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Geckos in traditional medicine: forensic implications

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image of Applied Herpetology

At least 14 species of geckos are utilized as ingredients in the pharmacopia of traditional medicine systems around the world. Chinese Traditional Medicine uses two types of geckos, large tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) and small geckos (Gekko spp., Hemidactylus spp.) to treat a diversity of ailments including asthma, tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer, and current research in China focuses on the identification of active ingredients in geckos and the verification of their efficacy. The actual number of species involved in the Chinese Traditional Medicine trade may be higher than currently realized due to the fraudulent sale of counterfeit geckos and accidental misidentification. The potential pool of species includes at least 37 species from throughout the broad area in which geckos and other wildlife are collected for use in China. Although powders and tablets pose difficulties for identification, the whole dried form in which geckos are often sold permits the identification of most species. A key is provided to the 12 species of geckos most likely to be encountered in the trade of Asian traditional medicine.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Avenue, Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085-1699, USA;, Email:


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