Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine / 2017 / Article

Research Article | Open Access

Volume 2017 |Article ID 4901329 | 22 pages | https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4901329

Trends in Medicinal Uses of Edible Wild Vertebrates in Brazil

Academic Editor: Ghee T. Tan
Received05 Apr 2017
Accepted03 Jul 2017
Published15 Aug 2017

Abstract

The use of food medicines is a widespread practice worldwide. In Brazil, such use is often associated with wild animals, mostly focusing on vertebrate species. Here we assessed taxonomic and ecological trends in traditional uses of wild edible vertebrates in the country, through an extensive ethnobiological database analysis. Our results showed that at least 165 health conditions are reportedly treated by edible vertebrate species (), mostly fishes and mammals. However, reptiles stand out presenting a higher plasticity in the treatment of multiple health conditions. Considering the 20 disease categories recorded, treatment prescriptions were similar within continental (i.e., terrestrial and freshwater) and also within coastal and marine habitats, which may reflect locally related trends in occurrence and use of the medicinal fauna. The comprehension of the multiplicity and trends in the therapeutic uses of Brazilian vertebrates is of particular interest from a conservation perspective, as several threatened species were recorded.

1. Introduction

Wildlife represents an immeasurable source of raw materials that support health systems of different human cultures that depend on nature as a source of medicines to treat and cure illnesses [1]. Plants and animals have been used as medicinal sources since ancient times, and even today animal- and plant-based pharmacopeias continue to play an essential role in health care. Although plants and plant-derived materials make up the majority of the ingredients used in most traditional medical systems globally, whole animals, animal parts, and animal-derived products also constitute important elements of the materia medica [26].

The use of animal species as remedies, although representing an important component of traditional medicines (sometimes in association with plant species), has been much less studied than medicinal plants [1]. However, the importance of nonbotanical remedies (those of animal and mineral origin) is emerging [7], resulting in a recent boom in publications focusing on zootherapy [811].

Brazil is well known for its rich social/cultural diversity, as represented by more than two hundred indigenous people and a range of local communities, which in turn have contributed to the high diversity of traditional knowledge and practices which include the use of medicinal animals. Indeed, animals have been used as a source of medicine in the country and have played a significant role in healing practices as many people have used animals as medicines or alternative or supplementary treatments [12, 13].

Hence, Brazil can be considered a model to extensive zootherapeutic studies, since the use of animals and animal-derived products is widespread among the country’s human cultures, as predicted by the zootherapeutic universality hypothesis [14]. Furthermore, the concomitant use of wild animals for nutritional and medicinal purposes is also diffuse in several localities in the country, thus highlighting their important role as food medicine in well-established folk medical practices [15].

Recent research has highlighted the predominant use of vertebrates as medicinal fauna in different medical systems worldwide [1]. As remarked by Perry [16], this is an expected trend, considering the frequent interactions between people and vertebrates—typically large-bodied animals, which may provide a wide range of medicinal products. This raises particular conservation concerns, as some of these taxa are overharvested for their medicinal uses and are now threatened [1].

In this article, we provide an assessment of the uses of wild edible vertebrate species in Brazilian Traditional Medicine. The study focused on the following questions: (1) which edible vertebrate taxa are mostly used in the Brazilian Traditional Medicine? (2) Do the conditions treated by medicinal resources vary with taxonomical group and/or animal’s habitat?

2. Methods

Data used in this research resulted from an extensive analysis of the ethnozoological database provided by the Laboratório de Etnozoologia, Universidade Estadual da Paraíba. The database comprises information from ethnozoological studies on faunal medicinal use performed in all Brazilian regions. Additional data was gathered through information available in reviews published by the laboratory researchers [1719].

Data analysis comprised information on species of edible vertebrates used as medicines, their family classification, habitats, conservation status, and conditions to which animals were prescribed. We only considered those taxa that could be identified to species level, and the scientific nomenclature of the taxa recorded (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals) and/or habitats were in accordance with the following databases: Fishbase (Froese and Pauly, 2016; http://www.fishbase.org/), Amphibian Species of the World (http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/index.php), The Reptile Database (http://www.reptile-database.org/), and Mammal Species of the World [20]. With regard to habitat analysis, marine and estuarine species were grouped in the same category (i.e., coastal and marine); if a marine species was also reported to freshwater environments, it habitat was categorized as costal and marine/freshwater. Moreover, continental species which could inhabit both terrestrial and aquatic systems were considered as semiaquatic species.

The conservation status of the analysed species follows the International Union for the Conservation of Nature [21], the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [22], and the Brazilian red lists (decrees 444 and 445, Brazilian Ministry of Environment, 2014). Health conditions considered in this research were categorized by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10 Version: 2016; http://apps.who.int/classifications/icd10/browse/2016/en).

2.1. Data Analysis

All data were verified for normal distribution (Shapiro-Wilk’s test) and homogeneity of variance (Levene’s test) and nonparametric tests were performed when those assumptions were not met.

A Kruskal-Wallis test (followed by Dunn’s post hoc test) and an ANOVA were performed to determine whether the number of health conditions treated per species varied among vertebrate taxonomic groups or habitat types, respectively. Resemblance between health conditions treated (grouped into ICD’s categories) and taxonomic groups or animals’ habitat types were assessed based on Jaccard’s similarity index, where resulting matrices were used to perform cluster analyses. Due to low number of species recorded (), amphibians were excluded from all statistical analysis regarding taxonomic groups.

3. Results

At least 204 edible vertebrate species have been used in Brazilian Traditional Medicine (see Table 1). Fishes were the most represented group ( species), followed by mammals (), reptiles (), birds (), and amphibians (). Most medicinal animals are aquatic (58.9%), mostly inhabiting freshwater (27.0% of total counts) and coastal/marine (26.5% of total counts) environments (Figure 1). Terrestrial and semiaquatic vertebrates corresponded to 38.7% and 2.5% of medicinal vertebrates recorded, respectively.


TaxaHealth conditions treatedHabitat

Fishes
 Anostomidae
  Leporinus friderici (Bloch, 1794), threespot leporinusEaracheFreshwater
  Schizodon knerii (Steindachner, 1875), “piau-branco”Leucoma, edemaFreshwater
 Arapaimidae
  Arapaima gigas (Schinz, 1822), “arapaima,” “pirarucu,” “pirosca”Asthma, pneumonia Freshwater
 Arhynchobatidae
  Atlantoraja cyclophora (Regan, 1903), eyespot skateHaemorrhage after delivery Marine
 Ariidae
  Aspistor luniscutis (Valenciennes, 1840), “bagre-amarelo”Pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ stingMarine/brackish
  Bagre bagre (Linnaeus, 1766), coco sea catfish, “bagre-fidalgo”Injuries caused by itselfMarine/brackish
  Genidens barbus (Lacepède, 1803), white sea catfish, “bagre-do-mangue”Pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ stingMarine/brackish
  Genidens genidens (Cuvier, 1829), sea catfish, “bagre”Injuries caused by itselfMarine/brackish
 Aspredinidae
  Aspredinichthys tibicen (Valenciennes, 1840), tenbarbed banjo, “viola”AsthmaFreshwater/brackish
  Aspredo aspredo (Linnaeus, 1758), banjo catfish, “banjo,” “viola”AsthmaFreshwater/brackish
 Auchenipteridae
  Trachelyopterus galeatus (Linnaeus, 1766),“cumbá”Umbilical hernia, asthma, sexual impotenceFreshwater
 Balistidae
  Balistes capriscus Gmelin, 1789, grey triggerfish, “peixe-porco”BronchitisMarine/reef
  Balistes vetula Linnaeus, 1758, queen triggerfish, “cangulo,” “capado,” “peroá”
Stroke, asthma, thrombosis, earache, pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting, haemorrhage, ascites, schistosomiasis, appendicitis, menstrual cramps, gastritisMarine/reef
 Batrachoididae
  Thalassophryne nattereri Steindachner, 1876, venomous toadfish, “niquim”Pain relief caused in injuries by the species’ stingMarine/brackish
 Bryconidae
  Brycon nattereri Günther, 1864, “pirapitinga,” “matrinchã”FluFreshwater
 Callichthyidae
  Callichthys callichthys (Linnaeus, 1758), “cascarudo,” “caboge”Asthma, umbilical herniaFreshwater
 Lamnidae
  Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus, 1758), great white sharkOsteoporosisMarine/brackish
  Isurus oxyrinchus Rafinesque, 1810, shortfin makoOsteoporosisMarine
 Carcharhinidae
  Carcharhinus falciformis (Müller & Henle, 1839), silky sharkOsteoporosis Marine/reef
  Carcharhinus leucas (Müller & Henle, 1839), bull shark, “tubarão-cabeça-chata”OsteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef/freshwater
  Carcharhinus limbatus (Müller & Henle, 1839), blacktip shark, “sucuri preto”Osteoporosis Marine/brackish/reef
  Carcharhinus obscurus (Lesueur, 1818), dusky sharkOsteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef
  Carcharhinus porosus (Ranzani, 1839), smalltail shark, “junteiro,” “cação-galha-preta”Asthma, rheumatism, wounds, inflammations, osteoporosis, anaemiaMarine/brackish
  Galeocerdo cuvier (Péron & Lesueur, 1822), tiger shark, “jaguara”OsteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef
  Negaprion brevirostris (Poey, 1868), lemon sharkOsteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef
  Rhizoprionodon lalandii (Müller & Henle, 1839), Brazilian sharpnose shark, “cação”Rheumatism, osteoporosis Marine
  Rhizoprionodon porosus (Poey, 1861), Caribbean sharpnose shark, “cação”Rheumatism, osteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef/freshwater
 Sphyrnidae
  Sphyrna lewini (Griffith & Smith, 1834), scalloped hammerhead, “peixe-martelo,” “cação-panã,” “cação-chapéu”Asthma, wounds, rheumatism, inflammationMarine/brackish/reef
  Sphyrna mokarran (Rüppell, 1837), great hammerheadOsteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef
  Sphyrna zygaena (Linnaeus, 1758), smooth hammerheadOsteoporosisMarine/brackish
 Squalidae
  Squalus cubensis Howell Rivero, 1936, Cuban dogfishOsteoporosisMarine
 Rhinobatidae
  Rhinobatos percellens (Walbaum, 1792), Chola guitarfishOsteoporosis Marine
 Centropomidae
  Centropomus parallelus Poey, 1860, fat snookNephritis Marine/brackish/freshwater
  Centropomus undecimalis (Bloch, 1792), common snook, “rubalão”Edema in the legsMarine/brackish/reef/freshwater
 Characidae
  Astyanax bimaculatus (Linnaeus, 1758), twospot astyanax, “piaba-mirim,” “machadinha,” “piaba chata”Alcoholism, leishmaniosis, skin burns, wounds, rheumatism Freshwater
 Clupeidae
  Harengula jaguana (Poey, 1865), scaled herring, “sardinha”OsteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef
  Opisthonema oglinum (Lesueur, 1818), Atlantic thread herring, “sardinha”Alcoholism, osteoporosisMarine/reef
 Cynodontidae
  Hydrolycus scomberoides (Cuvier, 1816), Payara, “cachorra”Earache Freshwater
 Dasyatidae
  Dasyatis guttata (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), longnose stingray, “raia branca”Asthma, pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting, burns Marine
  Dasyatis marianae Gomes, Rosa & Gadig, 2000, Brazilian large-eyed stingray, “raia mariquita,” “raia de fogo”Asthma, pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting, burnsMarine/reef
 Diodontidae
  Chilomycterus antillarum Jordan & Rutter, 1897, web burrfishWounds, lumpMarine/reef
  Chilomycterus spinosus spinosus (Linnaeus, 1758)Wounds, lumpMarine/brackish
 Doradidae
  Franciscodoras marmoratus (Lütken, 1874), “Urutu”Injuries caused by itself Freshwater
  Lithodoras dorsalis (Valenciennes, 1840), Rock-bacuSwelling Freshwater
  Megalodoras uranoscopus (Eigenmann & Eigenmann, 1888), “cuiu-cuiu”Rheumatism Freshwater
  Oxydoras niger (Valenciennes, 1821), ripsaw catfish, “cuiu-cuiu”RheumatismFreshwater
  Platydoras costatus (Linnaeus, 1758), Raphael catfish, “cuiu-cuiu”RheumatismFreshwater
  Pterodoras granulosus (Valenciennes, 1821), granulated catfish, “cuiu-cuiu”RheumatismFreshwater
 Echeneidae
  Echeneis naucrates Linnaeus, 1758, live sharksucker, “rêmora,” “pegador”Asthma, bronchitisMarine/brackish/reef
  Remora remora (Linnaeus, 1758), shark sucker, “rêmora”OsteoporosisMarine/reef
 Erythrinidae
  Erythrinus erythrinus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), “Matrôe”AsthmaFreshwater
  Hoplias malabaricus (Bloch, 1794),trahira, “traíra”Ophthalmological problems, rheumatism, cataracts, wounds, snake bite, conjunctivitis, stroke, thrombosis, asthma, toothache, fever, earache, diarrhoea, deafness, boils, bleeding, alcoholism, tetanus, sore throat, itching, sprains, leucoma Freshwater
  Hoplias aimara (Valenciennes, 1847)EaracheFreshwater
 Cichlidae
  Cichla melaniae Kullander & Ferreira, 2006Pain relief in injuries caused by the ray sting Freshwater
 Gadidae
  Gadus morhua Linnaeus, 1758, Atlantic cod, “bacalhau”BoilsMarine/brackish
 Ginglymostomatidae
  Ginglymostoma cirratum (Bonnaterre, 1788),nurse shark, “cação-lixa”Rheumatism, osteoporosisMarine/brackish/reef
 Gymnotidae
  Electrophorus electricus (Linnaeus, 1766), electric eel, “poraquê”Sprains, bruises, insect bites, snake bite, asthma, flu, pain in general, muscle strain, rheumatism, osteoporosis, deafness, pneumonia, itching Freshwater
 Heptapteridae
  Pimelodella brasiliensis (Steindachner, 1876), “mandim”Injuries caused by that fish speciesFreshwater
 Holocentridae
  Holocentrus adscensionis (Osbeck, 1765), squirrelfish, “jaguaricá”WoundsMarine/reef
 Megalopidae
  Megalops atlanticus Valenciennes, 1847, tarpon, “camurupim,” “cangurupim”Stroke, headache, asthma, shortness of breath, thrombosis, chest pain, injuries caused by bangMarine/brackish/reef/freshwater
 Monacanthidae
  Cantherhines macrocerus (Hollard, 1853), American whitespotted filefishAsthmaMarine/reef
  Monacanthus ciliatus (Mitchill, 1818), fringed filefishAsthmaMarine/reef
 Muraenidae
  Gymnothorax funebris Ranzani, 1839, green moray, “moréia verde”Bleeding (wounds)Marine/reef
  Gymnothorax moringa (Cuvier, 1829), spotted moray, “moréia pintada”Bleeding (wounds)Marine/reef
  Gymnothorax vicinus (Castelnau, 1855), purplemouth moray, “moréia”Bleeding (wounds)Marine/reef
 Myliobatidae
  Aetobatus narinari (Euphrasen, 1790), spotted eagle ray, “raia-chita”Asthma, pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting, burns, haemorrhageMarine/reef
 Narcinidae
  Narcine bancroftii (Griffith & Smith, 1834), lesser electric rayPainMarine
  Narcine brasiliensis (Olfers, 1831), Brazilian electric ray, “raia elétrica”ToothacheMarine/reef
 Pimelodidae
  Phractocephalus hemioliopterus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), redtail catfish, “Pirarara”Asthma, wounds, hernia, burns in the skin, rheumatism, flu, cough Freshwater
  Pseudoplatystoma corruscans (Spix & Agassiz, 1829), spotted sorubim, “surubim”Flu, removal of wrath Freshwater
  Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum (Lunnaeus, 1776), barred sorubim, “surubim”Cold Freshwater
  Sorubimichthys planiceps (Spix & Agassiz, 1829), firewood catfish, “surubim chicote”Leishmaniosis, tuberculosis Freshwater
  Zungaro zungaro (Humboldt, 1821), gilded catfish, black manguruyu, “jaú”Asthma, toothache, earache, wounds, athlete’s foot, burns in the skin, rheumatism, flu Freshwater
 Potamotrygonidae
  Paratrygon aiereba (Müller & Henle, 1841), discus ray,“arraia”Asthma, hernia, flu, pneumonia, cough, earache, burns Freshwater
  Plesiotrygon iwamae Rosa, Castello & Thorson, 1987, long-tailed river stingrayPain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting, wounds, cracks in the sole of the feetFreshwater
  Potamotrygon hystrix (Müller & Henle, 1834),porcupine river stingray, “arraia”Asthma, hernia, flu, pneumonia, cough, earache, burnsFreshwater
  Potamotrygon motoro (Müller & Henle, 1841), South American freshwater stingray, ocellate river stingray, “arraia”Asthma, hernia, flu, pneumonia, cough, earache, burnsFreshwater
  Potamotrygon orbignyi (Castelnau, 1855), smooth back river stingray, “arraia”Pain relief in injuries caused by that species’ stingFreshwater
 Pristidae
  Pristis pectinata Latham, 1794, smalltooth sawfish, “espadarte,” “peixe-serra”Asthma, rheumatism, arthritis Marine/brackish/freshwater
  Pristis perotteti Müller & Henle, 1841, largetooth sawfish, “espadarte”Asthma, rheumatism, arthritis Marine/brackish/freshwater
 Prochilodontidae
  Prochilodus argenteus Spix & Agassiz, 1829, “curimatá-pacú," “curimatá”To avoid swelling of the breast feeding, mycosisFreshwater
  Prochilodus nigricans Spix & Agassiz, 1829, black prochilodus, “curimatã”Chilblain, skin burns, wounds, rheumatism, eye pains Freshwater
 Serrasalmidae
  Colossoma macropomum (Cuvier, 1818), cachama, “tambaqui”Paralysis of arms and legsFreshwater
  Mylossoma duriventre (Cuvier, 1818), pacupeba, “pacu-manteiga”Venereal diseaseFreshwater
  Serrasalmus brandtii Lütken, 1875, white piranha, “pirambeba”Inflammations, sexual impotenceFreshwater
 Sciaenidae
  Cynoscion acoupa (Lacepède, 1801), acoupa weakfish, “pescada amarela”Renal failureMarine/brackish/freshwater
  Cynoscion leiarchus (Cuvier, 1830), smooth weakfish, “pescada branca”Renal failureMarine/brackish
  Micropogonias furnieri (Desmarest, 1823), whitemouth croaker, “corvina”Pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting, cough, asthma, bronchitisMarine/brackish
  Pachyurus francisci (Cuvier, 1830), San Francisco croaker, “cruvina-de-bico”Asthma, urinary incontinence, backacheFreshwater
  Plagioscion squamosissimus (Heckel, 1840), South American silver croaker, “curvina”Urinary disorders, haemorrhage, snake bites Freshwater
  Plagioscion surinamensis (Bleeker, 1873), Bashaw,“pacora,” “curvina”Urinary disorders, haemorrhage, snake bites Freshwater
 Sparidae
  Calamus penna (Valenciennes, 1830), sheepshead porgy, “peixe-pena”AsthmaMarine/reef
 Synbranchidae
  Synbranchus marmoratus Bloch, 1795, marbled swamp eel,“muçum”BronchitisFreshwater/brackish
 Tetraodontidae
  Colomesus psittacus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), banded puffer, “baiacu”Breast cancer, backache, wartsMarine/brackish/freshwater
  Sphoeroides testudineus (Linnaeus, 1758), checkered puffer, “baiacu”RheumatismMarine/brackish/reef
 Trichiuridae
  Trichiurus lepturus Linnaeus, 1758, largehead hairtailAsthmaMarine/brackish
 Urotrygonidae
  Urotrygon microphthalmum Delsman, 1941, smalleyed round stingray, “raia”Asthma, pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting, burnsMarine
Amphibians
 Bufonidae
  Rhinella jimi (Stevaux 2002)Urinary incontinence, dental caries, cancer, wounds, boils, erysipelas acne, inducing abortionSemiaquatic
 Leptodactylidae
  Leptodactylus cf. labyrinthicus (Spix, 1824), South American pepper frog, “jia-de-peito,” “rã- pimenta”Earache, rheumatism, joint pain, cancer, sore throatSemiaquatic
  Leptodactylus vastus Lutz, 1930, South American pepper frog, ra-pimentaSore throat, cough, asthma, arthritis, backache, tonsillitis, hoarsenessSemiaquatic
Reptiles
 Iguanidae
  Iguana iguana (Linnaeus, 1758), Common iguana, “camaleão”Earache, erysipelas, asthma, rheumatism, edema, abscesses, joint pain, wounds, acne, athlete’s foot, sore throat, swelling, burn, tumour, sucking a splinter out of skin or flesh, boil, injuries caused by the spines of the “arraia” and others fishes, inflammation, herniaTerrestrial
 Teiidae
  Tupinambis merianae (Duméril & Bibron, 1839), Lizard, “tegu,” “tejuaçú”Earache, deafness, rheumatism, erysipelas, skin thorns and wounds, respiratory diseases, sore throat, snake bite, asthma, tumour, swelling, infection, bronchitisTerrestrial
  Tupinambis teguixin (Linnaeus 1758), Lizard, “tegu,” “tejuaçú”Sexual impotence, rheumatism, erysipelas, dermatitis, snake bites, asthma, tetanus, earache, thrombosis, wounds, infection of nail, swelling, herpes zoster, irritation when milk teeth are erupting, jaundice, inflammation, tumour, sore throat, infection, bronchitis, injuries caused by the spines of the “arraia,” pain relief in injuries caused by snake bites, toothache, sucking a splinter out of skin or flesh, headache, cough, stroke, coarse throatTerrestrial
 Boidae
  Boa constrictor (Linnaeus, 1758), Boa, “jibóia”Rheumatism, lung disease, thrombosis, boils, tuberculosis, stomach ache, edema, snake bite, cancer, ache, swelling, helping to prevent abortion, pain in the body, inflammation, athlete’s foot, calluses, tumours, cracks in the sole of the feet, goitre, sore throat, arthrosis, insect sting, dog bite, erysipelas, thrombosis, asthma, neck strain, strain muscleTerrestrial
  Corallus hortolanus (Linnaeus, 1758), snakeAssisting in removing spines or other sharp structures from the skin, rheumatismTerrestrial
  Eunectes murinus (Linnaeus, 1758), anaconda, “sucurujú,” “sucuri”Wounds, skin problems, bruises, sprains, arthrosis, rheumatism, boils, sexual impotence, headache, sore throat, thrombosis, swelling, tumour, asthma, muscle strain, numbness, syphilis, reducing pain, luxationSemiaquatic
  Epicrates cenchria (Linnaeus, 1758), Brazilian rainbow boa, “salamanta”Rheumatism, pain in articulations, injuries caused by itself, sore throat, earacheTerrestrial
 Crotalidae
  Crotalus durissus (Linnaeus, 1758), Neotropical rattlesnake, “cascavel”Asthma, snake bite, thrombosis, wounds, luxation, rheumatism, pain in the legs, erysipelas, deafness, epilepsy, skin diseases, tuberculosis, hanseniasis, backache, tumour, boil, headache, earache, osteoporosis, sore throat, toothache, pain relief in injuries caused by sting of insects and snake bite, irritation when milk teeth are erupting, tonsillitis, impotence, fatigue
 Chelidae
  Phrynops geoffroanus (Schweigger, 1812), Geoffroy’s side-necked turtle, “cágado”Asthma, sore throat, swelling, earache, rheumatism, arthrosis, healing of umbilical cord of newborn baby, mumpsFreshwater
  Phrynops tuberosus (Peters, 1870)Diphtheria, headache, earache, pain in the breast, wounds, furuncle, gastritis, swelling, haemorrhoids, sore throat, backache, eye problems, sucking a splinter out of skin or flesh, rheumatism, deafnessFreshwater
  Mesoclemmys tuberculata (Luederwaldt, 1926), tuberculate toadhead turtle, “cágado,” “cágado-d’água”Rheumatism, discharge, thrombosis, bronchitis, diarrhoea, haemorrhage, asthma, sore throat, hoarseness, muscle achesFreshwater
 Cheloniidae
  Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758), loggerhead turtle, “tartaruga cabeçuda”Injuries caused by bang, toothache, diabetes, headache, backache, wounds, cough, bronchitis, asthma, thrombosis, rheumatism, stroke, hoarseness, flu, backache, earache, sore throat, swellingMarine
  Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus, 1758), green sea turtle, “tartaruga verde,” “aruanã”Injuries caused by bang, toothache, diabetes, headache, backache, wounds, cough, bronchitis, asthma, flu, thrombosis, rheumatism, toothache, stroke, hoarseness, earache, sore throat, swelling, whooping cough, arthritis, erysipelas, boil, wounds, arthrosis, inflammationMarine
  Eretmochelys imbricata (Linnaeus, 1766), Atlantic hawksbill, “tartaruga de pente”Injuries caused by bang, toothache, diabetes, headache, backache, wounds, cough, bronchitis, asthma, thrombosis, stroke, hoarseness, flu, rheumatism, earache, sore throat, swellingMarine
  Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholtz, 1829), olive ridleyInjuries caused by bang, toothache, diabetes, headache, backache, wounds, cough, flu, bronchitis, asthma, thrombosis, rheumatism, stroke, hoarsenessMarine
 Dermochelyidae
  Dermochelys coriacea (Vandelli, 1761), leatherback turtle, “tartaruga de couro”Rheumatism, earache, sore throat, swellingMarine
 Geoemydidae
  Rhinoclemmys punctularia (Daudin, 1802), spot-legged turtleWounds, tumour, erysipelas, earache, rheumatismSemiaquatic
 Podocnemididae
  Podocnemis expansa (Schweiger, 1812), Amazon river turtle, “tartaruga da amazônia”Inflammation, acne, tumour, boil, rheumatism, pterygium, skin spots, backache, earache, arthrosis, arthritis, swelling, wrinkleFreshwater
  Podocnemis unifilis (Troschel, 1848), yellow-spotted river turtle, “tracajá”Wounds, tumour, erysipelas, earache, rheumatismFreshwater
  Podocnemis sextuberculata Cornalia, 1849, six-tubercled Amazon River turtleBlackhead, acneFreshwater
  Peltocephalus dumeriliana Schweigger 1812, “Cabeçuda”Blackhead, acneFreshwater
 Testudinidae
  Chelonoidis carbonaria (Spix, 1824), red-footed tortoise, “jabuti”Catarrh, erysipelas, bronchitis, stopping the sensation of getting thirsty, asthmaTerrestrial
  Chelonoidis denticulata (Linnaeus, 1766), yellow-footed tortoise, “jabuti”Sore throat, rheumatism, hernia, wounds, leishmaniosis, varicocele, earacheTerrestrial
 Kinosternidae
  Kinosternon acutum (Linnaeus 1766), Tabasco Mud TurtleMuscle achesFreshwater
 Alligatoridae
  Caiman crocodilus (Linnaeus, 1758), common cayman, “jacaré tinga”Asthma, stroke, bronchitis, backache, earache, rheumatism, thrombosis, sexual impotence, snake bites (antidote), evil eye, irritation when milk teeth are erupting, discharge, swelling, scratch, athlete’s foot, ophthalmological problems, asthma, sore throat, amulet used as a protection against snake bite, rheumatism, hernia, prostate problems, infection, thrombosisFreshwater
  Caiman latirostris (Daudin, 1801), broad-snouted caiman, “jacaré-do-papo-amarelo”Asthma, sore throat, amulet used as a protection against snake bite, rheumatism, irritation when milk teeth are erupting, hernia, prostate problemsFreshwater
  Melanosuchus niger (Spix, 1825), black caiman, “jacare açú”Thrombosis, infection, swelling, asthma, amulet used as a protection against snake bite, injuries caused by spines of the “arraia,” pain relief in injuries caused by snake bitesFreshwater
  Paleosuchus palpebrosus (Cuvier, 1807), dwarf caiman, “jacaré coroa,” “jacaré,” “jacaré-preto,” “crocodilo”Snake bite, asthma, stroke, rheumatism, thrombosis, backache, sexual impotence, edema, mycosis, evil eye, irritation when milk teeth are erupting, snake bite (antidote), discharge, sore throat, amulet used as a protection against snake bite, hernia, prostate problemsFreshwater
  Paleosuchus trigonatus (Schneider, 1801), smooth-fronted caiman, “Jacaré coroa”RheumatismFreshwater
Birds
 Anatidae
  Sarkidiornis sylvicola H. Ihering & R. Ihering, 1907, American Comb Duck, “putrião”Bleeding (wounds)Terrestrial
 Anhimidae
  Anhima cornuta (Linnaeus, 1766), horned screamer, “anuhma”Intoxication from poisonous animalsTerrestrial
 Ardeidae
  Ardea cocoi (Linnaeus, 1766), white-necked HeronSwelling, inflammation, injuries caused by the spines of the “arraia” and others fishes, asthma, boil, tumour, inflammation, rheumatism, earacheTerrestrial
 Caprimulgidae
  Nyctidromus albicollis (Gmelin, 1789), pauraque, “bacurau”Amulets, snake biteTerrestrial
 Cracidae
  Penelope jacucaca (Spix, 1825), white-browed guan, “jacu”Insomnia, epilepsyTerrestrial
  Pauxi tuberosa (Spix, 1825), razor-billed CurassowBleeding, snakebite, indigestion, stroke, lack of appetite in children, pneumoniaTerrestrial
 Ciconiidae
  Ciconia maguari (Gmelin, 1789), maguari storkInjuries caused by the spines of the “arraia” and others fishes, thrombosisTerrestrial
 Columbidae
  Columbina minuta (Linnaeus, 1766), plain-breasted ground doveLack of appetite, nausea during pregnancyTerrestrial
  Columbina picui (Temminck, 1813), Picui DoveLack of appetite, nausea during pregnancy, deafnessTerrestrial
  Columbina talpacoti (Temminck, 1810), Ruddy Ground Dove, “rolinha-caldo-de-feijão”Lack of appetite, nausea during pregnancy, deafnessTerrestrial
  Leptotila rufaxilla (Richard & Bernard, 1792), Grey-Fronted Dove, “juriti”Lack of appetite, nausea during pregnancy, deafness, stye, thrombosisTerrestrial
 Corvidae
  Cyanocorax cyanopogon (Wied, 1821), white-naped jay, “can-can”AsthmaTerrestrial
 Cuculidae
  Crotophaga ani Linnaeus, 1758, smooth-billed aniBronchitis, thrombosis, asthma, whooping coughTerrestrial
  Guira guira (Gmelin, 1788), guira cuckoo, “anum branco”AsthmaTerrestrial
 Charadriidae
  Vanellus chilensis (Molina, 1782), southern lapwing, “quero-quero”Helping to stay awakeTerrestrial
 Emberizidae
  Coereba flaveola (Linnaeus, 1758), bananaquit, “caga-sebo”ThrombosisTerrestrial
 Furnariidae
  Furnarius rufus (Gmelin, 1788), rufous hornero, “maria-barreira”MumpsTerrestrial
Podicipedidae
  Tachybaptus dominicus (Linnaeus, 1766), Least Grebe, “mergulhão-pequeno,” “mergulhão,” “mergulhão-preto”Eye problemsSemiaquatic
 Rallidae
  Aramides cajanea (Statius Müller, 1776), grey-necked wood-rail, “saracura”Evil eyeTerrestrial
 Rheidae
  Rhea americana (Linnaeus, 1758), greater rhea, “ema”General aches, rheumatism, thrombosis, strokesTerrestrial
 Tinamidae
  Crypturellus noctivagus (Wied, 1820), yellow-legged tinamou,“zabele”Thrombosis, strokeTerrestrial
  Crypturellus tataupa (Temminck, 1815), Tataupa TinamouAssisting children who take longer than  usual to start walkingTerrestrial
  Crypturellus parvirostris (Wagler, 1827), small-billed TinamouAssisting children who take longer than  usual to start walkingTerrestrial
  Nothura boraquira (Spix, 1825), white-bellied nothura, “codorna”Thrombosis, stroke, earacheTerrestrial
  Nothura maculosa (Temminck, 1815), Spotted Nothura, “lambú espanta-boiada,” “lambú-de-capoeira”Snake biteTerrestrial
  Tinamus tao Temminck, 1815, Grey TinamouSnake biteTerrestrial
  Rhynchotus rufescens (Temminck, 1815), red-winged tinamou,“perdiz” Thrombosis, snake bites (antidote)Terrestrial
Mammals
 Agoutidae
  Cuniculus paca (Linnaeus, 1766), spotted paca, “paca”Wound in the breast caused by suckling, ophthalmological problems, stomach disorders, pterygium, sucking a splinter out of skin or flesh, injuries caused by the spines of “arraia,” control of cholesterol levelTerrestrial
 Bovidae
  Bubalus bubalis (Linnaeus, 1758), water buffalo (feral), “búfalo”Rheumatism, osteoporosis, thrombosisTerrestrial
 Bradypodidae
  Bradypus variegatus Shinz, 1825, brown-throated three-toed sloth, “Preguiça pequena”ThrombosisTerrestrial
  Bradypus tridactylus Linnaeus, 1758, pale-throated three-toed sloth, “Preguiça”Thrombosis, insects bite, scorpions biteTerrestrial
 Canidae
  Cerdocyon thous (Linnaeus, 1766), crab-eating fox, “raposa”Rheumatism, flu, haemorrhoids, disorders after parturition (to accelerate recovery after parturition)Terrestrial
  Chrysocyon brachyurus (Illiger, 1815), maned wolf, “lobo-guará”EpilepsyTerrestrial
  Dusicyon thous Linnaeus, 1766, crab-eating fox, “raposa”Alcoholism, thrombosis, rheumatism, ophthalmological problems, diabetes, urinary infectionTerrestrial
 Caviidae
  Cavia aperea Erxleben, 1777, Brazilian Guinea Pig, “Preá”InflammationTerrestrial
  Galea spixii (Wagler, 1831), Spix’s Yellow-Toothed CavyInflammationTerrestrial
  Kerodon rupestris (Wied-Neuwied, 1820), Rock Cavy, “Mocó”ConstipationTerrestrial
 Cebidae
  Alouatta belzebul (Linnaeus, 1766), red-handed howler monkey, “guariba,” “macaco”Whooping cough, sore throat, asthmaTerrestrial
  Alouattanigerrima Lönnberg, 1941, Black Howler MonkeyWhooping cough, inflammationTerrestrial
  Alouatta macconnelli (Linnaeus, 1766), red howler monkey, “guariba vermelho”Whooping cough, inflammation, accelerating parturitionTerrestrial
  Sapajus apella (Linnaeus, 1758), brow capuchin, “capuchin,” “macaco,” “macaco-prego”Insect stingTerrestrial
Cervidae
  Blastocerus dichotomus (Illiger, 1815), marsh deer, “cervo-do-pantanal”Diarrhoea, vomitTerrestrial
  Mazama americana (Erxleben, 1777), red brocket, “veado gaedo”StrokeTerrestrial
  Mazama simplicicornis (Illinger, 1811)Diarrhoea, verminosis, evil eyeTerrestrial
  Mazama gouazoupira (G. Fischer, 1814), grey brocket, “veado-catingueiro”Asthma, edema, rheumatism, snake bite, thrombosis, assisting children who take longer than  usual to start walking, toothache, wounds, sprainsTerrestrial
  Ozotocerus bezoarticus (Linnaeus, 1758), Pampas Deer, veado campineiroDiarrhoea, verminosis, evil eyeTerrestrial
 Dasypodidae
  Dasypus novemcinctus (Linnaeus, 1758), nine-banded armadillo, “tatu galinha”Thrombosis, insects bite, scorpions bite, edema, asthma, deafness, earache, evil eyeTerrestrial
  Euphractus sexcinctus (Linnaeus, 1758), six-banded armadillo “tatu peba”Wounds, earache, evil eye, asthma, sore throat, pneumonia, sinusitis, deafness, coarse throatTerrestrial
  Tolypeutes tricinctus (Linnaeus, 1758), Brazilian three-banded armadillo, “tatu-bola”Thrombosis, rheumatismTerrestrial
  Priodontes maximus (Kerr, 1792), giant armadillo, tatu-canastraSnake biteTerrestrial
 Dasyproctidae
  Dasyprocta prymnolopha Wagler, 1831, black-rumped agouti, “Cutia”Asthma, thrombosis, earache Terrestrial
 Delphinidae
  Sotalia fluviatilis Gervais & Deville (1853), grey dolphin, grey river dolphin, “boto”Asthma, headache, rheumatism, hernia, womb disorders, sore throat, injuries caused by the spines of the “arraia,” swelling, haemorrhoids inflammation, wounds, earache, erysipelas, athlete’s foot, tumour, cancerFreshwater
  Sotaliaguianensis (P. J. Van Bénéden, 1864), Guianan River Dolphin, “boto”Asthma, headache, rheumatism, hernia, womb disorders, sore throat, injuries caused by the spines of the “arraia,” swelling, haemorrhoids inflammation, wounds, earache, erysipelas, athlete’s foot, tumour, cancerMarine
 Didelphidae
  Didelphis albiventris (Lund, 1840), White-Eared Opossum, “timbú”BoilsTerrestrial
  Didelphis marsupialis (Linnaeus, 1758), Black-Eared Opossum, “mucura,” “gambá,” “saruê”Acne, wounds, bronchitis, joint pain, stomach ache, rheumatism, diarrhoea, inflammation, erysipelas, pain in gestation, asthma, headache, toothache, earache, sore throatTerrestrial
 Echimyidae
  Thrichomys laurentius Thomas, 1904, “punaré”DiarrhoeaTerrestrial
 Erethizontidae
  Coendou prehensilis (Linnaeus, 1758), Brazilian porcupine, “coandú,” “porco espinho”Bronchitis, thrombosis, epilepsy, stroke, abscesses, conjunctivitis, asthmaTerrestrial
 Hydrochaeridae
  Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris (Linnaeus, 1766), capybara, “capibara,” “capivara”Thrombosis, conjunctivitis, venereal disease, rheumatism, earache, strengthen bones, liver pain, bronchitis, asthma, wounds, erysipelas, coughTerrestrial
 Iniidae
  Inia geoffrensis (Blainville, 1817), Amazon river dolphin, “boto rosa”Asthma, headache, rheumatism, hernia, womb disorders, sore throat, injuries caused by the spines of the “arraia,” swelling, haemorrhoids inflammation, wounds, earache, erysipelas, athlete’s foot, tumour, cancerFreshwater
 Leporidae
  Sylvilagus brasiliensis (Linnaeus, 1758), forest rabbit, tapeti, “coelho,” “coelho-do-mato”Thrombosis, conjunctivitis, boils, burnsTerrestrial
 Mustelidae
  Conepatus semistriatus (Boddaert, 1785), striped hog-nosed skunk, “cangambá,” “gambambá,” tacacaRheumatismTerrestrial
  Lontra longicaudis (Olfers, 1818), Neotropical Otter, “Lontra”ThrombosisTerrestrial
 Myrmecophagidae
  Myrmecophaga tridactyla Linnaeus, 1758, giant anteater, “tamanduá-bandeira”Thrombosis, strokeTerrestrial
  Myrmecophaga tetradactyla (Linnaeus, 1758), collared anteater, “tamanduá”Edema, thrombosisTerrestrial
 Procyonidae
  Nasua nasua (Linnaeus, 1766), South American coati, “coati,” “quati”Sexual impotence, wounds, skin burns, snake bites, backacheTerrestrial
  Procyon cancrivorus (G. [Baron] Cuvier, 1798), crab-eating raccoon, “guaxinim”Rheumatism, epilepsy, thrombosis, snake biteTerrestrial
 Tapiridae
  Tapirus terrestris (Linnaeus, 1758), Brazilian tapir, “anta”Rheumatism, arthrosis, osteoporosis, bursitis, muscular pain, asthma, tonsillitisTerrestrial
 Tayassuidae
  Pecari tajacu Linnaeus 1758, collared peccary, “porco-do-mato,” “caititu”Thrombosis, bronchitis, strokeTerrestrial
  Tayassu pecari (Link, 1795), white-lipped peccary “porco-do-mato,” “queixada”Thrombosis, strokeTerrestrial
 Trichechidae
  Trichechus inunguis (Natterer, 1883), Amazonian manatee, “peixe-boi”Sprains, vaginal discharge, injuries caused by bang, burns, asthma, menstrual cramps, rheumatism, sore throat, wounds, muscle strain, sucking a splinter out of skin or flesh, tumour, backache, hernia, arthrosis, luxation, menstrual cramps, insects biteFreshwater
  Trichechus manatus (Linnaeus, 1758), West Indian Manatee, “peixe-boi”Sprains, vaginal discharge, injuries caused by bang, burns, asthma, menstrual cramps, rheumatism, sore throat, wounds, muscle strain, sucking a splinter out of skin or flesh, tumour, backache hernia, arthrosis, luxation, menstrual cramps, insects biteMarine
 Felidae
  Puma concolor (Linnaeus, 1771), mountain lion, “onça”Wounds, leishmaniosisTerrestrial
  Panthera onca (Linnaeus, 1758), jaguar, “onça”Wounds, leishmaniosisTerrestrial
  Herpailurus yagouaroundi (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803), “gatovermelho,” “gato-azul,” JaguarundiWoundsTerrestrial
  Leopardus pardalis (Linnaeus, 1758), ocelot, “gato-maracajá,”Headache, sore throat, backache, woundsTerrestrial
  Leopardus tigrinus (Schreber, 1775), oncilla, “gato-mirim”Wounds, urinary incontinence, injuries, sore throat, sucking a splinter out of skin or fleshTerrestrial

Edible medicinal vertebrates were reportedly used to treat 165 health conditions/diseases (see Table 2). A single illness could be treated by various animal species (e.g., 67 animal species were used in the treatment of asthma and 60 in the treatment of rheumatism), and although most species (particularly fishes, mammals, and birds) were used to treat only one (; 41.7%) or up to five illnesses (; 76.5%), several were prescribed for treating multiple illnesses (>5 conditions; , 23.5%), as shown in Figure 2. Reptiles were the most versatile group, as they were mostly used in the treatment of multiple conditions, with almost half of the species () being used to treat more than 10 illnesses (Figure 2). Indeed, from the 10 most expressive species in the treatment of multiple conditions (see Table 1), seven are reptiles, for instance, the “teju” and the boa snake (Salvator teguixin and Boa constrictor, resp.; health conditions prescribed, each), the Neotropical rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus; conditions), the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas; conditions), and the common caiman (Caiman crocodilus; conditions). Moreover, the trahira fish (Hoplias malabaricus; prescriptions) and the two manatee species recorded (Trichechus inunguis and T. manatus; prescriptions, each) also stand out for being indicated to the treatment of multiple illnesses.


ICD 10Indication of use and therapeutic properties

Symptoms, signs, and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified
( species)
Ascites; chest pain; cough; cracks in the sole of the feet; edema (also quoted as edema in the legs); fatigue; fever; headache; hoarseness; inflammation; jaundice; lack of appetite (also quoted as lack of appetite in children); numbness; pain (also quoted as pain in the body; pain in the breast; pain in the legs; to reduce pain); shortness of breath; swelling; assisting children who take longer than usual to start walking; vomit.24
Certain infectious and parasitic diseases
( species)
Abscesses; athlete’s foot; diphtheria; erysipelas; herpes zoster; infection; leishmaniosis; leprosy; mumps; mycosis; schistosomiasis; syphilis; tetanus; tuberculosis; venereal disease; verminosis; warts; whooping cough.18
Injury, poisoning, and certain other consequences of external causes
( species)
Bruises; burns (also quoted as burns in the skin); chilblains; injuries caused by bang; injuries caused by the animal itself; injuries caused by the spines of fishes (also quoted as injuries caused by the spines of rays); intoxication from poisonous animals; pain relief in injuries caused by the species’ sting; pain relief in injuries caused by snake bites; pain relief in injuries caused by sting of insects; scratch; assisting in removing spines or other sharp structures from the skin (also quoted as to suck a splinter out of skin or flesh); wounds.16
Diseases of the digestive system
( species)
Appendicitis; constipation; dental caries; diarrhoea; gastritis; haemorrhoids; hernia (also quoted as umbilical hernia); indigestion; irritation when milk teeth are erupting; liver pain; stomach ache; stomach disorders; toothache.14
Diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue
( species)
Arthritis; arthrosis; backache; bursitis; luxation; muscle strain; muscular pain; neck strain; osteoporosis; pain in joint; rheumatism; sprains; helping to strengthen bones.13
Diseases of the respiratory system
( species)
Asthma; bronchitis; catarrh; coarse throat; cold; flu; lung disease; pneumonia; respiratory diseases; sinusitis; sore throat; tonsillitis.12
Diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue
( species)
Acne; blackhead; boils; calluses; dermatitis; itching; paronychia; skin diseases; skin spots; skin thorns and wounds; wrinkles.11
Diseases of the genitourinary system
( species)
Menstrual cramps; nephritis; prostate problems; renal failure; urinary disorders; urinary incontinence; urinary infection; discharge (also quoted as vaginal discharge); womb disorders.10
Pregnancy, childbirth, and the puerperium
( species)
Disorders after parturition (to accelerate recovery after parturition); haemorrhage after delivery; nausea during pregnancy; pain in gestation; helping to accelerate parturition; helping to avoid swelling of the breast feeding; helping to induce abortion; helping to prevent abortion; wound in the breast caused by suckling.9
Diseases of the eye and adnexa
( species)
Cataracts; conjunctivitis; eye pains; ophthalmological problems (also quoted as eye problems); leucoma; pterygium; stye.8
External causes of morbidity and mortality
( species)
Dog bite; insect sting; scorpions sting; snake bite; helping to stop the sensation of getting thirsty.5
Undefined
( species)
Amulet; amulet used as a protection against snake bite; evil eye; helping to remove wrath.4
Diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs and certain disorders involving the immune mechanism
( species)
Anaemia; bleeding (also quoted as wounds bleeding); haemorrhage.4
Diseases of the circulatory system
( species)
Stroke; thrombosis; varicocele.3
Diseases of the nervous system
( species)
Epilepsy; insomnia; paralysis of arms and legs.3
Mental and behavioural disorders
( species)
Alcoholism; sexual impotence; helping to stay awake.3
Endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases
( species)
Diabetes, goitre; helping to control cholesterol level.3
Neoplasms
( species)
Breast cancer; cancer (also quoted as tumour).3
Diseases of the ear and mastoid process
( species)
Deafness; earache.2
Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period
( species)
Healing of umbilical cord of newborn baby.1

Each species was prescribed to treat a mean of (mean ± confidence interval) health conditions. Reptiles contributed with the highest mean number of diseases treated per species, while birds and fishes comprised the groups with the lowest means (Kruskal-Wallis test: ; ; ; Dunn’s post hoc test: ; Figure 3). Nonetheless, species showed similar number of prescriptions according to habitat type (; ).

Prescriptions of edible medicinal vertebrates were generalised in 20 disease categories, according to ICD-10. From those, “symptoms, signs, and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings” were the most recorded category in terms of therapeutic quotes recorded, followed by “infectious and parasitic diseases” and “injuries, poisoning, and other consequences of external causes” (Table 2).

With regard to the number of species associated with ICD-10 categories, most animals were prescribed for treating problems associated with the “musculoskeletal system and connective tissue” and the “respiratory system” (each: species; 39.2%), “injuries, poisoning, and other consequences of external causes” (67 species, 32.8%), and “symptoms, signs, and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings” (58 species, 28.4%) (Table 2).

Despite most medicinal vertebrates provide raw materials for remedies, medicinal products often have magical-religious purposes, particularly for the prevention of diseases of spiritual cause (e.g., evil eye); they were also used as amulets to prevent diseases (e.g., amulet used as a protection against snake bite). It is worth noting that many animals involved in poisoning accidents, such as stingrays and snakes, are also used in folk medicine, particularly to treat injuries caused by themselves (see Table 1).

Fishes and birds appear to have most similar use according to ICD-10 categories (Jaccard index: 94.4), as well as reptiles and mammals (Jaccard index: 90.0), resulting in two distinct clusters (Figure 4(a)). When considering resemblance between the disease categories recorded and animals’ habitat types, two distinct clusters were also formed (terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, and marine; costal and marine/freshwater and semiaquatic) (Figure 4(b)), thus reflecting highest similarities between continental habitats (terrestrial and freshwater; Jaccard index: 90.0).

With regard to species conservation status, 160 animals figure in at least one of the three red lists assessed (see Table 1). In the ICUN red list, 33 species (mainly fishes and mammals) are classified into threatened categories, mostly as vulnerable (VU; ) ones. Endangered (EN) and critically endangered (CR) species comprised six fishes and reptiles, namely, Narcine bancroftii and Pristis pectinata (CR) and Sphyrna lewini, S. mokarran, Chelonia mydas, and Eretmochelys imbricata (EN). In Brazilian red lists, most threatened animals are also considered VU (); EN species () comprise mainly fishes and mammals; and CR ones () comprise mainly fishes and marine reptiles. In CITES, 58 species are listed, especially in its Appendix II (), mammals and reptiles being the most expressive groups.

4. Discussion

The high number of vertebrates used as medicine is not surprising given the important role played by wildlife as a source of medicines in different traditional medicine systems [8, 10, 23, 24]. The predominance of fishes and mammals in the Brazilian Traditional Medicine confirms our expectations, given that those groups comprise major targets in Brazil [2528]. Although these two taxa have been primarily harvested for alimentary purposes, they generate a series of the inedible parts [such as bone, skin, tail, feather, liver, and bile (“fel”)], rattle (from rattlesnakes), spine, scale, penis, carapace, beak, teeth, head, nails, and horn that can be used in popular medicines. According to Moura and Marques [29] the use of leftover/secondary products derived from the fauna seems to be one of the most conspicuous features on the Brazilian popular zootherapy.

Zootherapeutic products, however, do not include inedible parts solely: flesh, eggs, and viscera are among some animal products used for both medicinal and alimentary purposes [1, 12, 13, 30, 31]. This corroborates the assumption that the consumption of wild vertebrates meat is often related to the purported medicinal or cultural benefits derived from the animal parts [3235]. In a recent review study, Alves et al. [15] pointed out that at least 354 wild animal species are used in Brazilian Traditional Medicine, of which 157 are also used as food, evidencing that a close connection between eating and healing is common in Brazilian zootherapy. This is in line with several studies in ethnobiology and ethnopharmacology that have observed how difficult the clear separation between medicines and foods can be [3638] and this situation includes plants and animals, essential items for the preparation of traditional medicine.

Whether for food or medicinal purposes, the consumption of wild animals can lead to the transmission of various human diseases [39]. Van Vliet et al. [40] highlighted that the consumption of bushmeat for either purpose may lead to human infection by several zoonotic pathogens. Armadillos, for example, are widely used in folk medicine and are a natural reservoir of etiological agents of several zoonotic diseases that affect humans, such as leprosy, trichinosis, coccidioidomycosis or Valley Fever, Chagas disease, and typhus [41]. Therefore, it is essential that traditional drug therapies are submitted to an appropriate benefit/risk analysis [39].

It was found that several medicinal vertebrates used in the Brazilian Traditional Medicine have multiple therapeutic indications. The possibility of using various remedies for the same ailment is popular because it allows adapting to the availability of the animals. The fact that some medicinal animals are being used for the same purpose suggests that different species can share similar medicinal properties and might indicate the pharmacological effectiveness of those zootherapeutic remedies [8].

Multiple medicinal uses become even more evident when considering reptiles, as this group comprises one of the most important animal resources related to the medicine history [42] and is widely used in the most important traditional pharmacopeias worldwide [35]. Indeed, the use in traditional medicines is the human practice that involves the highest diversity of reptile species in Brazil [17], some of which play important roles in traditional medicines, such as the “teju” (Tupinambis teguixin) and the boa snake (Boa constrictor), which are one of the most used medicinal animals in Brazil [42, 43]. Curiously, there is a general aversion to consuming some reptile groups, such as snakes and lizards, in the country. Nonetheless, this fact does not impair the use of these animals as medicines, as it is mainly associated with popular beliefs known as “simpatias,” which, in most of the cases, state that “a person receiving a given treatment cannot know what that he/she is taking, otherwise the effect ceases” [18]. Hence, this fact seems to favour the high use of reptile species, despite widespread aversion to those animals.

On the other hand, despite presenting the highest diversity of medicinal species, fishes were recommended to treat a comparatively low number of health conditions. This may be related to the fact that most parts of a fish are consumed as food; thus fewer products are left to be used in medicinal practices. Similarly, when considering major hunted taxa in Brazil, that is, mammals and birds [25, 26, 44], most species are also mostly consumed as food. However, the inedible parts generate “leftovers” (e.g., skin, tail, spine, scale, teeth, nails, and horn) which are among the main products used in traditional medicine. Indeed, according to Moura and Marques [29], the zootherapeutic use of the fauna is mainly based on derived leftovers/secondary products. Those authors also emphasise that, from the ecological theory point of view, the use of leftovers could be justified as an attempt to leverage the resources obtained from ecosystems which are inappropriate for alimentary consumption due to the mechanical difficulty of ingesting these parts, such as horns, feather, and scales. Therefore, one can expect that the diversity of leftovers provided by a species may support the potential to treat multiple diseases.

Animals from continental habitats (i.e., terrestrial and freshwater) were found to treat similar disease categories; the same could be found within coastal and marine animals. This may be related to the local distribution of the diseases treated, thus leading people to use local resources in the traditional medicine of each region. For instance, in coastal areas, the occurrence of diseases classified into the category “external causes of morbidity and mortality” is very common, due to sting/poisoning accidents caused by fishes (e.g., stingrays, catfish, and toadfish), which are often treated by zootherapeutic products derived from the animals that caused the lesions [4548].

Natural resources play an essential role in health care in traditional medical systems, as well as in bioprospecting for new drugs [49, 50], and the interest in animal-based products has raised [49, 51, 52]. Hence, despite the available information on the chemical components and actions of some of these products, studies on fauna traditional uses still are potentially very important to shed light on several aspects of their therapeutic applications [53].

The comprehension of the multiplicity and trends in therapeutic uses of several vertebrate species is of particular interest from a conservation perspective, as threatened animals, such as those recorded in this and other studies [30] could be replaced by nonthreatened species with similar properties. However, it is important to highlight that the use of animals for both food and medicinal purposes may impose higher pressure on those species under overexploitation conditions. For instance, if the animal is solely sought for medicinal purposes, it can lead the hunter/fisher to use selective capture techniques or even release nontargeted species. On the other hand, if an animal is captured for feeding reasons and is not the main target of the hunting or fishery (e.g., due to size), it can be kept by the hunter/fisher due to some medicinal property. Hence, understanding such complex interactions and trends in the use of fauna for nutritional and medicinal purposes evidences the important role that ethnobiological and ethnopharmacological studies may play in crucial discussion on the trade-offs between animal harvesting and its sustainability towards better regulation of those practices.

5. Conclusion

Wild edible vertebrates, particularly those inhabiting aquatic environments, are used to treat a wide range of health conditions in Brazil, with reptiles consisting of the most versatile group in multiple disease prescriptions. Moreover, a trend in prescriptions was found according to animals’ habitats, as disease categories were similar within continental and within coastal and marine habitats. Several consumed species are under threat, leading to a raise in conservation concerns, particularly due to the dual function (as food and medicines) those species present.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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