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Macaques used in trad ch medicine_edited.jpg


Macaques used in traditional medicine

Macaque body parts have traditionally been used to treat an array of illnesses and complaints, ranging from malaria and tuberculosis to seizures to dermatitis. In parts of some Asian countries, such use continues. 

In Vietnam, different sorts of “monkey glue” are prepared from macaque bones, the skull only, the skin only, or the whole body (minus the viscera).  Each type is prepared for consumption in different ways, alongside various herbs, and each has a different use.  Uses include the treatment of dermatitis, seizures, insomnia and osteoarthritis.    

Macaque meat, or more specifically, macaque penis, soaked in wine, is thought to increase virility. Other macaque body parts that are utilised medicinally and some of the ailments targeted include bile (for dysentery, sore eyes); gallstone (anti-inflammatory, expectorant); lochia (the mucous, blood and tissue expelled after birth, for childhood anorexia and postpartum issues); penis (soaked in wine for virility); saliva (for childhood malnutrition).  Information provided by the Animals Asia Foundation


Anti-trafficking organisation Stolen Wildlife has also documented the use of macaque bezoars in traditional medicine. Bezoars are rock-hard masses of indigestible material that build up in the digestive tracts of mammals, and have long been believed to have magical properties, and to neutralise poison.  TCM most frequently utilises cow bezoars but monkey bezoars are more highly prized. In China monkey bezoars are referred to as “monkey pearls” or Hou Zao 侯 枣 (Calculus Macacae). They cannot be extracted from live animals.


The image above (courtesy of Stolen Wildlife) shows monkey-bone bouillon cubes, used to treat inflamed broken bones and joint pain.  These were confiscated in the Czech Republic, having been illegally imported from Vietnam. Stolen Wildlife reports that the importer confirmed that such products are normally made from cat or monkey bones.  


Useful resources and recordings from the 2021 Herbal Substitutes for Wildlife-Based Traditional Medicine symposium, organized in part by AfA Member World Animal Protection, can be found HERE

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