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How do wild animals stay healthy without vets, farriers & other human intervention?

Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say…

“Zoopharmacognosy is a behaviour in which non-human animals apparently self-medicate by selecting and ingesting or topically applying plants, soils, insects, and psychoactive drugs to treat or prevent disease. Coined by Eloy Rodriguez, a biochemist and professor at Cornell University, the word derives from the roots ‘zoo’ (“animal”), ‘pharma’ (“drug”), and gnosy (“knowing”) and was proposed in 1993.[1]”

[Note: the last part of the word zoopharmacognosy, ie ‘cognosy‘ makes more sense when you refer to the Latin ‘cognoscere‘, ‘to know, be acquainted with’]

parrots on clay in Peru

Parrots at a clay lick – Tambopata National Reserve, Peru-8c, Brian Ralphs – originally posted to Flickr as DSC_8774.NEF

“The term gained familiarity in the public due through a book by Cindy Engel called Wild Health: How Animals Keep Themselves Well and What We Can Learn from Them.,[2] and prior academic works.[3] In a well-known example of zoopharmacognosy, dogs eat grass to induce vomiting. However, the behaviour is much more diverse than this. Observers have noted that some species ingest non-foods such as clay, charcoal, and even toxic plants, apparently to ward off parasitic infestation or poisoning.[4]”

“The methods by which animals self-medicate vary, but functionally, self-medication can be classified as prophylactic (preventative, before infection) and therapeutic (after infection, to get rid of the pathogen).”

So that’s Zoopharmacognosy in a nutshell – so what about the ‘Applied’?

This is the science of making it possible for our domestic pets including dogs, cats, horses and other captive (farm, zoo) animals to use their innate ability to self-medicate & keep themselves healthy by offering herbs & herb derivatives (macerated oils, essential oils, aromatic waters) as well as remedies such as green & red clay (which are known to counteract toxins, see photo above) & other naturally-occurring substances. As one client pointed out – when we put electric fences around our fields, we can prevent our animals from foraging the field edges & hedgerows where many beneficial plants can be found.

Applied Zoopharmacognosy was founded & pioneered by Caroline Ingraham ( who has worked extensively with domestic, zoo & farm animals, including notably an endangered Siberian tiger Ronja who was so aggressive towards men she would damage herself hurling herself at the wire & was in danger of having to be destroyed and who, after Applied Zoopharmacognosy sessions with Caroline, improved out of all recognition and went on to produce cubs helping to swell the numbers of this magnificent & endangered tiger (see article). Caroline has also successfully worked in Kenya with several elephants including Sinya an orphan elephant at The Sheldrick Trust (article)

Essential Oils? For Animals? They don’t occur in the wild!

So why are essential oils offered & inhaled or ingested by domestic animals if they don’t occur in that form in the wild?

If you consider how long our domestic & captive animals have been removed from the wild situation where they could forage & self-medicate on a regular basis, you may begin to understand how depleted some of them could be in compounds found in common herbs. Just a few drops of an essential oil (the highly concentrated ‘essence’ of a plant) can supply what the animal has lacked over a long period. Every animal has an inborn ability to identify the compounds it needs to maintain or regain health whether they are in the form of the actual plant, an essential oil, an infused oil or aromatic water. Animals are fully equipped by nature to know the exact dosage they require too and will stop inhaling or ingesting the compound (also known as secondary metabolite) in whatever form when they have had sufficient for their needs at that time.

Always allow an animal the opportunity to choose or refuse!