Happy fall everyone! I hope you had a fantastic summer with lots of fun stuff going on. I finally got to go home to Sweden to see friends and family – it had been 3 years since my last visit, so that was a big treat. And while I was there, I took the chance to fly over to England for a week to attend a couple of Applied Zoopharmacognosy classes with Caroline Ingraham.
I don’t know if you remember, but earlier this year, I wrote a post about Applied Zoopharmacognosy that featured Jo Rose, a holistic animal health practitioner in England. I didn’t know anything at all about Applied Zoopharmacognosy at the time (it’s similar to aromatherapy, but different in that you never massage an oil onto an animal, or put it in their food or water – it is ALWAYS the animal’s choice what to inhale or ingest), but when I started doing research for the post, I was blown away by what I learned. There were so many studies of animals in the wild using plants, clay, etc. to self-medicate, and astonishing examples of how plants defend themselves from bacteria, predators and other threats with the help of secondary compounds. For example: acacia trees, when grazed on, send out a “chemical warning signal” in the form of volatile compounds that lets the other acacia trees in the area know they are at risk of losing their leaves to hungry giraffes. The other trees, when detecting this “signal”, send more tannins to their leaves, making them unpalatable for the giraffes. And when fungi attacks grapevines, they release resveratrol, which is a strong anti-fungal. The resveratrol remains in the wine after the grapes have been pressed, and is one of the reasons red wine can help with cancer and heart disease. Amazing, isn’t it?
So, like with wine, the same secondary compounds that the plants use for survival can be used by us and the animals to improve and regain health (the animals already knew this, of course!).
As I was reading everything I could find on Zoopharmacognosy and plants, I came across the book “Wild Health” by Cindy Engel (read my review here), read it in one sitting, and that did it. I knew I had to learn more. I bought Caroline Ingraham’s workbook and read it on a flight to San Diego (for the first time in my life, I was disappointed when we landed because I had to put the book down!) and as soon as I got back to Boston, I signed up for her diploma program.
I have been studying Applied Zoopharmacognosy now for around 8 months, learning as much as I can about essential oils (which I have totally fallen in love with, they are part of my everyday life now), clay (equally fabulous), spirulina (ditto), etc. and practicing the modality with dogs. It is AMAZING to watch the dogs’ responses to the oils. One dog has had off and on problems with blood in her urine due to crystals for years, but since she started selecting oils, her urine has been totally clear. We are still working on some emotional issues, and I find that those generally take longer than the physical ones (although that depends on the individual and their situation), but I know we will resolve them in the end. (I will post case studies here eventually).
I had been working away on my own, with support from Caroline and my mentor Lynn by email (both are in England) so when I had the chance to go over there and learn more and meet them both in person, I jumped on it. I am so glad I did. The class was fantastic and it was such a treat to meet Caroline and Lynn (and everyone in the class). The first two days were a canine practical, and we were a small group of 8 humans and 5 dogs who met up early on a rainy Thursday morning at Barrow Gurney village hall (a picture-perfect little English village just outside of Bristol) for our first day of class. Some people had already taken another class, some were new to the diploma program, others were there just to learn so they could work with their own dogs.
Caroline started the day off by talking about how she came to do this kind of work, her experiences with it, Applied Zoopharmacognosy in general, certain oils and compounds in particular, and then went on to working with one of the dogs, Buster, who loves other dogs and wants to play but gets over-excited and comes across as aggressive. Buster selected several emotional oils (and it was such a thrill to see his reactions to them – I recognized it so well from the dogs I had been working with) and a few fixed oils as well. Caroline worked with him for quite a bit, while talking about why she was offering certain oils, etc. Eventually, Buster calmed down, went and laid down on his blanket and sighed deeply. And when one of the other dogs came back in after a quick break, he didn’t even get up! Before Caroline worked with him, he would bark and jump and pull on the leash “like crazy”. Both days were a mix of theory and watching Caroline working with the dogs, which was a perfect way to learn.
The next 2 days were Zoopharmacognosy and Herbal Pharmacology. This class is taught by Caroline’s son, Tom, and is more of a lecture format. The class was much larger, I think we were at least 20-30 people, and the range of experience was even larger, everything from beginners to people who have been practicing this for years. It is a very “science heavy” and pretty tough subject (at least for me). But it is so very interesting and it is important to know the “hows” and “whys” behind the oils. I had already read the books, but hearing it in person made it easier to grasp. And it helps that “nature’s medicine cabinet” is full of amazing facts, like how lemon attacks cancer cells, why chamomile and valerian help with anxiety, etc.
The last day I think we were all mentally exhausted, and after a late lunch at the local pub (where I was referred to by the charming owner as Miss USA :-)) the class was wrapped up with many hugs farewell and exchanging of contact info. I am so grateful that I had a chance to attend these classes and meet all these wonderful people.
Learn more in our other articles about Applied Zoopharmacognosy, and in these recommended books: