Zoopharmacognosy FAQ

How does my animal decide what to select and what to ignore?

Your animal is not consciously choosing smells it 'likes'. It is being driven to select remedies by messages from hormones and neurotransmitters, which communicate with and between cells in its brain and olfactory system. This is what makes it so successful as individualised medicine.

When an animal's olfactory system detects compounds that the animal needs to heal itself, it is innately driven to select them. Equally, if the compound is something the animal does not require, it will ignore it.

If animals are so skilled at self-medicating, why do they poison themselves sometimes?

There are several reasons why animals can sometimes poison themselves. Including, but not limited to:


Where an animal is circumstantially forced to eat something which is not good for it, in the absence of any alternative.

Inability to sequentially select:

Animals and birds that eat tannin-rich foods will often seek saponin-rich plants or clays immediately afterwards, to neutralise any potential toxicity from the tannins. Parrots and other animals seeking clay is one recognised example in the wild; another example is where a horse that eats a lot of acorns might seek saponin-rich plants such as Slippery Elm, again to neutralise the tannins in the acorns. Even when a horse is kept outdoors, if it is kept in a grass-only paddock, there will be no other available plants that it can forage to self-medicate.

Artificial context:

Particularly in the case of domestic pets and other captive animals, a common cause of poisoning can be the addition of sugars or sweeteners to a food - not because they in themselves are poisonous, but because, as well as animals being instinctively attracted to the sweet taste, adding sweeteners overrides an animal's ability to detect other compounds in the food or drink, and therefore whether or not it is safe / suitable for it to eat.

A well-known example of this is chocolate, which can be poisonous to dogs because it contains theobromine, which humans can metabolize well but dogs cannot. It is believed that the addition of sugars and other flavourings in the chocolate prevent the dog from being able to detect other compounds that are hazardous for it.


An animal may inadvertently consume a toxin by cleaning something off itself that it picked up accidentally, e.g. a cat brushing past a vase of lilies, then grooming / licking off stamen pollen which got onto its fur, which will lead to ingestion, and poisoning.

How can my animals recognize and select extracts from plants they've never encountered before?

It is the medical constituent of the plant that the animal is selecting, not the plant itself. The same constituent can be found in many different plants around the world, for example: Linalool, which is the principal constituent of lavender in Europe, can also be found in more than 200 plants distributed globally, such as coriander.

What sort of things do you offer my animal?

My kit principally contains essential oils of the highest quality (not the sort you might buy in your health shop to drop in the bath); they are premium grade extracts to achieve the best possible results for your animal. The essential oil extracts contain the extracted medicinal constituent of the plant, so are significantly more powerful than a fresh plant.

I also offer a range of base and macerated oils, powdered and dried herbs and other extracts such as beeswax and seaweeds.

What's the Difference between Food and Medicine in your kit?

This is for anyone who has the concern that "my animal will eat anything - I'm worried he / she will just consume everything it sees". Even a perceived "greedy" animal will only take extracts selectively; this is because it is selecting them as medicine, not food.

Primary metabolites (generally food)

is what animals consume for growth, repair and reproduction contain carbohydrate, proteins, enzymes, lipids usually provide energy and do not generally taste bitter animals may consume beyond their immediate requirements, to be stored for their later needs The extracts in a Zoopharmacognosy practitioner's kit are referred to as Secondary Metabolites.

Secondary metabolites (medicinal)

are chemicals used by plants for purposes other than growth and reproduction many are highly active medicinally and are often bitter animals only take them for their immediate therapeutic needs they cannot be stored as fat and provide no metabolic purpose (so will not be eaten for "greed") the animal will stop selecting secondary metabolites once the taste or smell changes Even base and macerated oils, which have calorific value, will not be selected / consumed indiscriminately by your animal – I can clearly demonstrate this for you during the consultation.

To repeat this important point: unlike food, the animal will stop selecting secondary metabolites once the taste or smell changes.

If you'd like to experience how this works first-hand you can participate in your own demonstration during our consultation - please ask me, it’s really interesting, and will help your understanding of the process.

What do you mean by individualised medicine?

There is no such thing as “one size fits all” in medicine. We all have slightly different physiology and psychology, and that affects our individual needs. By enabling an animal to self-medicate, it can select to address its own challenges, which might be different to another animal that appears very similar.

To give you an example: one case study cited two young Jack Russell puppies, who were both accidentally poisoned and the prognosis was a life expectancy of 24 hours or brain damage.

From being weak and immobile, after selecting natural extracts, they both made immediate improvement and were functioning normally within 3 days - yet each of them had chosen a different extract.

Even being from the same litter, of the same age and with the same acute problem, they each needed to select for their individual needs, and the opportunity to do so is what saved them.