Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Animal-based folk remedies sold in public markets in Crato and Juazeiro do Norte, Ceará, Brazil

Felipe S Ferreira1*, Samuel V Brito1, Samuel C Ribeiro2, Antônio AF Saraiva3, Waltécio O Almeida1 and Rômulo RN Alves4

Author Affiliations

1 Universidade Regional do Cariri, Departamento de Química Biológica, Crato, CE, Brazil

2 Universidade Federal do Pernambuco, Departamento de Zoologia, Recife, PE, Brazil

3 Universidade Regional do Cariri, Departamento de Ciências Físicas e Biológicas, Crato, CE, Brazil

4 Universidade Estadual da Paraíba, Departamento de Biologia, 58109-753, Campina Grande, PB, Brazil

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2009, 9:17  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-17

Published: 3 June 2009



Human communities consistently develop a detailed knowledge of the therapeutical and medicinal properties of the local flora and fauna, and these folk remedies often substitute medicines produced by the pharmaceutical industry. Animals (and their derived products) are essential ingredients in the preparation of many traditional remedies. The present work prepared an inventory of the animals sold in public markets in the cities of Crato and Juazeiro do Norte, Ceará State, Brazil.


Information was obtained through the use of semi-structured questionnaires in interviews held with 27 merchants of medicinal animals (18 in the municipality of Juazeiro do Norte [11 men and 7 women] and 9 people in the municipality of Crato [6 men and 3 women]). We calculated the Informant Consensus Factor (ICF) to determine the consensus over which species are effective for particular ailments, as well as the species Use Value (UV) to determine the extent of utilization of each species.


A total of 31 animal species, distributed among 21 families were identified as being used medicinally. The taxa most represented were: insects (8 species), mammals (7), fish (5), reptiles (5) and birds (4). The animals sold in these markets are used to treat a total of 24 ailments, with rheumatism, asthma, and inflammations having the largest numbers of citations. Three species not previously reported as having medicinal use were encountered: Leporinus steindachneri (utilized for treating cholesterol problems), Gryllus assimilis (utilized in treating urinary infections), and Phrynops tuberosus (used to treat asthma, rheumatism and bruises).


The composition of the local fauna, the popular culture, and commercial considerations are factors that maintain and drive the market for therapeutic animal products – and the lack of monitoring and regulation of this commerce is worrisome from a conservationist perspective. A detailed knowledge of the fauna utilized in alternative medicine is fundamental to the conservation and rational use of the Brazilian fauna.