A long time ago I read a book, which described an ailing horse in Siberia in Russia. The horse was taken away from its immediate environment and allowed to roam in a forested area for 2 days. During that time it was given the opportunity to self select and eat medicinal plants and herbs. The owner noted what the horse selected and collected the plants to take back home. On returning to the stables the horse had made a remarkable improvement. Over the course of the following week it continued to self select and eat the now dried herbs it had chosen when allowed to roam freely and was then fine. It had intuitively known what plant it needed to eat to get better. After reading this piece from the book, I clearly remember setting the intention to one day find out more about something so remarkable and of course it then happened.
What I had read about, which is now considered the oldest form of healing known to man - scientists have now named Zoopharmacognosy. This is the term used where animals that are ill or experiencing behavioural problems etc, are allowed to self select a range of oils, clays and powders to help heal themselves. Animals have a much more en-heightened sense of smell than us, with millions more receptors than humans. Our sense of smell has diminished with evolution, and thought has overtaken instinct, probably due to the fact that we don’t need to use it for daily survival anymore.
In the wild animals self select medicinal plants all the time, we are now only realizing what they are doing and why. There are two very important things to understand about this. The first is to remember that when we, including animals, are ill we don’t choose to eat the food that we usually do… our taste buds change.
The second thing to understand is that there are two different reasons an animal selects a plant for food, as opposed to a plant for its medicinal value. The food plant is selected and eaten to give the animal energy and generally tastes nice. These plants give the animal the necessary minerals, carbohydrates and proteins that it needs to survive and grow. Medicinal plants are usually bitter and unpalatable and are active medicinally. They rarely have a high calorie and mineral count that the animal needs for sustenance. The Griquas of the karoo believe that the more bitter the plant the higher its medicinal value and they have a valid point.
In Africa after buck (and sheep) have given birth they have been seen to actively seek out a certain extremely bitter little plant called Katjie-3-blaar. You will only find this delicate little plant in a high game or kraal area growing under the thorniest of thorn trees because it is so actively sort after by ewes or buck who eat it to help regulate their hormones after giving birth. After noticing the pattern the griquas began drinking an infusion of this herb to help with PMS and menopausal systems, a tradition that is still carried on today.
With animals being domesticated they cannot forage and self-select plants like they used to and that’s where Zoopharmacognosy comes in. People like Caroline Ingraham in the UK have done intensive study and research to make this available to you and me. When studying zoopharmacognosy I realized that a lot of the powders and herbs I had been using for years for myself I could offer to my animals for their medicinal value and that really excited me as I already knew so much about them.
There is nothing like offering an oil, powder or herb to an animal and just watching with awe as the animal chooses what he needs to help him on the road to recovery, whether an emotional problem that has now manifested to a behavioural issue or a physical problem. It is truly a humbling experience and a reminder that we really were given everything we needed to help us heal right from the start.
Diane is a practicing Animal Communicator and healer, and a practitioner of Zoopharmacognosy. Diane’s vision is to share her ongoing knowledge with other people and in doing so, enrich the lives of animals and their owners.