Animal drugs used to treat urinary stones: History
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Animals like plants are also medicinal agents for the prevention and cure of different health problems all over the world practically in about all human cultures. The concept of zootherapy is very old and has strong evidence of the medicinal use of animal resources. There are many animals with the potential to treat urolithiasis.

  • Zootherapy
  • urolithiasis
  • Animal drugs
  • Urinary stone
  • Kidney stone

1. Introduction

Natural resources (plants, animals, minerals and microbes) are the richest source of medicinal agents based on the belief and observations regarding their folk and traditional uses for the prevention and cure of different diseases. A large number of research findings and the data are utilized by the scientific community in evaluating and establishing the pharmacological activities of these natural resources. Healing with animal parts or products is called Zootherapy. Animal based therapeutic agents are usually obtained from the animal body parts, metabolic products and other bodily secretions as well as non-animal materials such as nests and cocoons etc. Zootherapy is very popular among ancient cultures throughout the world [1].

2. Historical evidences of Zootherapy 

Using animals as a medicinal agent is reported throughout the history [2]. Snakes have been considered as a sign of medicine and healing both by virtue of its associations with God of Medicine (Asclepius) and God of Health (Hygeia) in Greek mythology (B.C. 2000-400) [3]. Discussing the historical evidences of Zootherapy, Ebers Papyrus (written around 1550 B.C.) contain medicinal uses of birds, beasts, insects, reptiles, fish, eggs, milk, etc. and excrements of living animals blood, flesh, bones, fat, marrow and hide of carcasses, the shell of the tortoise, feathers of birds, the slough of snakes and the quills of the porcupine, entire body of insects and worms, brain, eyes, feet, gall, hair, head, heart, hoofs, horns, jawbone, legs, liver, spleen, teeth, testicles, uterus and vulva of ordinary animals were used as medicine. Grease or fat of the goose and ox were employed in a large number of medical recipes. 

Ancient   mesopotamia, mainly   the   Assyrian   and    the Babylonian texts contain medicinal use of fish oil, honey and bee wax, turtle shell, mongoose blood, skin of goat, sheep and deer, bird excrement and animal fat. Compendium of Materia Medica written by Li Schizhen in 1578 A.D. contain the medicinal use of bear gallbladder and bear fat as a medicine. Ancient Ayurvedic literatures, Sharaka Samhita (900 B.C.), contains 380 and Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C.) described 57 drugs of animal origin as therapeutic agents such as honey, milk and its derivatives, bones, bone marrow, fat, bile, blood, feces, flesh, urine, semen, skin, ligaments, shell, feathers and horn. Dioscorides in De Materia Medica book II mentioned zootherapeutics domestic animals, fishes, birds, insects and products of larger animals such as butter, milk, cheese, wool, fat, wax, marrow, blood, gall and the excrements. The entire body of cantharid beetles, grubs, earthworms, millipedes, cockroaches was crushed, dried, burned or cooked and applied in the form of a powder, salve, poultice; cockroaches are ground up in an oil and used for ear ache. Similarly millipedes are taken internally with wine and for kidney trouble and epilepsy [2].

Zoo-therapeutic is based on indigenous knowledge system built up by a group of people through generations, by living in close contact with the nature and use of traditional drugs of animal origin in the local environment so that it is specifically adapted to the local people and conditions. This plays an important role in the healing practices, of both indigenous and western societies throughout the world [4]. Not only the ancient systems but also the modern medical system utilizes animal based medicines [1]. In modern world, zootherapy is an important alternative mode of therapy among many other known therapies practiced in different parts of the world. Domestic and wild animals and also their by-products (e.g., bones, skins, hooves, feathers) are important ingredients in the preparation of protective, preventive and curative medicines. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), more than 1500 animal species are listed for different medicinal uses. While in India about 15–20% of the Ayurvedic medicine is based on animal and animal-derived substances [5]. There is a strong connection between medical ethnozoology of ancient and modern times as the combination of bull’s bile and honey, a classical Hippocratic remedy for intestinal constipation, remains functional till today [2]

The study of local or traditional zoological knowledge offers not only the possibility of new insights into biological phenomena, but also the opportunity to cross-check scientific hypotheses. Unfortunately, the traditional and historical knowledge has been historically pushed aside by the scientific community but now its importance has now being recognized by scientists and researchers and they are intensifying research on this theme [6].

Despite their importance, studies on the medicinal utilization of animals body parts and products have been neglected, when compared with plants. The use of animals and their products as therapeutic agent is not simply a matter of the pharmaceutical and medical sciences and therefore jointresearch programmes should be undertaken with the experts of ecology, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, etc. Thus, discussing zootherapy within the multidimensionality of sustainable development turns out to be one the key elements in achieving the sustenance of medicinal faunistic resources [5]. Therefore, it is essential to document all the zootherapeutic uses and develop conservation strategies for animals before these traditional and indigenous beliefs, customs, values, know-how and practices are changed and rendered unsuitable, making the knowledge base incomplete [4].

Animal substances are not as numerous as those of plant substances but have played and continue to do so an important role in the prevention and cure of diseases. In fact, various animals prescribed in the past are still in use as recommended either for the same problem as originally described or for distinct conditions in traditional medicines used in different regions. Increased in knowledge and understanding of the medical systems in a historical context can potentially bring new insights into the medical significance of fauna in the past, as well as open new therapeutic perspectives in the future. The historic and sustained use of naturally occurring substances often has a scientific under-pinning and the persistence of utilization of animal resources may indicate the presence of biologically active compounds [2]. Urolithiasis is derived from two Greek words ouron meaning urine and lithos stone. It is commonly considered as stone formation in any part (kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and urethra) of the urinary tract. It is one of the oldest, most frequent and highly recurrent disorder and as reported was initially found in the tombs of Egyptian mummies dating back to 4000 BC [7]. At the initial stage, the stones are usually as small as a grain of sand and may gradually increase in size as large as a pearl or even a golf ball. These stones get stuck in the urinary tract causing urinary tract obstruction with hematuria, dysuria, nausea and vomiting. Peoples are at the risk for stone recurrence if they have stone before or any family history of urolithiasis. The other risk factors are not drinking enough water, diet rich in protein, sugar and sodium, being obese or experiencing gastric bypass surgery [8, 9].

Table 1: Animal drugs mentioned by Ibn Sina and Al-Antaki in their well-known books for urolithiasis management


Ibn Sina (Al Qanoon fit tibb) [10]

Scientific name

Common name

Parts used

Mode of use (Orally taken)

Androctonus crassicauda Oliver.

Arabian fat-tailed scorpion

Whole body

Ash of whole scorpion dissolves and expels urinary stones.

Erinaceus europaeus L.



Ash of spines with Frankincense expels urinary stones.

Equus hemionus Pallas.

Asian wild ass


Urine dissolves urinary stones.

Gallus gallus domesticus L.


Egg shell

Ash of hen egg shell dissolves and expels urinary stones.

Lumbricus terrestris L.

Earth worm

Whole body

Whole earth worm taken with Frankincense expel urinary stones.

Mus musculus L.



Ash of mouse stool dissolves and expels urinary stones.

Oryctolagus cuniculus L.


Whole body

Ash of whole rabbit dissolves and expels urinary stones.



Daud Al-Antaki (Tadhkirat Uli l-al-Bab-wa l-Jami li-L-‘Ajab Al-‘Ujab)

Eucidaris metularia Lamarck.

Sea urchin


Petrified spines of sea urchin dissolve urinary stones [10].

Halyomorpha halys Stål.

Brown marmorated stink bug

Whole body

Ash of stinking bug dissolves urinary stones [11].

Lampyris noctiluca L.


Whole body

Ash of firefly dissolves urinary stones [12].


Otis tarda L.



Stomach, feathers and


Bustard’s stomach and the ashes from its feathers and claws dissolves urinary stones [10].


Table 2: Zootherapy used against urinary stones in different countries and cultures


Scientific name

Common name

Parts used


Administrated orally

Capra hircus L.


Horn, legs and


Syria, Lebanon,

and Jordan

Ash of body parts (Horn, legs and hoof) break up urinary

stones [12]



Gallus gallus L.








Albania, China

The membrane of the muscular stomach (Mullis pule) of a hen is removed and dried, then ground and made into a

decoction intake to pass urinary stones [13, 14].


To pass urinary stone; the gizzard is removed, washed,

dried and pounded, then eaten [15]


atkinsonianum Wood- Mason.

Freshwater crab



Eaten flesh passes urinary stones [16].

Hippocampus guttulatus





Whole body


Crushed with thorns and eaten or drunk in wine [17]

Lumbricus terrestris L.

Earth worm


Earth worm baked with bread expels urinary stones [18].

Merlangius merlangus L.

Whiting or merling


Otoliths (fish

ear stone)


Swallow with water [17]

Periplaneta americana L.

American cockroach

Whole body


Ash of American cockroach in crude liquor dissolves

urinary stones [18]

Plagioscion squamosissimus


South American silver croaker/ Corvina (fish)






Swallow with water dissolves urinary stones [19]

Pteropus vampyrus L.

Flying fox (the world

largest bats)



Rice soaked in bat urine, dried and orally taken [4]

Petaurista petaurista Pallas.

Giant flying




Bile is collected in bottle and drink with water [20]

Upupa epops L.

Eurasian hoopoe



Boiled or cooked flesh is orally taken [20]

Apis mellifera L.




Bee glue



Drinking of 15 drops of Propolis tincture (one part of propolis, and 10 parts of vodka or alcohol) for 2 weeks

expels or flush out urinary stones [21, 22]

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.22271/phyto.2021.v10.i2a.13666

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