Is aromatherapy safe for pets?

Once I began teaching workshops regarding aromatherapy a common question kept coming up. Can I use this with my pets? My opinion is utilizing complimentary care is always a good idea for anyone whether it is human or animal, but I honestly wasn’t sure how safe it would be to use essential oils with our animal friends.

This question has put me on a quest to understand the benefits of complementary and alternative options for our animal friends. I will always advise you to seek veterinary care, but wanted to find out a better answer. I began studying animal aromatherapy with my amazing instructor Kelly Holland Azzaro and have discovered that there are many options available.

Animal aromatherapy truly encompasses more than just the use of essential oils. As I share in my article about the definition of aromatherapy it truly is the use of aromatic plants in a variety of forms. I have been fortunate throughout my studies to work with a large variety of animals from small bunnies all the way up to large horses. Each animal brought me a deeper understanding of viewing a concern from all aspects, both internal and external. Since animals can not communicate it is important to spend some time really getting to know them.

Aromatherapy works on all levels of an animal including the physical, emotional, conditional and spiritual. Animals have a strong sense of smell, much stronger than humans so extra caution is required when using aromatherapy. They can’t tell us what they like or don’t like so being able to pay attention to the physical cues is important. I have been fortunate to volunteer at Celestial Farms, a farm animal rescue, and have really been able to learn the personality and cues of all the animals. When I work with clients I offer them a list of things to watch for. Each animal is different and will respond to holistic care differently.

Ultimately, the answer is yes, aromatherapy does work for animals*. I would advise you to take it slowly, work with a qualified holistic veterinarian or animal aromatherapist whenever possible. Always remember that this is a complimentary health care option and less is best.

*Not advised for birds, cats, fish or reptiles.

Herb Gardening – Dill

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is an herb that I have had great success with. In my outdoor garden, I sometimes get lazy and this herb tends to be self-seeding if you leave it alone. Self-seeding means that as the plant matures it will flower and develop seeds, the seeds then fall and if the birds don’t eat them they start to grow again. Due to this I haven’t had to plant dill in a couple years.

When I first started my Florida garden it was mostly in pots. As you can see dill does just fine in a small pot. I will be the first to admit that I did not stay on top of trimming or caring for this plant. If you take the time to trim plants regularly they will continue to grow nicely for an extended period and they won’t bolt.

I love drying the aerial portions to use on fish, in salads or sprinkled in sandwiches to add a unique delicious flavor. Another great use for dill is to make a lemon dill compound butter which you can use on chicken, pork or beef. Consider adding it to some pasta with garden fresh vegetables for a tasty summer dish.

To make a compound butter always make sure to use unsalted butter so that you can control the salt (sodium) within your recipes.

For a lemon dill compound butter:

one stick of butter (1/2 cup)
the zest and juice of half a lemon
approximately 1 tablespoon of fresh dill
salt to taste. (adjust all ingredients for personal preference)

When you don’t keep the plant nicely trimmed it will bolt, meaning it grows taller and starts producing flowers. The flowers will produce a bunch of seeds. Once the seed pods dry on the plant some cut off the top portion to continue allowing them to dry. The seeds can be used for a variety of purposes. A delicious option would be dill pickles. A recipe I like came from this site The Kitchn about making dill pickles.

Herbalists also delight in the different medicinal applications of dill which include improving your appetite and digestion. You can make the feather/aerial portion of dill into a tea to help ease abdominal pains or cramps. According to Michael Tierra in the Way of Herbs it can help with colds, flu or cough. It may also help with the flow of breast milk for breastfeeding mothers (pg 43, Reader’s Digest The Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs). As with any holistic practice always consult with a physician or a natural health practitioner.

To learn about dill essential oil, please visit my article here. I would enjoy hearing how you use fresh herbs and what is your favorite? Stay tune for my next installment of fresh herbs from my garden.

Chickens & Essential Oils

Rooster exploring the farm
Beautiful rooster

Recently while I was doing some volunteer work with the farm animals a person asked my opinion about an article they had seen using Oregano essential oil with chickens. I am choosing to not share the link to the article because I do not want people to think I promote the authors suggestions. Unfortunately the article didn’t state which type of Oregano they utilized I have to assume it was Oregano vulgare.

Oregano essential oil is generally high in carvacrol and thymol. These chemical constituents lend to the possible therapeutic uses with viral infections, bacterial infections and helping with congestion. The author references investigating essential oils in the prevention of Avian flu. I did an extensive search through PubMed, one search and couldn’t find any research on Avian flu and oregano oil. Due to the therapeutic benefits with viral and bacterial infections this oil may help with prevention, as long as it was used safely and highly diluted.

Mama chicken protecting her hatchlings
Protecting her babies

For human use the oil has a recommended maximum dermal use of 1.1% and several cautions against oral use (pg. 375 & 376 Tisserand & Young 2014). Knowing these precautions I would never suggest use of this oil with chickens, simply because they are small birds with completely different systems. The only way I would use it would be during cleaning of their coop after illness and when all the chickens are removed for a period of time.

To ensure the health of your flock rather than turning to essential oils consider using the actual plant. Adding a variety of herbs to a nesting box can help deter pests, add a healthy snack and create a fresher environment. The fresh herbs will also provide vitamins and minerals which are not available from an essential oil. If you do use fresh herbs these will have to be changed frequently to avoid mold developing, if you are in a humid area consider dried herbs.

Chicken with chicks
Exploring the new world

Companion Animals

Relaxing on the porch

I have grown up with animals, usually a dog. I honestly can’t imagine my life without a pet of some kind. As I have been growing my holistic practice I have been asked numerous times about using various products on our fur babies. As I began exploring the options, I have also been volunteering at a rescue farm and learning about the love that we can get from more than just common house pets, cats and dogs.

 

Animals of all types have been companions to humans for thousands of years. The origin of these companionship’s were probably formed to help with hunting food, but that also meant that man and beast had to put some trust in each other and form a bond. Over the centuries the relationship has changed and developed into one of simple enjoyment. Most pet owners today have an animal simply for the joy that it brings.

 

In the last 20 years there have been numerous studies about the benefits of having a pet. Pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, and can improve cardiovascular health. On PetPartners.org they review several studies showing the therapeutic benefits of animals. In one study patients that spent time with animals rather than in an outpatient area showed decreased pain symptoms and positive mood.

 

According to Animal Planet’s site opening your home to a pet might be just what the doctor ordered. Owning a pet can help reduce allergies and blood pressure. Some of the mental benefits include:

  • Lifts spirits
  • Decrease depression
  • Lowers feelings of isolation
  • Lessens boredom
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Helps with communication
  • Motivation to recover faster

 

Pets can truly enhance your life for the better. Even if you are in a situation where you can’t own a pet consider volunteering. There are always animals out there that can benefit from your love and can provide you love in return. Besides who can’t resist smiling while watching a baby goat jump and play or any animal for that matter.

Baby Goat

What is an Aromatherapist…

and why does it matter?

Aromatherapist, Certified Aromatherapist, Clinically Certified Aromatherapist or Aromatherapy Practitioner. The amount of titles available regarding training is almost as high as the number of essential oils you can purchase. In the United States the use of essential oils is a loosely regulated industry. Mainly focusing on the use of essential oils as a fragrance generally in cosmetics.

An aromatherapist is a person that has invested in an extensive course of study. Generally 200 or more hours is required before receiving a certificate of completion. These courses require detailed study covering topics such as chemistry, anatomy and safety. As well as the emotional and energetic properties of the plant material. Generally they will also cover the FDA regulations and provide information about the limitations.

According to Learn.org “Aromatherapists are alternative healers who use essential oils to promote healing and wellness. They meet with patients to discuss their symptoms and health goals, and they develop treatment plans based on their needs.” An important note regarding this definition, unless the person also has medical training they will not view you as a patient. Many aromatherapists study essential oils and other holistic healing modalities due to challenges they experienced from the traditional “allopathic” medical field. Many times aromatherapy will be an added modality to a practice such as massage therapy, cosmetology, or even nursing.

Although unregulated, a license is not required in the US, both the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists (NAHA) and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) have worked to establish some educational guidelines. These ensure people operate with safety and ethics in mind. So if you are interested in exploring the incredibly diverse nature of essential oils do some research into who can guide you safely. AromaWeb has a great guide of questions to ask anyone suggesting you use essential oils.