A post in one of the essential oils safety groups that I follow on Facebook warned members about celebrity doctors peddling their weight loss program, and I added a short reminder that popular veterinary doctors should also be regarded with some critical thinking. I was reminded of a particularly popular vet using Young Living oils (which I’d seen before, in a meme), which indicates to me a certain level of salesmanship over integrity. (Essential oils in and of themselves are not bad, and there are many wonderful companies that make them sustainably and promote their use responsibly. Why any doctor would tout a multi-level marketing [MLM] company for something used in a healing modality is beyond me – much less one known for spreading sensationalistic claims and other misinformation, promoting unsafe practices, and selling adulterated product.)
A couple of days later, I saw a question posted (in a different group… yeah, I should spend less time on Facebook) about applied zoopharmacognosy, and I had just seen a relevant youtube video in the search I mentioned above. I knew about zoopharmacognosy (the ability of animals to self-select plants in the wild which can benefit its current state of health), but applied zoopharmacognosy (or “AZ,” as it’s called) was a new one on me. I quickly learned that this involves offering essential oils within the confines of an office or room, and that there is quite a following for it – but let’s take an objective look at it without the marketing of a sales rep.
Part of my initial herbal training included essential oils and I respect their knowledgeable use in any practice. I use them sparingly, myself, for multiple reasons, but mainly because I see them as sort of “natural” pharmaceuticals. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but when you consider that the plants contain many active chemical constituents which work together with other constituents in the plants in a symphony which we have yet to really understand, the amount of oil is very small, due to its strength. It is in balance within the plant. In order to produce an ounce of oil, sometimes tons (literally) of the plant must be harvested. Not only is this not sustainable over the long term, but this is extracting superdoses of chemistry while tossing the other constituents. To me, that’s not holistic; it’s more of a pharmaceutical. Then people wonder why so many adverse events are reported on a “natural” remedy. And that’s in humans – now consider not only that the dog’s sense of smell is something like 10,000 times our own, but with dimensions that we as humans are not physiologically capable of even comprehending, let alone experiencing. If humans report getting a migraine from a little aromatherapy in a room or office, how is a dog experiencing that aroma? I am also of the belief that dogs are more physically sensitive to their environment — especially herbs and drugs (especially if he or she is eating a diet of fresh foods), and that often, less is more effective. The chemical constituents present in an essential oil may also be present in an herbal preparation such as a decoction or tincture, but in an amount which is balanced proportionately with the other constituents of that plant; one that is certainly more easily assimilated by a dog, not assaulting him.
At last year’s International Herb Symposium, I attended an interesting lecture on zoopharmacognosy which followed the case of a horse with Lyme disease as he self-selected the plants he ate while out in the pasture each day (some of whose roots he dug up using his hooves), and recovered well. It’s uplifting to see veterinarians who are closely monitoring their patients’ habits in the interest of learning from them, and it just seems to me that that is more the method of ingestion that Mother Nature intended.