Animals keep it simple. Without trying to look good, they have been living sustainably for a long, long time. They are really good at it. You could say they are naturally gifted. Of course, humans are animals too, and there was a time when we were totally green. We all used to follow the laws of Nature. Naturally. Perhaps it is time to listen to the animals again so we can all move forward together.
There is a serious environmental impact when we relying heavily on synthetic drugs for our own health and the health of the animals we care for. There is the effect of the manufacturing process of medicines itself, the disposal of toxic solvents and waste products. There is also the impact of medicine packaging and transport to consider. There is also growing evidence that human and animal medications and their residues are accumulating in the environment. Chemicals are excreted in urine and faeces, unused or out-of-date medicines poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet and are polluting the rivers and oceans.
So what can animals teach us? Well, in the wild, animals do not have access to a pharmacist, doctor or a veterinarian. They rely on Nature’s pharmacy. By observing how animals are actively helping themselves to stay well, they offer us insights into sustainable healthcare. Scientists have recently realised that this is a valuable source of information, and an entirely new field of study has emerged known as animal self-medication or zoopharmacognosy.
We have all seen dogs and cats eating grass and sometimes inducing vomiting. Other examples of animals self-medicating include reports of chimpanzees eating certain plants to remedy diarrhoea caused by intestinal worms. European starlings and house sparrows line their nests with various plants with properties that repel external parasites like mites and ticks. African elephants have been observed to eat a particular plant that seemed to induce labour. Capuchin monkeys rub the juices of certain plants over their bodies to repel parasites and heal skin irritations.
By listening to animals, preserving their habitats, and making greater use of Nature’s pharmacy, each of us can play a positive role in reducing the impact of pharmaceuticals on the environment.
What You Can Do
- With the support of your veterinarian, explore safe, effective treatment options that may reduce the need for prescription medicines.
- Pay more attention to preventative medicine for your animals, including a healthy diet, an active lifestyle and positive relationships.
- Plant a wide variety of animal-friendly herbs in your garden for animals and humans to use as required.
- Learn basic first aid and preventative medicine strategies for your human and animal family members.
- Dispose of drugs and other chemicals that are not being used, or are out of date, safely
- Be an environmentally aware consumer and support companies that are committed to ethical, sustainable environmental policies.