Ancient greek
’zoo’ (animal)
‘pharmaco’ (remedy)
‘gnosy’ (knowing)

This is the study of animal
self-medication in the wild.


Ingraham Applied Zoopharmacognosy

Confers the application of Caroline’s methodology using an animal’s innate self-medicative abilities to heal themselves by offering and sequencing plant-based medicines and nutrients

Pharmacophagy (remedy-eating)

This is a term that was coined by another group of scientists studying insect self-medication.
Zoopharmacognosy and pharmacophagy essentially mean the same thing..

Caroline Ingraham Offering Essential Oils To A White Horse
Caroline Ingraham Offering Essential Oils To A Hound
A Cat Sniffing Essential Oil

Ingraham Applied Zoopharmacognosy enables self-medicative behaviour in domesticated and captive animals by offering plant extracts that would contain the same, or similar constituents to those found in an animal’s evolutionary history. The practice encourages and allows animals to guide their own health, since unlike their wild counterparts, captive and domesticated animals rarely have the opportunity to forage on medical plants. The extracts offered include a variety of essential oils, absolutes, infused oils, tubers, clays, algae, seaweeds and minerals. Once the animal has selected its remedy, it will then guide the session by inhaling it, taking it orally, or by rubbing a part of its body into it.

Domestication has not interfered with these mechanisms of self-medication, which are vital for the survival of all species. It is hard-wired into all living animals, including insects. The loss of such an ability would not be related to the animals adapting to their environment; rather, it would be the decline of a fundamental survival mechanism, which would possibly take tens of thousands of years.

The powerful secondary compounds found within many medicinal plants often induce biological activity that can be both medicinal and toxic in nature. Whether such substances end up being toxic or medicinal has a great deal to do with dosage and the physiological requirements of the animal. If a plant extract is consumed it will normally be in comparatively small quantities, by animals that need a plant’s specific medicinal properties. A secondary plant metabolite may be detrimental if not needed, but can confer great health benefits when required.

A Brown Bear Sniffing Essential Oil
A Pika Rodent Eating Herbs
Primates Self-Medicating

Ingraham Applied Zoopharmacognosy uses the sensory language both humans and non-humans understand. An animal's world is a tapestry of smell, which largely defines the way they think and behave. Appropriate remedies are offered to either recall memory, induce trust or to help find hidden problems that might be causing behavioural disorders, as well as for physical health.

Considering that animals have many of these pharmacologically active plants in their habitats, it should not be surprising to discover that they use plants to their advantage.

The Ingraham Sensory Modulation Theory explains how an innate ability to self-medicate on appropriate plants is possible. Animals are born pre-setup with multiple signaling pathways that link different problems to different olfactory and gustatory pathways. Therefore everything is based on internal signals, there is no requirement for the animal to learn which therapeutic plants are the most appropriate for any given condition. This can be seen with newborns, caterpillars, and through to elephants. Only complex cognitive animals such as elephants and the great apes have the ability to apply any learning involved.

Since the initial observations by Janzen, Rodriguez, Huffman and myself, there has been a growing interest in Zoopharmacognosy. This is being reinforced by the spectre of bacterial and parasite resistance to conventional drugs and the need to find ways of speeding up the discovery of new therapeutic compounds.

Domestic Animals Can Self-Medicate Too

The Tigress Makes Her Selection of Essential Oil Cloth

The Tigress Makes Her Selection