Wild Health: How animals keep themselves well and what we can learn from them
Cindy Engel BSc PhD
How do wild animals keep themselves well? Scientists are finding insects, birds and mammals self-medicating their ills. Monkeys, bears, coatis and birds protect themselves from insect bites and fungal infections by rubbing medicinal plants and insects into their skin. Chimpanzees carefully select anti-parasitic medicines to deal with parasites. Elephants roam miles to find the clay they need to help counter dietary toxins. And birds line their nests with pungent medicinal leaves and so improve their chicks’ chances of survival. These health maintenance behaviours are adaptive and have stood the test of survival in the wild.
This book- the first on zoopharmacognosy – explores the behavioural strategies animals use to maintain health. By understanding these strategies we can improve the health of animals in our care; livestock and companion animals, and discover (or rediscover) ways to improve our own health. An important thesis is that animal self-medication is not an infallible animal wisdom but a set of naturally selected strategies. Taken out of context self-selection can and does go wrong.
English editions: USA, Canada, Australia, UK (hardback and paperback). US editions: Wild Health: Lessons in Natural Wellness from the Animal Kingdom. Publisher Houghton-Mifflin ISBN [ISBN-10: 0618340688 ISBN-13: 978-0618340682]
Amazon Kindle version now available
“Cindy Engel’s book is a work of some scholarship.”
Times Literary Supplement
“A sensuous, rigorous analysis of how animals stay healthy in the wild…replete with fresh ideas, Wild Health also explains phenomenon we have experienced but never understood…her writing is accessible and amusing.”
“Wild Health is a fascinating and enlightening view of how our closest relatives stay healthy. Secrets of nature deliciously told — so easily digestible that to absorb its benefits there’s no need to eat clay like the wild parrots Dr. Engel describes.”
William B. Karesh, D.V.M., Chair IUCN Wildlife Specialist Group.
“Wild Health is absolutely enthralling. Cindy Engel explores the fascinating world of animal self-medication in this well researched and engagingly written book. All the thousands of us who are turning increasingly to alternative medicine will find Wild Health particularly compelling.”
“Anyone for licking wounds or a daily anointing with urine?”
“Wild Health is a bench-mark book of multi-disciplinary science, highly accessible to both layman and expert alike. It is an intellectually refreshing call for a more holistic approach to health and staying healthy. Articulately separating science fact from fiction, Dr. Engel takes the reader on a spell-binding journey through the various possible strategies which have evolved in the animal kingdom for defence against disease, the unseen predator. The lessons to be learned from this book are clear and simple. No single animal species or human culture has a monopoly on the powers of healing.”
Michael A. Huffman, D.Sc., Associate Professor of Ecology, Kyoto University Japan
“This is a glorious book! I enjoyed every word of it! Everyone acknowledges that animals can run faster, climb higher, hear better, see further, and smell more than humans can. It has been my lot to claim they can feel certain emotions more deeply than humans. Now it turns out they can keep themselves healthy better than we can. They may not know what they are doing (do we?) but somehow they get it right. Welcome to the amazing new world of animal self-medication. You could not ask for a better guide than Cindy Engel who knows about it, cares about it, and tells you about it in a fact-filled, fun-to-read, absolutely amazing book! Solidly researched and engagingly written, Wild Health is coming exactly when we need it most. Read this book, marvel, and start imitating the wisdom of wild animals.”
Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep
“Cindy Engel synthesizes a collation of seemingly disparate anecdotes into a cohesive, logical argument that makes the reader think outside the constraints of current biological boundaries–providing a foundation of testable hypotheses in understanding the integrated nature of Wild Health.”
Ellen Dierenfeld, wildlife nutrition scientist of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, NYC
“An enticing, well-referenced narrative that should be easy for any reader to digest.” Science
“This book provides a splendid and scientifically accurate account of animals’ knowledge of what’s good for them to eat and what’s not. It provides evidence of lifesaving biological pre-programming of animals and perhaps some evidence in support of animal culture. It is a “must buy” book for anyone who wants to know more about how animals think and react to the world around them.”
Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, Professor of Animal Nutrition, Tufts University
“I think this book should be used as part of veterinary training courses and university courses as it gives a new perspective to our understanding of animal health.”
Victor Watkins, Director of Libearty Campaign, WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals).
‘Understanding how animal self medication works can help us better manage the health of our dogs’
Related peer-reviewed publications:
Engel (2006) “Zoopharmagnosy” in Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Eds S.G. Wynn and B. J. Fougere, Mosby Elsevier Press, pp 7 – 16.
Engel, C (2006) “Livestock self-medication” in Alternative Health Practices for Livestock, Eds T. F. Morris and M. T. Keilty (Blackwell Publishing) pp 54-61.
Engel, C (2002) “Acknowledging the Potential Role of Animal Self-medication”, Proceedings of the UK Organic Research Conference, Aberystwyth, Wales, “Research in Context” 2002 pp 355-358.