What exactly is Zoopharmacognosy?

Zoopharmacognosy Definition

Zoopharmacognosy:  The word to describe animals’ self-medicating behaviour derives from ancient Greek:  ‘zoo’ (animal); ‘pharmaco’ (remedy); ‘gnosy’ (knowing).

Animals have an innate ability to self-medicate using plants, clays and other natural remedies, and in the wild they will forage for them at the earliest stages of any health issue.   

In captivity, although they have the same innate drives, they do not have the freedom to roam and seek the remedies they need, and by the time they visibly appear unwell or distressed, the issue may have been building for some time.

There are a number of questions which are often asked regarding animals' ability to self-medicate.  You may well be wondering about one or two of these points yourself - the FAQs page offers clear explanations on the hows and whys.

Self-medication as a behaviour, has developed with animals throughout their entire evolutionary process, but as a scientific field of research it is relatively new.   In-depth research only started in the 1980s, largely initiated by Professor Michael Huffman’s extraordinary observations of a group of wild chimpanzees carefully using different plant parts, in different ways, to address various physical challenges.   

In 2002, author Cindy Engel's ground-breaking book "Wild Health" astonished and enlightened both the science community and general public with what is still considered to be the most comprehensively-researched reference on the subject .  Ever-increasing interest in this discipline now spans a wide range of international scientific fields, from chemical biology to conservation, wildlife to welfare.


Enabled (or human-assisted) Zoopharmacognosy involves the safe facilitation of self-medication for an animal, by bringing extracts containing concentrated plant constituents into the animal’s environment, enabling it to select for its individual needs, to optimise wellness.


Although most frequently offered to dogs, cats and horses,  enabled zoopharmacognosy has been used with a wide range of animals and birds, in different situations:  domestic pets, wildlife rescues, farm herds, zoo animals.

Parrots, pigeons, chickens, ferrets, squirrels, goats, cattle, reindeer, tigers, bears, elephants - are just some of the species which have benefited.



  • allergies
  • digestive system
  • fevers
  • hormonal / reproductive
  • immune boost
  • infections
  • kidney / urinary
  • liver support
  • nerve damage
  • pain & inflammation
  • respiratory
  • skin & coat problems
  • tumours & growths
  • wounds and burns




  • abandonment
  • abuse
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • dominance
  • fear (anticipatory)
  • fear (noise)
  • fear (objects)
  • grief
  • insecurity
  • irritation
  • new home
  • separation
  • shock
  • stress
  • trauma past/present