeeding.

So…could this be interpreted to mean that autistic children didn’t get enough love/attention/bonding immediately after birth? Not enough attachment time, skin-to-skin contact, breast feeding, mirroring, all of which produce oxytocin? Maybe the rise in autism is linked to working moms/lack of proper family support? In addition to other factors – chemicals & lack of vitamin D? It’s worth being discussed, anyways.

It’s difficult with science to know what is causal and what is simply correlational. In Sweden, scientists found a link between vinyl flooring and autism. Do the chemicals – phthalates, which I believe are dangerous and will be the topic of a whole ‘nother blog – released by vinyl flooring CAUSE autism, or is it that typically, people in lower socioeconomic statuses tend to have vinyl flooring, and those mothers need to go back to work soon after birth, so the mother and child don’t have enough time to bond, resulting in a lack of oxytocin production that is required for the child’s brain to develop properly?

Another link found by the Swedes is between Vitamin D and autism. With the increased emphasis on sunscreen over the past 20 years, Vitamin D deficiencies have risen, especially in the US. And actually, according to some, Vitamin D deficiency is more dangerous than skin cancer, since skin cancer actually isn’t usually fatal. Over 20 studies on animals and humans showed that Vitamin D is essential for brain development in children; it’s also important for immune system functioning in adults. People only need 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day to produce all the Vitamin D their body needs – FOR FREE. But I digress.

I don’t personally know any children with autism, and I’m not implying that mothers with autistic children are bad mothers.  But obviously something that we’re doing – or not doing – is causing rising rates of autism. Perhaps a combination of all three forms a perfect situation for autism to arise.

Articles referenced:

Boost Your Love Hormone Levels … Naturally –  http://health.msn.com/health-topics/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100257129&GT1=31036′

Scientists Find ‘Baffling’ Link between Autism and Vinyl Flooring – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=link-between-autism-and-vinyl

What If Vitamin D Deficiency Is a Cause of Autism? – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=vitamin-d-and-autism