Animal-based remedies constitute an integral part of Brazilian Traditional Medicine. Due to its long history, zootherapy has in fact become an integral part of folk medicine both in rural and urban areas of the country. In this paper we summarize current knowledge on zootherapeutic practices in Northeast of Brazil, based on information compiled from ethnobiological scientific literature.
In order to examine the diversity of animals used in traditional medicine in Northeast of Brazil, all available references or reports of folk remedies based on animals sources were examined. 34 sources were analyzed. Only taxa that could be identified to species level were included in assessment of medicinal animal species. Scientific names provided in publications were updated.
The review revealed that at least 250 animal species (178 vertebrates and 72 invertebrates) are used for medicinal purposes in Northeast of Brazil. The inventoried species comprise 10 taxonomic categories and belong to 141 Families. The groups with the greatest number of species were fishes (n = 58), mammals (n = 47) and reptiles (n = 37). The zootherapeutical products are used for the treatment of different illnesses. The most widely treated condition were asthma, rheumatism and sore throat, conditions, which had a wide variety of animals to treat them with. Many animals were used for the treatment of multiple ailments. Beyond the use for treating human diseases, zootherapeutical resources are also used in ethnoveterinary medicine
The number of medicinal species catalogued was quite expressive and demonstrate the importance of zootherapy as alternative therapeutic in Northeast of Brazil. Although widely diffused throughout Brazil, zootherapeutic practices remain virtually unstudied. There is an urgent need to examine the ecological, cultural, social, and public health implications associated with fauna usage, including a full inventory of the animal species used for medicinal purposes and the socio-cultural context associated with their consumption.