Reindeer and herbal self-selection

Natural health work with wilder animals

Regarding my work as a zoopharmacognosist (facilitating animals’ self-selection of natural botanical compounds, as they have evolved to do) …it's all very well me writing about offering herbal extracts to animals when those animals are very accustomed to humans, and taking things from the human hand - such as dogs, cats and horses.. but what happens when working with creatures who are not so comfortable doing that?

One option is to leave small quantities out for the animal to select when you're not around - but then how do you know what it has selected? Answer: leave things out in such a way that you have a very clear “before and after” frame of reference in your absence.

As it’s December, it seemed a seasonally-appropriate time to use this most beautiful reindeer to illustrate one possible example:



various botanical compounds, to “choose or refuse”



All extracts were investigated, only the (now absent from photo) yellow Calendula petals were selected

A “rock garden” of herbs and other botanical extracts

Here I have created a “rock garden” (instead of the “herb garden” that I put out for cats at the start of their session). Although hardly “wild” and despite being very comfortable in my company, he did not like to take anything from my hand, so I had to find a measurable alternative way to give him the time and privacy to select - or ignore - extracts as he wished.



using his innate knowledge of whether or not each plant extract is relevant / helpful for him at this time or not…

When I returned 2 hours later it was very clear that his interest was in calendula petals - the only thing notably absent from the selection previously laid out, which also included spirulina powder, green clay powder, chalk powder, dried valerian root, rosebuds and rosehips.


It’s a “Yes”

Calendula (“pot marigold”) is what this boy needs…

Calendula, or “pot marigold”, the name that it’s more commonly known by, has been used for centuries for its many medicinal benefits (1), helping with skin and wound repair, soothing stomach issues and powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties (2).

Being able to see what an animal has selected is vital information, and alternative ways to make extracts available may sometimes be necessary - especially if it unused to human company (such as wildlife rescue) or prefers/requires space away from humans to express itself naturally. This is only one example, a lot depends on the habitat/ accommodation the animal is kept in, creative thinking leads to helpful solutions!