I have been lucky enough to have been training with Caroline Ingraham recently, learning how animals use plants to self medicate (zoopharmacognosy). I spent a couple of days with her in Bristol, where we worked with animals at a Rescue Centre (Horse World) letting them select the essential oils and herbs that they needed. An added bonus for me is already having knowledge of the plants and their properties and being able to recognise them in their indigenous surroundings.
Under Caroline's watchful eye, Yogi, my own Westie, self selected rosehip shells which are good for tissue repair (she was spayed a fortnight ago) and spirulina for boosting the immune system; a filly foal that had never been handled self selected neroli essential oil used for separation and Frankincense for fear; an aggressive Hinny (horse x donkey) that had been abused by its male owner selected violet leaf and ylang ylang; a donkey with a skin problem chose the bright orange sea buckthorn oil and cooling peppermint and a feral cat with respiratory problems selected garlic and yarrow. Watching the animals select the oils they need is absolutely amazing and I have been inspired to create my own Herbal Remedy Flowerbed at the cottage. The fabulous thing is most of the plants are already here; plantain, dandelion, Valerian and even cleavers would normally be classed by many gardeners as weeds, but here at the cottage they are now respected medicines.
(Photo: Horses will self medicate if allowed, see Animal Aromatics below)
Lynne Allbutt for Western Mail (Media Wales) 5th June 2010