Caroline Ingraham founded Applied Zoopharmacognosy and is a leading expert in the field of animal self-medication. She has always had an enormous concern for the ethical treatment of animals and has spent the last thirty five years researching and observing how animals self-medicate.
"Back in the nineteen eighties I discover that our companion animals could communicate their health needs by offering them aromatic plant extracts – which was an amazing breakthrough. Animals could let us know which medicines they needed, which they didn't, where they needed it, and at what dosage to achieve successful outcomes.
Although a new field called zoopharmacognosy was emerging, where scientists such as Michael Huffman observed chimpanzees in the wild self-medicating, very few people believed or had confidence that domestic animals could self-medicate. It was an ability that was thought to have been lost through domestication. It would, however, take tens of thousands of years to lose such an important survival mechanism. Others thought that self-medication could only involve social learning. This plays a part for the more complex social animals such as primates and elephants, as they can observe and learn from others, but the animal would have to be relatively clever to copy self-medicative behaviours. It cannot simply imitate the animal otherwise it would eat the medicinal plant when it was healthy. The animal has to understand the plant should only be eaten in the context of being sick. Social learning appeared to have not have played a part in the body of research on caterpillars self-medicating. Likewise, in my own research, I have observed newborns and animals with no prior social learning select aromatic plant medicines which bring them back into health, giving support to the innate hypothesis.
Fears surrounding companion animals being able to self-medicate have not been helped by cases of domestic animals poisoning themselves. This is an area that I have spent most of my adult life researching and it has become clear that animal poisonings are with plants that have not been in their evolutionary history, or with man-made chemicals such as rat poison and ant-freeze. Poisonings can also occur when an animal has not ben allowed to regulate their dosage by taste and smell.
Grapes appear to be an exception. When it comes to dogs and grape poisonings the first recorded case was 1989, so what happened to the grape to make it poisonous after that date? Further information
To get truly successful outcomes the journey of refining and reading animals responses to aromatic cues has taken decades of research and it is based on an individualised approach."
Caroline has featured in many scientific journals and articles and has written numerous books on the subject. She has appeared on the BBC, ITV, BBC Radio4, National Geographic TV and at the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts.
Her work encompasses an understanding of pharmacokinetics and pharmacology combined with animal self-medication. Caroline is in demand globally as a consultant and teacher, speaking regularly at International Symposiums. She lectures to vets, college and university students all over the world and holds a London clinic in a Notting Hill veterinary practice.
Today, Caroline has helped thousands of animals all over the world, regain behavioural and physical health, including domestic, captive and farm animals. She has had great success with orphaned elephant calves at the Sheldrick Trust in Kenya, working with the French government and bio-dynamic farmers, as well as in conservation with endangered species, and rescued animals at the RSPCA in the UK. Caroline writes widely on the subject of animal self-medication, her two most recent publications are 'Help Your Dog Heal Itself' 3rd edition released in 2018 and 'Animal Self-Medication (released January 2019).
Primate Society of Great Britain: Full member
Recent public engagements
2015: Hay Festival of literature and arts
2015: Natural Dog Conference
2015: University of Bristol: Veterinary and Zoological Society
2015: BBC Radio 4: Four Thought
2016: Hay Festival of literature and arts
2016: British Essential Oil Association
2016: Your Horse Magazine
2016: Interview with Dr Karen Becker: USA
2016: University of Sussex: Botanica
2017: Aromatherapy Today conference: Australia
2017: International Conference for Innovative Veterinary Medicine: Holland
2018: Hungarian Aromatherapy Conference
2019: RCVS Zoological Society
Organisations I work with
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Wildlife Heritage Foundation
Battersea Dogs Home
Zoological society of London
French National Institute for Agricultural Research
2012: Psychologies Magazine
2012: Canadian Federation of Aromatherapy
2013: Your Dog Magazine
2014: Your Dog Magazine (sensory gardens)
2015: The Veterinary Times
2015: The Daily Telegraph
2016: Your Horse Magazine
2016: Science Psy
2016: The Daily Telegraph
1997: Aromatherapy for Horses
2001: Aromatherapy for Animals
2006: The Animal Aromatics workbook
2014: How Animals Heal Themselves
2016: Help Your Dog Heal Itself: 1st edition
2017: Help Your Dog Heal Itself: 2nd edition
2018: Help Your Dog Heal Itself: 2nd edition (Hungarian)
2019: Animal Self-Medication